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THE ATONEMENT OF GOSTA BERLING

Sweden, 1923 (MIFF 1956, Porgramme 10)

Director: Mauritz Stiller

Many of the best Swedish films are identified with the work of Stiller and Sjostrom. The novels of Selma Lagerlof provide nearly all the material for their best films, including Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness and Gosta Berling.

Set within a definite period, elaborately staged and dressed, Gosta Berling is concerned with the devout person's position within Church and Sate.

Berling, a minister of religion, is driven out of his parish and leads a life of dissipation. He is taken in charge by the strange mistress of Ekeby castle, whose home is occupied by a horde of merry and drunken ex &ndash: officers. The countess Elizabeth, a beautiful woman (played by Garbo). falls in love with Berling and the story tells of their eventual marriage.

Stiller's interest was less in plot than in character and incident. He employed many new techniques of lighting, photography and composition. Scenes such as that of the sleigh ride where Berling is pursued by wolves, and the burning of Ekeby Hall, were considered unusually effective at the time. But the finest scene of the film is where the mistress of Ekeby seeks out her aged mother and silently begs her forgiveness.

Combining pictorial beauty with psychological complexity, the film achieves a continuity which is emotional rather than physical.

Despite the interest of this early performance of Garbo, who even then possessed a tragic, hieratic quality, the characterisation by Lars Hanson as the Byronic hero and Gerdo Lyndequist as the mistress of Ekeby are more striking. The present version of the film is a much shorter edition than the original.

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