Director: Ewald André Dupont
Writer: Ewald André Dupont
Based on: Felix Hollaender’s novel Der Eid des Stephan Huller
Cast: Emil Jannings, Maly Delschaft, Lya De Putti, Warwick Ward
Part of: Film and Music Cycle in the Konzerthaus
With music by: The Tiger Lillies
Seen on: 3.12.2015
Boss Huller (Emil Jannings) is an artist at the circus together with his wife (Maly Delschaft), but after an accident he started to stay away from the trapeze. When young woman Bertha-Marie (Lya De Putti) is brought to the circus because she has debts she can’t pay otherwise, she finds a bed with the family Huller. It doesn’t take long until she and Boss fall in love and Boss uproots his entire life for her. But things are not headed for a happy end.
Varieté is not only an excellent film, combined with the soundtrack by The Tiger Lillies, it makes for an utterly fantastic, riveting evening.
I’m usually not much for jealousy dramas. Varieté managed to grab me despite that and despite the fact that it has really dubious consent politics, to put it mildly – meaning that Bertha-Marie and her affair start with her being raped by her lover and then quickly changes to a passionate love story between her and her rapist as if that was the only possible outcome.
That is mostly due to the fantastic Emil Jannings. It’s the third film I’ve seen with him and the third time he has absolutely stolen my heart, each time in a very different way. This time his passion – both positive and negative – is what gives the film its emotional center and it just works beautifully.
What also works beautifully is the soundtrack The Tiger Lillies composed for the film and that is very much unlike everything you’ve ever heard as the soundtrack of a silent movie, although it is very tigerlilly. Although not all songs have lyrics, some do – and those often narrate what is happening on-screen. That could have ended up as a distracting catastrophe, but in fact it adds another layer of meaning and interpretation to the story. Most importantly though the music always fits the emotions of the film.
Together the film and the music become an experience that left me quite breathless, one accentuating the strengths of the other and vice versa. I loved every second of it.