Victor Sjöström

Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo (1912) di Selma Lagerlöf. Scen.: Victor Sjöström. F.: J. Julius (Julius Jaenzon). Scgf.: Alexander Bako, Axel Esbensen. Int.: Victor Sjöström (David Holm), Hilda Borgström (signora Holm), Tore Svennberg (Georges), Astrid Holm (Edit), Lisa Lundholm (Maria), Tor Weijden (Gustafsson), Concordia Selander (madre di Edith), Einar Axelsson (fratello di David), Nils Arehn (cappellano della prigione), Simon Lindstrand, Nils Elffors (compagni di David). Prod.: Svensk Filmindustri. 35mm. L.: 1937 m (incompleto; l. orig.: 2126 m). D.: 106’ a 16 f/s. Col. (from a tinted nitrate print)

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

As long as the films were short, it was possible to edit the programmes for this section like editing a feature-length film, by combining, contrasting and splitting together scenes and themes. Now, with the long films, the topography of the section is quite different, defined by a balance between rare and unknown titles and works that are widely seen and known, such as Körkarlen.
When asked for his favourite film, historian Eric Hobsbawm replied that the question was wrong, since cinema is stream, and to fish a drop, a single title out of the river makes no sense. A truly admirable answer, to the mark. Nevertheless, on a lower level – closer to the riverbank – we are free to compare the films and to pass judgments. Among the 37 short and long films in this section, Körkarlen is the strongest film. It is about a cruel and violent alcoholic who dies on 31 December for which, according to an old Swedish legend, he must drive the carriage of the souls of the dead for the entire year. He is allowed, however, to come back to life to save his wife and redeem himself. We can make a list of its merits, the acting of Sjöström and Borgström, the cinematography of Julius Jaenzon, the story by Selma Lagerlöf set in the reality gap between the Old and the New Year and in the near-death experience of a depraved drunkard, and we can mention how influential (Nosferatu, The Seventh Seal) the film was. But the work is more than a sum of its parts. Within our limited selection of films from 1921, the stature of Körkarlen gives a measure of the depth of cinema, of any time.
Körkarlen has been restored several times. This Desmet print was struck in 2003, from a duplicate negative made in 1975 which incorporated material from two different sources, a shortened black-and-white nitrate print with Swedish intertitles and a tinted nitrate print with English intertitles. The intertitles have been recreated from the titles in the Swedish print and original title cards in the collections of the Svenska Filminstitutet.

Mariann Lewinsky

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