Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Outlaw and His Wife (1918) Film Review

Plot Summary - Swedish silent film - - a romantic melodrama set in Iceland in the mid-18th century and based on historical events, according to the title cards. The film is directed by and stars Victor Sjostrom who plays Kari, a stranger in search of work who arrives at the farm of Halla, a wealthy widow, where he is hired on as a laborer. Halla's brother-in-law, the Bailiff, wants to marry her so they can join together their two successful farms into one property (I would guess there is another reason he wants the marriage as well!). But the Bailiff is a big jerk who Halla dislikes and - more importantly - she has become totally smitten with Kari, who she suddenly declares farm foreman. One day Kari is recognized as actually being Ejvind, a thief from the south who escaped after being thrown in prison (a dirty hole under a floor, by the looks of it) for ten years for stealing a sheep to feed his poverty-stricken family. Halla asks Kari to marry her and he, at first, refuses - but he admits the truth of his past to her and she helps hide him when the Bailiff and his men arrive to take him into custody. After Kari declares his love for her, she decides to give up her home and escape with Kari into the mountains to hide and live in happiness together as outlaws (and have a baby together). Problems to come, including a fellow outlaw who joins up with the happy trio and looks at Halla with a very lustful eye indeed.

Review - This is a fine film, the time come to life with period costumes and scenic outdoor location photography full of rugged mountains, rushing waterfalls, fjords, and raging blizzard. I thought the film got much better as it progressed and really got into the story - the end part is a kicker. I thought before watching this that I had never seen this film before - but so many scenes were familiar, that I must have seen this at one time. SPOILER SPOILER - okay, the "wrestling match" between Kari and the Bailiff was a bit weird, but much weirder - why does Halla have to throw her child over a cliff rather than risk capture by the Bailiff and men - does she know something about that Bailiff guy (the scoundrel) that we don't know?! END SPOILER. The Kino DVD of this features an okay (not great) looking, mainly sepia tinted, print and stereo orchestral score that suits the story and is pretty good for the most part (a few scenes the score got on my nerves slightly). The intertitles were a bit quick several times (had to pause the DVD on some of the longer passages). Rating - 9 to 10/10 stars

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