Sunday, February 12, 2012

Silent Sundays: The Love Light (1921)

            I have been thinking about doing something themed on this site to give it some substance to break out of the monotony of just doing all kinds of reviews. Every Sunday TCM has Silent Sunday Nights where they show silent films. I like that concept so I have decided to adopt it. I have several silent films saved and downloaded but so much of them are only like ten to twenty minutes long  I figured doing a Silent Sunday thing like TCM would be fun and I could post about multiple films. Also I think this is pretty fitting for the site since my first review was about Sadie Thompson starring Gloria Swanson from 1928.
            So from now on (or until I run out) on Sundays I will be posting about silent films.

            The first film in my edition of Silent Sundays is The Love Light starring silent cinema’s most popular actress and American’s first sweetheart Mary Pickford.

It has been a while since I have watched a film where my heart actually ached for the main character. I sat riveted, captivated, enthralled by The Love Light. I could feel my heart pounding in worry for Mary Pickford’s character Angela Carlotti every time she suffered a great loss and how she would overcome it. In the final moments of the film I found myself wringing my hands in worry and suspense and the relieved with lighter heart at the happy ending.
            Angela and her brothers Antonio and Mario live in a small Italian village near the sea. They are a happy family just the three of them. Mario is “the bane of Angela’s existence” but they love each other very much. A man in the village and a good friend of Angela’s named Giovanni is in love with her and everyone knows it.
            The four of them live happily for a while until World War I rolls around. Antonio is the first to go. Mario goes off as well and Angela pleads and begs for him not to go. When Mario runs away from his sister to leave her as less painfully as possible Giovanni comes over with a shirt sent a courier that Antonio is dead.
            Giovanni is the last of Angela’s closest ones to go off to war. He has left her in charge of his lighthouse while he is away. One day Angela comes across a man in the water fighting the waves and the rocks on the shore. She rescues the man who says his name is Joseph he is an American sailor. She wants to get help but he tells her no because he is a deserter he does not want to get into trouble so no one must know where he is. As times goes on Angela begins to fall in love with Joseph. To profess her love he tells her that she is to signal him at midnight with the light at the lighthouse that she loves him. At the same moment a ship carrying back the wounded is hit by an enemy ship. Not long after this tragic moment that she is unaware she caused she and Joseph marry in secret.
            While visiting her friends Pietro and Maria, Pietro takes out an enemy’s sword he took. On the sword it says something in German with the word “Gott” in it. When Angela gets home she leans over Joseph who is sleeping and startles him and he says “Gott”. Right then and there Angela knows he is the enemy spy. Joseph now has to leave and all he wants to take with him is some chocolate since he cannot carry too much. Angela steals some but someone hears her. The people think that a stranger is among them. A dog follows Angela’s sent back to her place. She tells them yes she took the chocolate but only to send to her brother Mario. At the realization she caused Mario’s death she gives Joseph up but begs that he not be killed. Instead of going with the townspeople Joseph jumps off a cliff to his death at the rock below.
            Months later Angela has a baby girl. She has not seen the baby for some time because “her mind lay asleep” after all the tragedy she has endured. Her friend Maria has taken care of the baby after she lost her own as well as her husband. When Angela is allowed to see the baby again and take her home Maria goes into hysterics.

            Angela feels as though she has been healed with her baby. The baby has brought her so much joy. Angela puts the baby down to nap and tend to the animals on her farm when Maria comes in and steals the baby. Maria runs to the convent telling the nun that Angela is still crazy. Seeing that the baby is gone Angela runs to the convent in hysterics but the nun does not believe Angela is well. For months she thinks that the baby is in the convent and the nuns will not let her see her child until she sees Maria with a baby. At first she does not realize the baby is hers until she remembers that Maria’s baby died.
            Angela saves her baby and they live happily with Giovanni who returned home from war.
            Mary Pickford was incredible. From start to finish I just absolutely adored her. What a performance. Her expressions of loss and tragedy are what moved me the most. Pickford had such an innocent look that you can feel and see her love and loss on her face. You can feel her love for everyone in her life. I think that is a testament to her acting since the film is silent we cannot hear her say things when she is sad or happy we have to see it. Of course at times she was very overdramatic but this is the silent era actors and actresses could get away with but for the most part Pickford was amazing and truly an inspirational.
            I really connected to how Angela loved her brothers. I have three younger brothers and I cannot imagine losing any of them no matter how much we may fight or disagree sometimes. It was cute how at the beginning Angela and Mario were fighting. They were chasing each other around then when the priest came by their house she stops and kisses his ring. Mario makes a face at her calling her a brown nosier and she makes a cute face at him since the priest is looking. A few minutes later they are in a brawl around the yard as the priest is saying his prayers over his dinner with his eyes closed. Mario, Angela, Antonio, and Giovanni slink back in before the priest opens his eyes. There were several cute, loving scenes at the beginning that were very nice to see. She thought she would be like the girls from Rome and refuse him. Joseph was watching the whole time and thought she was adorable.
            In the 1920s when films were becoming hugely popular as an entertainment form and an industry women had much more freedom as not only actresses but as writers and directors. The most well known was Francis Marion. Marion wrote The Love Light after she and her husband had traveled through Italy and she heard some stories from women who had lived through it. She was so moved that she wrote a screenplay. Marion was best friends with Mary Pickford who liked the story. Pickford got Marion to direct the film as well. The direction just adds to the emotions of the story, it is one of the best directed films I have ever seen.
            The Love Light is one of the best films I have ever seen. Other reviews I have read say that this is not one of Mary Pickford’s best films and that the story relies too much on coincidence. I think Mary Pickford gives an incredible performance and yes the story is a bit unbelievable but it is so well acted out and directed that all I could really care about was the outcome of the characters. Come on, since then how many films, especially tragic ones, have been all about coincidences? The Love Light is an amazing film and one that if it can be found needs to be seen. 

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