Diary of a Lost Girl (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
November 9, 2015 by Dennis Amith
“Diary of a Lost Girl” is a must-see, must-own film for silent film fans but also Louise Brooks fans. It’s more than a classic, I tend to look at the film as one of G.W. Pabst’s top films in his lengthy oeuvre. Louise Brooks is absolutely captivating! Recommended!
TITLE: Diary of a Lost Girl
FILM RELEASE: 1929
DURATION: 112 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 Original Aspect Ratio, B&W, German 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with German Intertitles with Optional English Subtitles
COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Based on the Novel by Margarete Bohme
Directed by George Wilhelm Pabst
Written by Rudolf Leonhardt
Produced by Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Music by Otto Stenzeel
Cinematography by Sepp Allgeier, Fritz Arno Wagner
Art Direction by Emil Hasler, Erno Metzner
Louise Brooks as Thymian
Andre Roanne as Count Nicolas Osdorff
Josef Rovensky as Robert Henning
Fritz Rasp as Meinert
Vera Pawlowa as Aunt Frieda
Franziska Kinz as Meta
Arnold Korff as Elder Count Osdorff
Andrews Englemann as The Director of the Estate
Valeska Gert as The Director’s Wife
Edith Meinhard as Erika
Sybille Schmitz as Elisabeth
The second and final collaboration of actress Louise Brooks and director G.W. Pabst (Pandora’s Box), DIARY OF A LOST GIRL is a provocative adaptation of Margarethe Böhme’s notorious novel, in which the naive daughter of a middle class pharmacist is seduced by her father’s assistant, only to be disowned and sent to a repressive home for wayward girls. She escapes, searches for her child, and ends up in a high-class brothel, only to turn the tables on the society which had abused her. It’s another tour-de-force performance by Brooks, whom silent film historian Kevin Brownlow calls an actress of brilliance, a luminescent personality and a beauty unparalleled in screen history.
The greatest director of German cinema, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, is known for wonderful films such as “The 3 Penny Opera”, “Westfront 1918” and two films which starred American silent film star, Louise Brooks.
In 1929, Pabst shot two films with the Brooks, “Pandora’s Box” and “Diary of a Lost Girl” and both are considered masterpiece films in his oeuvre and one of the wonderful films to come out of Weimar Germany.
An adaptation of Margarete Bohme’s “Tagebuch einer Verlorenen” (1905), a controversial but also a bestselling novel for its subject matter about a young woman forced into a life of prostitution. The subject matter for its time was considered sensational, notorious but yet commercially successful, selling over a million copies by the end of the 1920’s.
While the film received an adaptation in 1918 by director Richard Oswald, starring Erna Morena, the film is considered lost. While the second film adaptation by Pabst, has entertained silent film fans for generations had been heavily censored. In 1997, a reconstruction and photochemical restoration of the originally intended version was put together by the Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden. The film is based on a dupe-negative from the Danish Film Institute, Copenhagen and most of the missing scenes were added from a contemporary print from the Archivo Nacional de la Imagen-Sodre, Montevideo.
And now the remastered in 2K and restored print (based off the master negative) was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.
The film revolves around the innocent and naive Thymian Henning (portrayed by Louise Brooks).
Thymian is the daughter of pharmacist Robert Henning (portrayed by Josef Rovensky) and the housekeeper, Elisabeth (portrayed by Sybille Schmitz) is released on the day of Thymian’s confirmation. As Elisabeth tries to do all she can to plead to her wealthy employer to stay, because she is unmarried and pregnant, the prudish pharmacist let’s her go.
As Thymian does all she can to Elisabeth stay, she is unaware that her father’s assistant Meiner (portrayed by Fritz Rasp) knows the real truth of why Elisabeth was let go. Because he is responsible for Elisabeth’s pregnancy. But Meiner is a person who only cares about himself and a man who finds himself enamored by Thymian and wants her to himself.
As the day proceeds, Thymian father hires a new housekeeper named Meta (portrayed by Franziska Kinz) and unfortunately, on the day of Thymian’s confirmation, Elisabeth’s body is found, having died from an apparent suicide by drowning.
Distraught by Elisabeth’s death, she tries to find clues of why Elisabeth had died. She goes to Meinert to learn the truth but ends up collapsing in Meinert’s arm. Meinert uses the opportunity to take advantage of Thymian.
Many months later, it is revealed that Thymian has given birth to an illegitimate child. The entire family wants to know who the father is but Thymian refuses to name the father. But the housekeeper Meta tells the family that if they want to know, they must go through Thymian’s personal diary. And it is revealed that Meinert is the father and they want Thymian to marry him immediately.
But Thymian refuses because she is not in love with him, so the family sends the baby to a midwife and wanting to punish Thymian, they send her to a very strict reformatory for wayward girls which is ran by the strict and mean manager (portrayed by Valeska Gert) and her tall assistant (portrayed by Andrews Engelmann).
