Sir Arne’s Treasure

Sir Arne’s Treasure

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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.

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DVD
Runtime
107 min
Rating
NR
Year
1919
Director
Mauritz Stiller
Screenwriter
Gustaf Molander, Mauritz Stiller
Cast
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