(German: Die Büchse der Pandora)
The title is a reference to Pandora of Greek mythology, who upon opening a box given to her by the gods released all evils into the world, leaving only hope behind. The lead role is played by Lousie Brooks as Lulu. She is a young and impulsive vaudeville performer whose raw sexuality and uninhibited nature bring about the downfall of almost everyone she meets. Indeed her asset is her body which, to use a metaphor, was like the box. She only needed to open it, and as we see in this silent film, what havoc it could wreak on men as well as women of certain attitude. Incidentally in Countess Anna we have the cinema’s first lesbian character.
Pandora’s Box is a German silent melodrama based loosely on Frank Wedekind’s plays Erdgeist (Earth Spirit, 1895) and Die Büchse der Pandora (1904). Wedekind’s plays in his time were controversial to say the least. Satire was a weapon more like a red rag to be shaken at the middle-class morality and the solid citizenry in Germany were bedeviled by the impossible and more perverse than natural conduct in Lulu. Widekind was not exceptional in this. From the turn of the century there were two opposing forces at work in Imperial Germany and both were curiously born out of self same causes. Perversity, vampirism and similar lurid subjects that were taboo till then began to appear as a reaction to a very moribund German national life. Lulu was a creature, an intellectual shock therapy on one hand from Widekind is an example. The other form of shock was prescribed by Deeds and came from wandervögels (birds of passage). The latter were from well-to-do middle class families and this movement was hellbent to attack school, home and church. The latter group was to transform into Freikorps at the end of WWI.The latter played a part in helping Hitler to power while it marked the exodus of intellectuals to safer havens.
This film is directed by Austrian filmaker Georg Wilhelm Pabst, the film stars Louise Brooks as Lulu, Fritz Kortner as Dr. Schön, Francis Lederer as Alwa Schön and Alice Roberts as Countess Geschwitz.
The plot revolves around many loves of Lulu, her rise and fall. She marries a respectable newspaper publisher, but soon drives him into insanity, climaxing in an incident in which she accidentally shoots him to death. Found guilty of manslaughter, she escapes from justice with the help of her former pimp (whom she considers her father) and the son of her dead husband, who is also in love with her. After spending several months hiding in an illegal gambling den in France, where Lulu is nearly sold into slavery, Lulu and her friends end up living in squalor in a London garret. On Christmas Eve, driven into prostitution by poverty, Lulu meets her doom at the hands of Jack the Ripper.
Pandora’s Box was already adapted to the screen by Arzén von Cserépy in 1921 in Germany under the same title with Asta Nielsen in the roll as Lulu. There were musical, plays and other cinema features of the film at the time and the story of Pandora’s Box was commonplace in culture. This allowed Pabst to make liberties with the story of the film.(wikipedia)
Directed by G. W. Pabst
Produced by Seymour Nebenzal
Written by G. W. Pabst
Cinematography Günther Krampf
Distributed by Süd-Film
Release date(s) Germany:
30 January, 1929
Running time 100-152 mins. (US)
133 mins. (dir. cut)
Language silent film
* Fritz Körtner as Dr. Ludwig Schön
* Francis Lederer as Alwa Schön: Dr. Ludwig Schön son.
* Carl Goetz as Schigolch: there is no real definiton of his relation to Lulu but it is suggested in the film that he is or has acted as a sort of pimp for Lulu.
* Krafft-Raschig as Rodrigo Quast
* Alice Roberts as Countess Anna Geschwitz: Geschwitz is defined by her masculine look with her tuxedo suit that she wears.
* Daisy D’Ora as Dr. Schön’s Fiance
* Gustav Diessl as Jack the Ripper
* Michael von Newlinsky as Marquis Casti-Piani
* Sigfried Arno as The Stage Manager
Diary of a Lost Girl (1929, G.W. Pabst)
The Blue Angel (1930, Josef von Sternberg)
Queen Kelly (1929, Erich Von Stroheim)
The Wild Heart (1950, Rouben Mamoulian, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
A Breath of Scandal (1960, Michael Curtiz)
Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977, Richard Brooks)
Klondike Annie (1936, Raoul Walsh)
Afgrunden (1910, Peter Urban Gad)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Diary of a Lost Girl (1929, G.W. Pabst)
Kameradschaft (1931, G.W. Pabst)
Westfront 1918 (1930, G.W. Pabst)
The Threepenny Opera (1931, G.W. Pabst)
Don Quixote (1933, G.W. Pabst)
Der Prozess (1948, G.W. Pabst)
The Strange Death of Adolf Hitler (1943, James Hogan)
Die Stadt ist voller Geheimnisse (1955, Fritz Kortner)
* Louise Brooks as Lulu: On seeing Louise Brooks as a Circus Performer in the 1928 Howard Hawks’ film A Girl in Every Port. Director G.W. Pabst tried to get Brooks on loan from Paramount Pictures. Pabst’s offer wasn’t even given to Brooks by the studio until she left Paramount over a Salary dispute. On not receiving Brooks for the role, Pabst’s second choice was Marlene Dietrich.
* Georg Wilhelm Pabst nearly signed Marlene Dietrich to star, although he greatly preferred Louise Brooks. According to Pabst, Dietrich was in his office waiting to sign the contract when a cable came from Paramount saying that Brooks was willing to play the role.
* Georg Wilhelm Pabst initially incurred a lot of wrath when he cast American Louise Brooks in the role of Lulu, a part which was considered to be quintessentially German. Ultimately Brooks’ performance silenced her critics.
* For the scene in which Lulu picks up and seduces Jack, Georg Wilhelm Pabst selected one of Louise Brooks’s own suits – her favorite – for Lulu’s costume and soiled, scuffed and rent it. Brooks claimed that, without spoken direction, Pabst thus established the desired effect of making her feel worn, cheap, and desperate, as the character of Lulu was intended to be portrayed.
* In her biography, Louise Brooks says she was physically attracted to Gustav Diessl, who played Jack the Ripper, and that made it easy for her to play her scenes with him.
* According to Louise Brooks’ memoir, “Lulu in Hollywood”, Alice Roberts was not aware her character was a lesbian until filming began, and she was initially opposed to playing the role as being attracted to Lulu. Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Brooks writes, convinced Roberts to pretend she was making her love gestures to Pabst, who was standing just off-camera.
* Louise Brooks’ highly influential “bob” hairdo is referred to as a Lulu to this day.
• Fritz Kortner reportedly did not like or respect Louise Brooks, whom he didn’t consider a trained actress.
Lulu: You’ll have to kill me to get rid of me.
Dr. Ludwig Schön: [to Alwa] Just one thing, my boy, beware of that woman.
Schigolch: You should only play when you’re sure to win.
Lulu: [referring to the Egyptian] He’s acting like he wants to buy me.
Marquis Casti-Piani: I need money badly and you have none to give me… The Egyptian will give me 50 more pounds than the German police… You’re in luck.
Alwa Schön: It’s strange how you can get booze on credit but not bread.
Lulu: MONEY! All they want is money!
In France, the film was edited making Alwa was Schon’s secretary and the countess became Lulu’s childhood friend. Lulu is found innocent in the film at her trial and there is no Jack the Ripper character as the film ended with Lulu joining the Salvation Army.
The film was re-discovered in the 1950s by critics to great critical acclaim. Modern critics now praise the film as one of the classics of Weimar Germany’s cinema along with The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari, Metropolis, and The Blue Angel.
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