Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ingeborg Holm (1913) - Film Review

Plot Summary - This Swedish silent film opens as we meet an idyllic, happy family working in their allotment garden - mom, dad, and three cute kids, all clothed in charming 1910-era attire. The dad has been given a loan to open a grocery store, but just as he's busy preparing his shop for opening he has an attack and is down in his sick bed suffering from a hemorrhage. But it gets worse, much worse - an "uninvited guest" arrives, death. With dad gone, the mother - Ingeborg Holm - must run the store herself and soon can't pay her bills in spite of her hard work. Bankruptcy comes next - and it gets worse! When she gets ill she is forced to seek public assistance and ends up a pauper living in a workhouse. And it gets worse - her family is broken apart, each child sent to live with a different foster family. Soon her daughter is sick and in need of an operation the public agency won't pay for - and mama runs away from the workhouse to see the child. And it gets worse !!!

Review - Okay - the story in this film is as big a tragedy as you can get, it's just one thing after another for this poor woman. The story is gripping, though pretty depressing. But - I love that ride back in time to nearly a hundred years ago - the clothing, the hats, the furniture, the vintage cash register in the shop - all neat to look at. This film is quite advanced for it's early year - very well directed by Victor Sjostrom, with nice cinematography. Okay, so the kids (and an adult once or twice) do glance at the camera a few times - but I must say, the youngest child in this is a really adorable little red-headed tyke - at only about two-years old he pretty much steals every scene he's in. A few questions I have about this story though - first, how come the doctor writes a note to the "poverty relief" board that Ingeborg is sick with a stomach ulcer and can't earn a living, but she goes to live at the workhouse and is seen, well, working. If she can work there - why can't she seek a real job? Second, why does she have a hired workman in the grocery store after dad has died - if she is struggling that much, couldn't she handle the work load on her own (after all, it didn't look very busy in the store, and the worker is seen flirting with a woman, giving free treats, and driving away another customer - so he's no great shakes!). Third, how come the constable chases down Ingeborg when she runs away from the workhouse - she decided to go there, why is she being treated like a prisoner? The Kino DVD of this movie (on the same disc as "A Man There Was") features a pretty decent looking print, with just a bit of fading and nitrate decomposition here and there. The music that accompanies this film is a well done, mostly piano score by David Drazin. Rating - 8 to 9/10 stars

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