The Sunday Intertitle: Die, Pest!

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DIE PESTE IN FLORENZ — the plague in Florence — is a 1919 German epic scripted by Fritz Lang in his usual cheery style — the Florentine’s throw off the shackles of religious repression, and life becomes one non-stop orgy, at which point a plague descends and kills everyone. Lang’s grim sensibility is remarkable in the sense that it was commercially successful despite being so unremittingly bleak — look at DIE NIBELUNGEN, in which everybody is morally compromised and everybody dies. Can this really have been the Nazis’ favourite film? If they saw themselves in it, it’s prophetic, and also suggests a self-destructive drive at the root of their movement. I have my doubts. I’m not sure they had that level of insight.

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A slightly wishy-washy reconstructed intertitle, but we can make up for that with an ecstatic gallery — The Triumph of Death!

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Heavily inspired by Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, I assume, this movie ends with the Plague Personified (Juliette Brandt, the best actor in it) fiddling among the splayed corpses of the city, descending stairs towards us like Norma Desmond, though alas director Otto Rippert doesn’t have her fill the lens with a grotesque soft-focus close-up. But I like that she’s so chirpy, skipping and grinning away, reminiscent a little of the bandaged apparition of Simone Choule in Polanski’s THE TENANT. It’s a happy ending, for Death.

In other news — am contemplating staying up all night with friends, watching the Oscars, in which case I shall probably live-blog it. Since the event doesn’t really have much to do with movies, I guess I’ll just be ranking the frocks and political speeches and noting how few, if any, of these films I’ve seen… If I go for it, watch out for an ever-expanding blog post here. If I feel too sleepy, watch out for nothing.

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3 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Die, Pest!”

  1. Wow. More must see German pessimism. If Fritz had anything to do with it, I need to see it. David, as someone who always reads, but never comments on your blog, I have to say that I always enjoy what you have to say–even if I don’t particularly agree with you. And have fun watching the Oscars. I haven’t watched for years, because, yes they are totally irrelevant. Cheers.

  2. I am fairly confident that the gentleman seen in the first two screen grabs is Moammar Ghadaffi, which surely must be his first film appearance. Not listed on IMDb, though!

  3. He’s a pretty poor actor, I must say.

    Not as good as Fidel Castro’s screen debut being as an extra in an Esther Williams musical (true)!

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