From Morn to Midnight (1920)

aka Von morgens bis mitternacht
Article 5368 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-9-2017
Directed by Karl Heinz Martin
Featuring Ernst Deutsch, Erna Morena, Roma Bahn
Country: Germany
What it is: An expressionistic nightmare

A bank clerk is seduced by the lure of wealth, embezzles money, and leaves for the city, where he undergoes an odyssey of self-discovery.

There aren’t very many movies that you can place next to THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI and come away with the conclusion that CALIGARI is the one that is stylistically more realistic. This is one. The sets are so twisted, the acting style so stylized, and the general tone of the movie so bizarre that I’m almost tempted to agree with Walt Lee when he attributes the fantastic content of this movie as being the result of the style. However, when you get down to it, there’s only one element of the plot that lapses into the fantastic, and that’s that our protagonist keeps seeing the face of Death in various women. It’s based on a radical stage play from 1912, and I find it almost perverse that a silent version of a stage play would abjure title cards, but it tries to tell the story in purely visual terms. It doesn’t quite work; I had to find a plot description to figure out what was going on in the story. My print is in very poor condition; it’s jittery and washed out, but somehow, that just enhances the nightmarish feel of the whole experience. Reportedly, this was never released in Germany but somehow found life in Japan, and it was believed lost for many years. It’s worth seeing, if for no other reason to see how outlandish expressionism could get.


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