A landmark of the silent film era, Sir Arne’s Treasure is the spiritual cousin of Greed and Sunrise. Mauritz Stiller’s masterwork exudes a startling primordial dramatic intensity—like visions conjured by acrid plumes of smoke. Nearly every scene is as striking as The Saga of Gosta Berling‘s famous sleigh-ride chase: the look in Concordia Selander’s eyes as she divines her family’s slaughter; the funeral-procession-on-ice for the maid who dies for the man she loved but promised to rip to shreds; and those trippy superimpositions that evoke the specter of guilt gnawing on the comfy façade of the present. Told in lucid, magical realist doses and suggesting a cross between Silas Marner and Earth, the story is a “winter ballad” about men who escape a prison, kill an aging vicar’s family for his stolen treasure, and the love affair between one of the mercenaries and the only survivor of his carnage. Stiller’s spine-tingling vision of moral crisis in the remote snowlands of Sweden has the quality of physiognomic cave art—innately expressive and portentous and electrified by a remarkable score by Matti Bye and Fredrik Emilson that brings to mind a sinister Gregorian chant drifting through the nooks and crannies of an abandoned church. Always there’s a sense that the story’s characters are acting out an urgent and mythic act of social restoration. This ritual is feverish and hopeful and in no way diminished by the real-world tragedy that the death knoll was already chiming for this revolutionary period in early Swedish cinema.
- 107 min
- Mauritz Stiller
- Gustaf Molander, Mauritz Stiller
- Erik Stocklassa, Bror Berger, Richard Lund, Axel Nilsson, Hjalmar Selander, Concordia Selander, Gösta Gustafson, Mary Johnson, Wanda Rothgardt, Gustav Aronson, Stina Berg, Jenny Öhrström Ebbesen
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