Sunday, September 9, 2012

Silent Sundays: Pandora's Box (1929)


“Beware of that woman”

            Pandora’s Box is a film that I have had saved for quite some time. I started watching it maybe two years ago when I was at college and never went back to it. I remember sitting down to watch the film I was just beginning to really dig into classic films but I had yet to sit through a silent film. I thought at the time I would give Pandora’s Box a try since I heard it was a great classic among silent films and Louise Brooks’ best film. I think I got about twelve minutes in and I never went back to it. Now I have finally gotten back to the film after two years since I now have an appreciation and liking for silent films. I found the film way too long and it took me a few sittings to get through it.
            Lulu (Brooks) is a kept woman. She lives in an apartment that is paid for by a Dr. Schon. Lulu was a dancer at a revue when she met Schon. Schon comes to the apartment and announces that he has become engaged to another woman. He also tells her their relationship is the talk of town and ruining his reputation. Lulu tells him “You’ll have to kill me if you want to be free of me.” She tells him this very seductively and they kiss.
            Charlotte is the name of the woman Schon is engaged to. Her father tells her that Schon’s behavior makes the marriage impossible but she does not listen to him even though the wedding keeps getting postponed.
            Lulu goes to see Schon. His son Alwa is there. She tells Alwa that he is her best friend because he does not want anything from her then questions if it is because he does not love her. Schon comes in and demands to know why she is in his house. Lulu does not answer she takes Alwa and kisses him. When Lulu leaves Schon gives Alwa the idea to put on a revue and have Lulu as the star.
            Schon goes backstage at the revue and brings Charlotte. When Lulu sees them she refuses to go on stage and dance for Charlotte’s amusement. Everyone tries to get some sense into her. Schon takes her into a storage closet and will not let her out until she agrees to go out. Lulu keeps and screams to let her out and to leave her alone. Schon takes Lulu into his arms and kisses her. At that moment Alwa opens the door with Charlotte as his side. Lulu gives an evil smirk as if to say she has won. Schon says that now he will have to marry Lulu.
            On the day of the wedding Schon is not happy at all while Lulu is. Two of her old friends Schigolch and Rodrigo are at the wedding. They go into her room and she sits on Schigolch’s lap. Schon walks in on this scene. He takes out his gun to shoot the two men but Lulu intervenes. Schigolch and Rodrigo run out with Schon chasing them into the wedding party. After this scene the guests leave the house. Schon with gun still in hand forces Lulu to hold it. He wants her to kill herself so that he will not be called a murderer alone. They struggle for the gun and it goes off killing Schon.
            Lulu is arrested and tried for the murder of Dr. Schon. One of the prosecutors likens Lulu to the mythical Pandora who opened a box and let loose evil into the world. He tells the court that Lulu made Dr. Schon evil. Despite testimony from Alwa and his friend in defense of Lulu the jury still sentences her to five years in prison. Schigolch and Rodrigo have the fire alarm go off and the court cleared out. Lulu gets carried away with the crowd.
            Lulu goes to Dr. Schon’s house. Alwa wants to hate her but he cannot and he takes her away to Paris. Schigolch and Rodrigo join the trip as well.
            Lulu and Alwa’s lives begin to fall apart. They get blackmailed and lose money and wind up jumping ship on a small boat to London.
            Louise Brookes was the first choice to play Lulu but G.W. Pabst was unsure whether he could get her or not. Apparently Marlene Dietrich was sitting in his office waiting to sign the contract to be in the film when Pabst got the call that Paramount would release Brookes to make the film. Brookes was perfect in the role. She was not gorgeous she was pretty and had a charm that makes her believable that men would do to their demise and turn evil because of her. I can see why this made her so famous and is considered her best film.
            Pandora’s Box is a good film but I found it to be way too long. The story is excellent I loved the line when the prosecutor tells the room that he compares Lulu to Pandora and made Schon evil. That right there sums up the whole character. I found like a lot of early epic silent films like D.W. Griffith’s films that there were so many scenes that were unnecessary and made the film too long. Several aspects make Pandora’s Box one of the quintessential silent films and German films especially the dark message and the Expressionist style. The film definitely deserves to be one of the best it has a great cast, great story and a great director in G.W. Pabst. Just remember if you ever sit down to watch it that it does drag in some parts.