falderal : a moving images blog
Tagebuch einer Verlorenen (Diary of a Lost Girl) ; 1929  ·  Posted by Tallulah

Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst (G.W. Pabst)
Actors: Louise Brooks, André Roanne, Josef Rovenský, Fritz Rasp, Franziska Kinz, Andrews Engelmann, Valeska Gert, Edith Meinhard
Country: Germany

From all of the Pabst silents I have watched, I think that the following are the top three in no particular order:
-Die freudlose Gasse
-Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney
-Tagebuch einer Verlorenen

I really loved this film despite the terrible score that came with the Kino DVD. I never had a problem with any Kino films and the music scores because they were all quite good, but the one for Tagebuch einer Verlorenen didn’t even fit the film. I thought that the music was too overwhelming and was depressing even during the “happy” scenes.
The film was beautifully filmed and Pabst did a wonderful job directing it. I loved the staircase scene when the camera follows Louise Brooks’ movements. I was reading an article in Lulu in Hollywood and Brooks actually mentions Pabst being excited about finding out a way to make the camera turn for the staircase scene. If I didn’t watch the film before reading that, I would have not known which film or scene Brooks was referencing.

My favourite scene, outside of the staircase scene due to the fabulous way it was filmed, has got to be when the girls are exercising and the director’s wife (Gert) orgasms as she hits the gong (ref. Picture 2). The way the scene is filmed by cutting to the girls exercising, the hitting of the gong getting faster and faster, to Gert’s face as she climaxes is incredibly well done. Gert’s face expression says it all: her sadistic nature comes out and so does her sexual self despite her plain non-made up face and her nun-like clothes. The scene also reminded me of Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will and Olympia and what Susan Sontag calls “fascist aesthetics”. The lines that I thought of when I saw this scene was “a preoccupation with situations of control, submissive behavior, extravagant effort, and the endurance of pain; they endorse two seemingly opposite states, egomania and servitude” and “the masses are made to take form, be design” (Sontag, “Fascist Aesthetics”). Then I remembered another line from “Fascist Aesthetics”: “The relations of domination and enslavement take the form of a characteristic pageantry: the massing of groups of people; the turning of people into things; the multiplication or replication of things; and the grouping of people/things around an all-powerful, hypnotic leader-figure or force.” As you can see, I read this essay maybe one too many times. Anyway, the girls in the film were like the masses, all doing the same movements, and Gert’s character was like the dictatorial figure who had full control over the girls. They followed her orders almost mechanically, without thought. I wonder what Kracauer said about this film; I think this film would fit his teleological argument (and flawed in my opinion) perfectly.

Along with Die Buchse der Pandora, this film succeeds in weeding out the melodrama and really hits the nail on the effects of societal norms on people. The realism of the film really hit me when I saw that Meinert (Rasp) is not punished at all but the innocent Thymiane is. It’s true that there isn’t always a happy ending and sometimes, bad people don’t suffer. What made me a bit annoyed with Thymiane is that she gave away her inheritance rather than giving it to the people who have helped her survive, such as Erika (Meinhard) and the other hostesses/prostitutes and the madame. It made me upset that she completely forgot about the people who she was with. Thymiane writes that she wants to forget the past, but the people she was with were incredibly supportive and friendly. None of them forced her into prostitution and even protected her when a man almost raped her. In the end, she does help Erika, which I guess does redeem her previous actions, but it was frustrating nonetheless. And Meta (Kinz) was the biggest bitch EVER. Even when she receives all the money that Thymiane has, she doesn’t even say a word of thanks. She is reluctant to let her child even go to Thymiane and although her letting her child go to Thymiane can be a sign of compromise, it just wasn’t enough. I yelled out, “YOU BITCH!” when I watched the film and was frustrated beyond words.

I’m pretty sure Pabst has meant this film to be a social critique, but I wonder if the scenes I considered to be criticisms were meant to be criticisms. I saw this film as a critique towards high society and how they shun the women for being “deviant” yet the men never suffer the consequences. Also, high society families are portrayed in a negative light with the philandering father and a family willing to cut off connections with their daughter. It is the prostitutes and lower class people who are genuinely caring and friendly. The hypocrisy of the self-righteous people are emphasized in this film, but maybe this wasn’t what the film was about? I hope I’m not too off the base with Pabst’s vision and the story.

IMDb Link: Tagebuch einer Verlorenen
Where to buy: Kino Video, Amazon.com

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