|Olaf Fønss in Berlin|
Directed by August Blom, the story is based on Gerhart Hauptmann’s novel - a prescient tale of a tragic Atlantic crossing which pre-dated the Titanic tragedy by weeks. It feels very much like an adaptation with a lot of detail crammed into the two hours with a number of fleeting characters. This was Denmark’s first full-length feature film and maybe they thought the whole book needed to be told. Or maybe Herr Hauptmann exerted too much of an influence… he certainly helped chose one or two of the cast…
|Broadway makes a surprise appearance|
What I feared might be stodgy… remains an impressive film in spite of some story flaws and one really bad dancer…
|The family of Dr. Friedrich von Kammacher|
He lives with his parents, his three children and his mentally-frail wife, Angele (Lily Frederiksen).
Life turns sour when the academics refuse to accept his ideas and then Angele attacks him with some scissors. Whilst she is sent away to a sanatorium, the exhausted Frederich is persuaded by his mother to tour Europe and recouperate.
|Man about town|
Frederich decides to view a theatrical matinee and the course of his life and the film is changed by a woman dancing round a flower.
|The floral dance...|
|Olaf Fønss and Ida Orloff|
He resolves to follow them and to continue his interest on board the passenger liner, Roland. Yet on-board, Ingigerd is as surrounded by admirers as on land and Friedrich struggles to keep her attention. Continually rebuffed by her mass of male companions he almost succumbs to the charms of an attractive Russian passenger(Alma Hinding) sent to him for medical help.
|Olaf Fønss and Alma Hinding|
He always seems to be reacting to circumstances and not forging his own direction like heroes usually do… But maybe this is Hauptmann’s point? We don’t hate Friedrich we just wish he’d stick to something and someone....preferably his wife and children.
|A large-scale model with 100s of extras were used for the sinking|
Apparently over 500 extras were involved in these scenes as the director cut from a large scale model to life-sized lifeboats full to the brim as they crash into the sea. The scenes in the lifeboats are particularly effective as desperate survivors try to climb aboard as the ship sinks in the background.
|Stunning camerawork in the boats...|
As their rescue ship approaches dock, there are some jaw-dropping shots of Manhattan as it was… so many elegant sky-scrapers even in 1913. Worth the price of admission alone.
|New York City, 1913|
Meanwhile, Ingigerd reverts to type and loses interest in her rescuer. At the same time she is mired in misfortune as it turns out that her performing contract has some irregularities…
|Dedicated location work!|
Frederich experiences waking dreams of his friends playing cards and his lost loves. When told that his wife has passed away he breaks down and becomes very ill. But help is on hand and Eva Burns comes up from New York to nurse him back to health and happiness…
|Ebba Thomsen and Olaf Fønss on ice|
There are good performances from most in the cast and Olaf Fønss is excellent as the directionless Frederich.
There’s trivia too as Hauptmann’s second choice of cast member was the amazing Charles Unthan who plays armless virtuoso Arthur Stoss. Unthan had also inspired a character in the book and having been born without arms developed an incredible dexterity of movement in his legs. The inspiration for Lon Chaney’s Unknown perhaps?
Blom also enlisted the help of an assistant director called Mihály Kertész, who found great fame in Hollywood as Michael Curtiz.
I watched the DFI 2005 restored edition DVD which includes a two-minute alternative un-happy ending originally filmed for Russian audiences (the existence of which had to be kept secret form the author) as well as the surviving 15-minute fragment of August Blom’s and Holger-Madsen’s 1914 film Liebelei.
Available direct form the DFI where it is far cheaper than Amazon...