Saturday, December 12, 2015

Moor Sirk

Das Mädchen vom Moorhof (Detlef Sierck/Douglas Sirk, 1935) shows the master taking from the greats who preceded him as he forges his own vision. The earliest Sirk available with English subtitles that I know of, the film basks in Renoiresque sunburnt countrysides and looks forward to the popular postwar Heimatfilm (although the more immediate context was the venal National Socialist Blut und Boden [Blood and Soil] ideology designed to convince the peasantry that fascism was the future).
And he clearly studied his Sternberg in the busier frames, especially during a smoky tavern scene.

There's also an incredible shot that instantiates (and perhaps even mocks) the superstitions of the peasant protagonist. As she discusses ghosts and the need to deposit homeland soil in new living quarters to prevent homesickness, the camera pans up to the ceiling, travels back down across the wall behind, and then back up to the characters, all of which comes off as a rather eccentric shot-reverse shot before a cut brings us back to a more conventional one.
It's a space to which Sirk insistently returns to measure the shifting allegiances that redefine the notion of home so central to the film. 


A queer and/or Freudian reading could be applied to the hero's inability (or unwillingness?) to take up his proper Oedipal role within the family/home, seen here walking hand-in-hand with his father through the bridal procession after calling off a wedding. 
Finally, some showy transitions - a man drops a stone in water which dissolves into the next scene; and the scythe dissolve already reveals Sirk's predilection for imbuing objects with the status of characters. 


Friday, December 11, 2015

Boefje (Douglas Sirk, 1939)

You can definitely avoid the über-rare Boefje in which a forty-something woman plays a twelve-year-old ragamaffin boy. It's a performance so broad it needs support beams. It might even come off as unseemly in a nineteenth-century melodrama. Annoying throughout and Sirk himself was indifferent to it. There is one memorable touch, though. Sirk has a skipping record underscore the panic of a house fire.