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DIARY OF A LOST GIRL (Tagebuch einer Verlorenen, Das) (director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst; screenwriters: from the novel by Margarete Böhme/Rudolf Leonhardt; cinematographers: Sepp Allgeier/Fritz Arno Wagner; music: Joseph Turrin-restored version; cast: Louise Brooks (Thymiane), André Roanne (Count Nicolas Osdorff), Josef Rovenský (Robert Henning), Fritz Rasp (Meinert), Vera Pawlowa (Aunt Frieda), Franziska Kinz (Meta), Arnold Korff (Elder Count Osdorff), Andrews Engelmann (The bald director of the reform school), Valeska Gert (The director’s wife), Edith Meinhard (Erika), Sybille Schmitz (Elisabeth), Siegfried Arno (Guest), Kurt Gerron (Dr. Vitalis); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Georg Wilhelm Pabst; Kino International; 1929-silent-German)
“It’s the brilliant performance by the radiantly beautiful Brooks that makes this otherwise forgettable soap opera story memorable.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s a remake of Richard Oswald’s 1918 original about a scorned woman going on the road to ruin who in the end gets her comeuppance on those who wronged her. It’s a heavy-handed German melodrama that has been severely cut by editors. The restored 1984 version brings it reasonably back together so it at least makes sense (it added nine minutes of previously censored footage). It was the last silent feature that G. W. Pabst (“The Threepenny Opera”/”Don Quixote”) shot. Kansas-born actress Louise Brooks, twenty-two at the time, became famous from the two German films she made for Pabst in the same year, Pandora’s Box and this one, but was screwed by Paramount after she refused to dub a silent movie she made for them into a talkie, “The Canary Murder Case,” and they not only fired her but blackballed her–resulting in no more starring parts from other studios.

“Diary” is a finger pointing moralistic film blaming the Weimar Republic for creating a corrupt and decadent society, and tells how a debased society affects the lives of young girls who are not loved by their parents or treated with love by the institutions that are supposed to protect them. The ornate film is based on the cheap novel by Margarete Böhme and written by Rudolf Leonhardt. It’s the brilliant performance by the radiantly beautiful Brooks that makes this otherwise forgettable soap opera story memorable.

It follows the life of Thymiane Henning (Louise Brooks), the innocent in her heart, daughter of prosperous pharmacist Robert Henning (Josef Rovenský). The film opens as her governess Elisabeth (Sybille Schmitz) is thrown out of her home by her unfeeling dad because she’s pregnant (she will later drown). On this day Thymiane is celebrating her confirmation and is presented with a a lockable diary by her Aunt Frieda; she’s happy for what the day means to her but sad because she liked Elisabeth. Her replacement is the conniving Meta (Franziska Kinz), who lures Thymiane’s father with promises of sex and soon marries him. Thymiane feels she must bare her soul to her father’s lecherous assistant, Meinert (Fritz Rasp). He takes advantage of her when she faints, and after a date rape she becomes pregnant. Not revealing the name of the father, the family breaks open her diary to discover the father’s identity. Meta, knowing the two are not suited for each other, in a mean-spirited gesture suggests they marry. But both Thymiane and Meinert refuse to marry, with Thymiane saying she doesn’t love him and Meinert saying there’s too much debt in the pharmacy. The poor girl goes immediately from the apple in her father’s eye to someone he detests, as her baby is taken away from her and given to a midwife (it’s later learned the baby dies) and she’s placed in a punitive girls’ reformatory for reeducation. In the reformatory, she’s visited by the good for nothing Count Nicolas Osdorff (André Roanne), a family friend, who was just disinherited by his rich uncle Count Osdorff (Arnold Korff) for being a loser. Nicolas tells Thymiane that her family refuses to take her back and her only chance is to escape. At night the inmates cause a disturbance and Thymiane’s fellow kindred spirit inmate Erika (Edith Meinhard) steals the matron’s key and they escape together and meet the Count outside the reformatory and are taken by him to a swinging brothel, where ironically Thymiane finds salvation. It leads to her marrying Nicolas and becoming a countess. When her father dies, Meinert manages to own the pharmacy by paying off the mortgage and gives Meta and her two kids the boot. The soft-hearted Countess feels sorry for the kids and gives them the money she inherited. This causes the penniless Nicolas to commit suicide, as he planned to use the money for a business venture. The older Count feels he’s responsible for Nicolas’s death and becomes Thymiane’s sugar daddy to make up for that neglect (How sweet of the old geezer!). In the last melodramatic scene, Thymiane and the Count return as guests of honor to the reform school and witness Erika being punished as a runaway in front of the prim women trustees. The Countess, backed up by the Count, secure Erika’s freedom and the Count says “If there were a little more love in the world, no one on earth would be lost.”

It was hard to love this film for all its goo and double-standard takes on moral issues (like applauding the old Count for taking action against injustice but saying nothing about his wallowing in decadence), but easy to love the black cropped hair Brooks and how electric was her performance.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”