Friday, 9 February 2018

A river runs through it… The Bride of Glomdal (1926), John Sweeney, Kennington Bioscope

For a good portion of this film the narrative ebbs and flows in pleasing ways without really hitting you hard. The scenery is, of course, stunning as photographed by Einar Olsen and the cast, especially willowy, steel-blue-eyed Tove Tellback, are superb making a believably real rustic romance with stubbornness, jealousy, a fight and an injury… but suddenly, just when you think the narrative is ready to wind down, events take a dangerous turn and in a closing sequence of jeopardy, thrilling stunt work and fast-paced, anxious direction you find yourself thinking once again that no one can quite “play” fast moving water like John Sweeney!

Mr Sweeney was on excellent form throughout, pastoral accompaniment holding the story easily within his hands and a pitch-perfect flavouring for the romance and the resentment on route to the rapids that engulf the finale. These are moments to cherish when player and projection are completely in sync each adding to the other’s efforts and taking away nothing at all.

Harald Stormoen and Alfhild Stormoen look on...
Lillian Henley was in similar flow at the start of the evening as she accompanied newsreel of actual Pankhursts in startlingly clear action from 1913 and earlier as a Bioscope tribute to a century of suffrage (at least for those women of standing who got the vote in 1918). Lillian has form her of course having scored the BFI’s excellent Make More Noise compilation and her sympathy for the period and the cause was in evidence again as we saw the, so called, Trafalgar Square “riot” and 66,000 marching through London in a suffragette “pageant”. There were banners celebrating Sylvia and declaring that Fortune Favours the Brave. Odd that, in 2018 you could almost be certain that it’s favouring the deceitful and the salesman…

In 1913 people believed in democracy and, of course died for it. Two films showing the 1913 Derby were screened and there was a collective gasp when Emily Davison collides with the King’s horse – whatever her motivations, her death still carries meaning. There was footage of her funeral and a poignant sight it was too; we can each take our own meaning, but this isn’t just history but an ongoing process, just like Ireland, the Union and Parliamentary democracy itself.

Good on you Widnes!! My Granddad Bill no doubt was one of them.
A little light relief followed in which a confused fellow becomes A Suffragette in Spite of Himself (1911) after schoolboys tack a “votes for women” sign on his back. He gets into a fight with some chaps at an anti-suffrage meeting and is saved by the suffragettes before being enlisted to walk, shoulder to shoulder. There are some wonderful backdrops of Trafalgar Square and Bloomsbury and the gent is played by Marc McDermott who went on to feature in Hollywood, in Laugh, Clown, Laugh, Blind Wives, Flesh and the Devil and many more.

We even had time for Charley Smiler Takes Up Ju-Jitsu (1911) and early and very brief comedy from Fred “Pimple” Evans which featured some sisterly slams from a suffragette trained in the martial art in question.

George Lewis faces off against Rex Lease both in the race and for Mildred Harris...
Finally, we saw one of the US Collegians series, this one a racing tale called The Last Lap (1928) in which our hero Benson (George Lewis) must overcome the college bully to win the freshers vs sophomores cross-country race and the heart of Mildred Harris. It’s predictable and slightly infuriating but has its moments… maybe if we saw more of the series? This was episode 37!

It wasn’t in the same league as the main feature but then Dreyer is one of the most accomplished film makers of the era, and well beyond. Whilst I’ve seen some of his early films, The President, Leaves from Satan's Book, Michael as well as Joan and Vampyr, he was so productive between the first of those films and the last producing about one feature a year. This film came after Master of the House and before Joan and stylistically it’s quite different.

As John Sweeney said in his introduction though, it is interesting to see yet another strong female lead, in this case, Berit Glomgaarden (Tove Tellback) whose insistence on making her own choices drives the story.

Berit chooses her man
Based on the novel by Jacob Breda Bull, John said that the photo play was partly improvised – led by Dreyer - which might explain part of the differences from the film around it. Filmed in the Norwegian countryside, this is also a canvas wide enough to make the dedicated fan of Joan’s compact, claustrophobia, more than usually agoraphobic. It almost feels like a Victor Sjöström film so glorious is the backdrop. Also, what we now see is some 75 minutes long and just over half the original length although this doesn’t impact the story too much apart from rendering the jealous lover/would be murderer, Gjermund Haugsett (Einar Tveito) a little under-developed.

Gjermund’s father, Berger Haugsett (Oscar Larsen) agrees with Berit’s father, Ola (a moody Stub Wiberg) that she should marry his boy but, rather crucially, the bride-to-be has not signed off on the deal. Indeed, Berit has a different romantic course in mind, she is in love with Tore Braaten (Einar Sissener) the son of a small farm holder, Jakob (Harald Stormoen), who has big plans to expand operations and works feverously laying out new fields.

Einar Tveito
Once this preference is known tension bubbles across the village… Gjermund fights with Tore and the two have to be pulled apart. But Haugsett has made his choice and refuses to budge. Berit runs away as her father takes around wedding invitations and falling off her horse is rescued by Tore who takes her home for recuperation. Time for a reconciliation you’d think but there’s no chance as Haugsett hardens his heart, confounding expectations of a simple resolution – these farmers are so stubborn!

But there’s more to come as we head for the final nerve shredding conclusion!

Well played Bioscope, Mr Sweeney and Ms Henley, another memorable night at the Cinema Museum and this time I was early enough to grab a slice of the KB’s excellent home-made quiche!

Everywhere you look in Kennington, there are treasures

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