Herr Arnes pengar (Sir Arne’s treasure)

Dir: Mauritz Stiller. 1919. Starring: Mary Johnson, Richard Lund, Erik Stocklassa. Silent Film/Foreign.
Herr Arnes pengar (Sir Arne’s treasure)

Subtitled “a winter ballad in 5 acts,” Herr Arne’s adventure is a bleak and beautiful masterpiece of Swedish Cinema. In the 16th century, a gang of conspiring Scotsmen are banished from the country except for their leaders, who’re locked up in a tower. They promptly escape, disguise themselves as journeymen tanners and go on a murderous rampage, looting the titular treasure from the kindly Herr Arne’s vicarage.

When they try to beat the retreat, the bellicose rogues find themselves iced in and forced to wait out the harsh winter. In the process of checking the ice, one of the evildoers (Sir Archie) falls for the sole survivor of their rampage, the young, adopted daughter of the vicar, Ellasil. She falls for him too and, before long, they figure out where their lives have intersected before. Haunted by ghostly visions, Sir Archie even recalls stabbing his beloved’s sister in the heart. And yet, their new love proves unassailable – though they’re understandably wracked with guilt and sullenly accepting of their inevitable ends.

Herr Arnes pengar is the work of Jewish/Finnish director Mauritz Stiller and Swedish photographer Julius Jaenzon. Together they created a visually stunning, thoroughly Scandanavian tale. The tinting gives the many snow-filled scenes a deep blue coldness which contrasts effectively (if obviously) with the sepia-tinted warmth of the cozy, fire-warmed interiors and the blood red scenes of lustmord. The new score by Matti Bye and Frederik Emilson is haunting and beautifully complimentary.

The sets, the costumes and the acting are very naturalistic and grounded in reality – yet punctuated by otherwordly visions and ghostly memories. The end result is a gloomy, doomy mood piece – patiently measured and grimly foreboding. Mauritz Stiller would’ve undoubtedly grown in stature had he not been famously combative with Hollywood studio hacks and dead at the young age of 45.

Posted by:
Eric Brightwell
Sep 6, 2008 6:09pm
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