Sunday, April 21, 2013

Silent Sundays: Mare Nostrum (1926)



“Between Europe and Africa stretching from Gibraltar to the Syrian coast lies the Mediterranean land locked and tideless known to the ancients as Mare Nostrum- ‘our sea’”

            Mare Nostrum begins in a small town in Spain. The Ferragut family has lived in a small town in the country for centuries. The oldest Ferragut at the time had been sailing for forty years. The man comes back to his home to live out the rest of his days. He sits with his grandson Ulysses and is upset to find that the boy does not know the difference between ships. The man tells Ulysses about Amphitrite the goddess of the sea. The young boy is completely taken with the story and for as long as he lives he never forgets the story of the beautiful goddess. Ulysses’s father wants his son to have nothing to with the sea he wants the boy to become a lawyer.
            Years go by and Ulysses hears the call and pull of Triton. He has his own ship now named The Mare Nostrum. Ulysses is married and has a young son himself now. He receives a letter from his wife telling him to come home or he will ruin his son. He goes home to see his son Esteban. Esteban is the only one who is happy to see his father home. Ulysses’s wife had been chosen for him. She is not happy to see him at all and tells him he has upset the household. She becomes happy when Ulysses tells her he is there to stay.
            One of the crew members named Toni comes to Ulysses to tell him that war (WWI) has been declared and that they will be able to make back the money they had lost while not sailing from the merchants wanting ships for their cargo. Ulysses again leaves his wife and son to work on his ship.
            While in Italy, Ulysses goes to Pompeii. He meets a woman named Freya Talberg who looks familiar. She says she remembers him he had given her a lift to South America once. Ulysses does not remember this at all but that does not matter to him he is so taken with her. they walk together to a Greek temple. Freya comments on a snake they saw must surely be Neptune in snake form. With this comment Ulysses believes that Freya is Amphitrite  from the painting in his old home. For a week the Mare Nostrum has been ready to leave. Toni finds Freya’s handkerchief under Ulysses’s pillow. He tells the crew that while the captain has fun the rest of them are losing a fortune.

            One day Freya tells Ulysses she is an Austrian woman working for her county. He is not upset by this news he has nothing to do with German quarrels he is Spanish and therefore neutral. Freya speaks to his honor and duty to help her and Germany. Ulysses has the Mare Nostrum go back to Spain and he stays behind in Naples. Meanwhile at home, Esteban is missing his father. He gets on a ship and heads to Italy.
            The Germans want Ulysses to lead them to Aventura Bay in the Mediterranean. He agrees to help with their plan. Freya begs Ulysses not to go she believes something bad will happen. Esteban comes to Naples the day Ulysses has left. When Ulysses returns a woman tells him that Freya has left and that his son had come looking for him.
            The Germans sink an English ship in the bay. There were women and children aboard on the sunken ship. The surviving passengers come aboard the French ship that Ulysses is traveling on. He receives news from a fellow Spaniard that a young boy was with him on that the ship coming home from Naples. The boy had been standing by the rail when the torpedo came. Ulysses realizes the poor dead boy was Esteban.
            Freya and a Dr. Fedelmann have moved their headquarters to Barcelona. Freya writes a letter to Ulysses that the death of his son is making her work very hard to bear and she grieves as though Esteban had been her son.
            Ulysses has been ill in his hotel room in Marseilles for weeks. He refuses to return to Barcelona until he finds the Germans responsible for killing his son. Ulysses receives an anonymous letter that if he goes to a certain place he will find something that will make him happy. Freya is at the location waiting for him. He is not happy to see her at all. Freya tells him that Dr. Fedelmann wrote the letter that he received. The doctor has set her up to be caught by the French. Freya stills loves Ulysses and needs him to take her away. Ulysses sees the ghost of Esteban shaking his head “no” about taking Freya away. He runs out of the room. He runs into the colonel of the submarine that sunk the ship Esteban had been on. The two men get into a fight then run out of the hotel out onto the streets. Ulysses runs down the streets yelling that the colonel is a spy. The entire town chases after the colonel. For her involvement Freya is shot to death by a firing squad.
            Ulysses gives the Mare Nostrum to the French to help with the war effort. The same submarine that sunk the French ship sinks the Mare Nostrum. Not long after the submarine sinks in rough waters.
            Mare Nostrum was a good film. The story was different from other films made about World War I before World War II started. I liked it because the main character was not an American he was Spanish. The femme fatale truly did deserve her punishment she was a spy not just a seductress she knew exactly what she was just doing. The underwater scenes were haunting. By haunting I mean they were actually a little disturbing they were eerie but they were also very well made and actually kind of beautiful. Mare Nostrum is not available on Youtube or on DVD. I caught the film on TCM. If the channel airs the film again give it a watch.