Review: ‘Night Music’

Ingmar Bergman personally funded the restoration of this 1918 feature directed by Georg af Klercker, whose fast-trip, long-drop career inspired the former's one-act stage drama "The Last Gasp" (see accompanying review). An impressive glimpse of this Swedish pioneer's forgotten legacy, fairly non-creaky antique should intrigue cineaste programmers, especially if paired with the TV-broadcast "Gasp" adaptation. The drama is, oddly enough, mostly about literary concerns --- which alone sets it apart from concurrent Hollywood efforts. Baron von Meislingen has a passion, but little talent, for poetry; his dreams of acclaim are seemingly answered when the gifted but eccentric "Peter Longhair" turns up as a tenant in one of the slumlording Baron's flats. Playing the role of benevolent benefactor, Baron M. "buys" one poem and passes it off as his own. But Peter won't sell his "masterpiece" --- the three-act play "Night Music" --- for any coinage. Soon thereafter, the stereotypically wild-eyed genuine poet turns up dead.

Meanwhile, the Baron is infatuated with struggling young actress Rosa, who already has a true-love fiancee. She befriends the elderly man thrown onto the streets by the Baron’s tenement strong-armers; this Old Jens recognizes his late neighbor’s work as the stage hit now doing smash business under the Baron’s byline. Confrontation, and justice, is inevitable.

Melodrama goes over the top only in this final chapter, as Baron’s confessional disgrace is too neatly orchestrated. Otherwise, perfs are admirably restrained, sans grand gestures (the Artaud-like poet aside). Screenplay creditably does not emphasize the predictable young lovers at expense of the central storyline. Modest production values are belied via good use of exteriors and smooth interior photography, which falters only in awkwardly denying us a glimpse at the “Night Music” legit staging.

Restored print is in fine shape, with most sequences tinted either sepia, blue or reddish gold. (Intertitles are clearly newly printed.) Pic’s emotional simplicity holds up well against contemporaneous Hollywood efforts, suggesting Klercker as a talent well worth further archival exposure.

Night Music

Swedish -- Archive

Production

A Svenka Film Institut restoration of an original Hasselbladfilm production. Directed, written by Georg af Klercker.

Crew

Camera (B&W), Gustav Gustafson. Reviewed at San Francisco Film Festival, April 27, 1997. Running time: 61 MIN.

With

Baron Robert von Meislingen ..... Manne Gothson Peter Langhar ..... Gabriel Alw Gamle Jens ..... Justus Hagman Ankefru Lund ..... Teka Sjoblom
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