Saturday, 30 May 2015

Ain’t no mountain high enough… A Dangerous Wooing (1919)

A Dangerous Wooing (Ett farlig frieri) was Rune Carlsten’s directorial debut and he went on to make some twenty films up until the 1940’s. If you didn’t know better you might almost assume that this romantic comedy drama was the work of his more renowned Swedish contemporary, Victor Sjöström, with extensive shots of the Scandinavian countryside (actually the region around the Hardanger Fjord in Norway) but Carlsten shows a lighter touch.

The exterior camerawork is exemplary from Raoul Reynolds and Carl Gustaf Florin, showing the sweep of endless mountains and hills behind the  Husaby farm at the centre of this very human romantic comedy… The day-to-day struggles of existing on this land is set aside as the characters set about each other but in the end the physical challenges of their location ,must be over come in order for the day to be won.

Right rural ain't it?
Carlsten’s tone may be warmer but, as with Sjöström, he attempts to paint an historically-detailed picture of traditional rural life from the clothes and the manners to the daily routines of cows, cooking and horn-blowing and, of course, the endless scrapping. Unfortunately for the boys there seem to be very few eligible young women in the village and the men of a certain age can’t stop fighting over her.

Gull Cronvall and Lars Hanson
Aslaug (Gull Cronvall) is the winsome daughter of veteran cock of the walk, Knut Husaby (Theodor Blick) who freely describes himself as the “Wolf” and his two sons as cubs… although Sigurd (Hugo Tranberg) and Eyvind (Gosta Cederlund) seem scarcely feral.

The old wolf Husaby!
As the film opens we see the old Wolf repel an amorously-intentioned violinist (Torsten Bergström) who is unceremoniously booted down the garden, landing next to two other would-be suitors. The keen-eyed viewer may spot a young Uno Henning as one of them… he would later star so effectively  in A Cottage on Dartmoor and more.

Thormund (Hjalmar Peters), the wealthiest farmer in the area approaches with his only son, Ola (Kurt Welin) who has all of the financial backing and none of the front being a podgy lad who is easily despatched and dunked in milk by Uno and his accomplice.

The Competition...
Nor will he fare any better with Aslaug, who only has eyes for one man, the handsomely-capable Tore Næsset (the capably-handsome Lars Hanson) who is not only her pick of the bunch but far smarter than the competition. He and Aslaug are already in love and the one little thing standing in their way is his humble station... well, that and Aslaug’s fearsome father.

Tore is the son of a humble small-holder and even his mother (Hilda Castegren) tells him he’s too poor to score with the Wolf’s foxy daughter (sorry…). But, he’s a man crazy in love and determined to bridge the income gap.

Thormund and his son arrive to propose to Husaby – and his daughter – and the Wolf declares that it’s her decision. She politely declines the course of her heart having already been set and then Tore declares his intentions only to be laughed out of the house by the older men and their sons: he is not worthy…

The counter-proposal is laughed off
But Tore is nothing if not steadfast and he continues to see Aslaug, fighting off attention from all comers during the course of her daily life minding the cows in the family’s extensive farm. As he bests every lad from the village, the Wolf decides it’s time to intervene… with the help of his two sons naturally…

Tore is ambushed by the sons and having easily beaten them both off is caught unawares by their father’s joining the fray. The three Husabys give him a beating and the Wold tells him that unless he makes it to see Aslaug the next Saturday, their engagement will be called off and she will have to marry  Ola Thormundson…

Tore evades the ambush
As Tore licks his wounds – in so much comedy bandage – the other families keep watch and make sure his entry to the farm and the single track to the out-house where Aslaug stays when minding the cattle, is impassable. Tore attempts a brave attack only to be repelled by weight of numbers… All looks lost until he stares out from his mother’s house up the impossibly high cliff to where his love waits…
Hang on...I've got an idea...
Rune Carlsten’s direction is assured and moves into a higher gear with the action scenes and the physically-impressive outdoors: the sub-polar light was key to Scandanavian success at this stage of cinema al fresco.

Lars is excellent as you’d expect and proves as adept at comedy as drama faced with the impressively-mighty Theodor Blick who you just wouldn’t want to mess with unless, that is, you were inescapably, bravely, in love with his daughter.

The version I watched was a copy of the 2010 restoration from the Svenska Filminstitutet which comes with an impressive, jazz-tinged score from Matti Bye. It's available on DVD from Loving the Classics purveyors of decent quality public domain cinema.

Uno Henning gets the cold shoulder

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