Lulu is a beautiful young woman who can seemingly work her charms on all of the men around her. She is currently being kept by the rich editor Dr. Ludwig Schön. She is just a plaything however and he is engaged to be married to Charlotte, a woman of his own class. He arranges for Lulu to appear in his son Alwa's musical revue and he too falls for all of her charms. When Dr. Schön and his fiancée go to the theater, Lulu ensures that he is put in a compromising situation and the elder Schön feels he now must marry her, knowing full well it will ruin his reputation. On his wedding day, Dr. Schön reaches his breaking point. His actions cost him his life however and Lulu is convicted of manslaughter. She escapes with the help of her old cronies but together they begin a downward spiral. Written by
I had heard "Pandora's Box" called a German Expressionist film, the class to which such great and outlandish films as Wiene's "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", and Lang's "Metropolis" and the sadly dated but very interesting "Nosferatu" by Walter Murnau, I expected it to have the same elements-- extremely stylized acting and direction, bizarre artificial sets, and a general atmosphere of utter surreality. So I was very surprised at and fascinated with the naturalism of G. W. Pabst's "Pandora's Box", particularly with Louise Brook's celebrated performance as the cheerful, childlike, tragic femme fatale Lulu. Pabst's direction is essentially modern, even without the use of sound. While sometimes the direction and acting in even "Caligari" and "Metropolis" provoke laughter from the bemused audience,"Pandora's Box" holds the viewer spellbound, and its not infrequent humor is intentional. Like other German Expressionist silent films, "Pandora's Box" has a dark message. From the beginning, however, it is far less stylized, and the settings look like they might actually have existed in the 1920's, instead of only in someone's dream world. Nevertheless the film makes excellent use of Expressionistic lighting and chiaroscuro, which highlights the visions of fruitless and immoral frivolity, desperate gambling and unhealthy sexuality.
Altogether, this film is beautiful and absorbing, and even if nothing else, it should not be missed for Louise Brooks' superb performance.
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