Meanwhile, her friend Count Osdorff (portrayed by Andre Roanne) is disinherited by his wealthy uncle, who is not proud of his nephews lifestyle (and failing in school and trade) and strips him from any ties to the family wealth.
Thymian communicates with Count Osdorff to know of the bad conditions at the reformatory and how badly she and others are treated. But because her father had married the new housekeeper and does not want Thymian butting into their relationship, she makes sure that Thymian’s message is never received by her father.
But the life of Thymian will never be the same as her tough life of having to survive alone, no skills to have a job and not wanting to return to the reformatory, leads poor Thymian to a life of prostitution.
“Diary of a Lost Girl” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and in black and white. Compared to the original Kino Lorber DVD, “Diary of a Lost Girl” on Blu-ray features much better clarity. The film looks so much better in HD without the smeariness and slight blurriness of the older DVD release, it looks very good in HD!
According to Kino Lorber, “In 1997, a reconstruction and photochemical restoration of the originally intended version was put together by the Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden. The film is based on a dupe-negative from the Danish Film Institute, Copenhagen and most of the missing scenes were added from a contemporary print from the Archivo Nacional de la Imagen-Sodre, Montevideo.”
The remastered in 2K and restored print (based off the master negative) is what people will be watching on this Blu-ray release.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Diary of a Lost Girl” is presented in 2.0 LPCM featuring a wonderful piano score by Javier Perez de Azpeitia. The music is crystal clear through the front channels.
The film is presented with German intertitles and optional English subtitles.
“Diary of a Lost Girl” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Thomas Gladysz, director of the “Louise Brooks Society”.
- Windy Riley Goes Hollywood – (20:02) An early talkie from Educational Pictures (1931) featuring Jack Shutta and Louise Brooks.
- Promotional Trailer – The promotional trailer for “Diary of a Lost Girl”.
There is no doubt a mystique that surrounds Louise Brooks in a G.W. Pabst film.
May it be the hairstyle, the eyes that showcase human emotion with efficacy, the delicate naivety of her character, we are instantly captivated by her beauty and also sympathize with her sorrow.
While “Pandora’s Box” is considered a Pabst masterpiece and Louise Brooks as Lulu to be one of her defining films in her career, 1929 was a year of cinematic achievements by Pabst, with progressive content way ahead of its time.
As Lulu in “Pandora’s Box” and the content within the story and its story elements of men who desire the woman and also even women being drawn to her, “Diary of a Lost Girl” deals with a different type of woman. A woman who came from a great family, had a great heart but was victimized by those who surrounded her family and was forced to live under difficult situations and in order to survive, with no skills in life, she has no choice but to become a prostitute.
But both of G.W. Pabst films are captivating to the viewer for its story elements and its cinematography. People who look directly to the camera, people who move to a rhythm, characters that are flawed was a symbol of Weimar cinema but also the bold steps that Pabst would go into making a film. Hiring an American actress over a German actress was risky for the filmmaker for “Pandora’s Box” but I have no doubt in my mind that Louise Brooks captivated viewers and became the screen vixen that many women wanted to look like and men wanted to be with.
A combination of cinematic genius and visual beauty, “Diary of a Lost Girl” stays with you and becomes a film that you will most likely not even forget because it’s well-crafted and well-performed.
Seeing how Pabst was so well in-tuned in what he wanted from his talent, treating them differently, having them do things that may have made them feel uncomfortable but was needed to obtain the performance he imagined. From Pabst’s working in tandem with his cinematographer in capturing the scene the way he wanted, being their early in the morning and late at night to make sure they planned the details of what shots they wanted. It’s amazing to see all that is captured in this film.
This is a film that utilizes facial expressions and action to tell an emotional story and Pabst does a wonderful job in crafting this masterpiece. Louise Brooks is absolutely wonderful in this film and you have no doubt in your mind why she was one of the most wanted silent actresses of her time but with that being said, she was a rebellious actress who went against Hollywood tradition, and unfortunately blacklisted (while in Germany, she was asked to refilm her 1929 film “Canary Murder Case” as a talkie, but she refused to go back to America which led to her to never get a role in Hollywood from a major company ever again). She lived her life, made her own decisions even though it may have been a detriment to her career.
Nevertheless, her role on both Pabst films have earned her praise from critics all over the world and made her an icon of silent film.
As for the Blu-ray release, having owned the previous Kino Lorber DVD release of “Diary of a Lost Girl”, there is no doubt that this film looks so much better than the DVD release. Better clarity and the print looks much sharper, while the piano playing (presented in 2.0 LPCM) by Javier Perez de Azpeitia is absolutely wonderful and goes with the film remarkably well.
The Blu-ray release comes with an audio commentary, a 1931 Louise Brooks talkie and a promotional trailer.
Overall, “Diary of a Lost Girl” is a must-see, must-own film for silent film fans but also Louise Brooks fans. It’s more than a classic, I tend to look at the film as one of G.W. Pabst’s top films in his lengthy oeuvre. Louise Brooks is absolutely captivating! Recommended!
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