, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is this title actually in the public domain?! I hope so!

Retaining a certain popcultural recognition for allegedly lending its title character as the inspiration for Batman’s Joker, this movie is otherwise somewhat unjustly discarded. It was one of the biggest movie productions of its time, and yet, it almost never shows at festivals or historical programs, at least where I am from. – And it’s a German production, mind you.

Connection to Coleridge? None. 🙂

However, this movie is probably the only truly watchable and accessible version of Victor Hugo’s darkest novel, and, as you maybe know at this point, I personally love Hugo’s writing, antiquated, sanctimonious, and melodramatic as it reads today. – The movie adaptation is, somewhat foreseeably, not all too faithful to the novel, but it is, as I mentioned, intensely watchable: From today’s perspective, the Gothic scenes that the movie sports are empowered by the total lack of sound.

This is, notably, one of the last Hollywood silent movies – the famous Jazz Singer was released one year earlier – and the penultimate movie by filmmaking genius Paul Leni.

If you have the patience to watch through almost two hours with no spoken word, and no sound effects, you are in for a treat – especially if you know a bit about silent movie history already, and have watched some of the more famous ones, like, say, The Phantom Carriage

And as a Coleridgian, if there’s no direct connection to our good Mr C? – Well, and if I am getting too mystical here, stop me, but the great thing about Hugo’s novels in general, and about their silent movie renditions in particular, is, they give you an idea what Gothic is really meant to be.

See, I don’t want to rant on this, but to most people, the Gothic of the early 1800s is really virgins running through mazes, as in Anne Radcliffe’s novels. And no disrespect to Mrs Radcliffe, but those books, they are not really creepy. Not to us, and not to their contemporaries. But Coleridge, if only through his drug abuse, knew the depths of Poe-ish madness. So, let’s not trivialize our reading of – especially The Rime by associating it with what today would be too soft to even pass as an Enid Blyton novel (and I love Enid Blyton 🙂 ). Coleridge’s Gothic, at least as I understand it, is much more in line with the Laughing Men, the Hunchbacks, and the Vatheks than with, uh, The Romance of the Forest.