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ETERNAL LOVE (director: Ernst Lubitsch; screenwriters: based on the novel Der Konig der Bernina by Jakob Christopher Beer/Hans Kraly; cinematographer: Oliver Marsh; editor: Andrew Marton; cast: John Barrymore (Marcus), Camilla Horn (Ciglia), Hobart Bosworth (Reverend Tass), Mona Rico (Pia), Bodil Rosing (Housekeeper), Evelyn Selbie (Pia’s Mother), Victor Varconi (Lorenz Gruber); Runtime: 71; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joseph M. Schenck; Milestone; 1929-silent)
A decent lost silent film that has been restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A decent lost silent film that has been restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. It’s a rarely seen work by noted German-born Hollywood filmmaker Ernst Lubitsch’ (“Sumurun”/”Lady Windermere’s Fan”/”The Marriage Circle”). It’s based on the novel Der Konig der Bernina by Jakob Christopher Beer and the screenplay by Hans Kraly follows along a loosely drawn Romeo and Juliet plot. This was the last silent film for both Lubitsch and the over-baked melodramatic star John Barrymore, who both went on to much success in talkies. Though a visual treat, flashing a Lubitsch Touch as it depicts an old-fashioned alpine village, its major problem is that the star is too old and hammy for the lover’s role and the story veers on the side of being extreme when it would have made more sense to be more cautionary.

It’s set in 1806, in the Swiss Alps, in the tiny village of Pontresina (filmed on location in the Canadian Rockies), during the war between France and Austria. French soldiers occupied the village and made the locals give up their arms, which they all did except for wild-man hunter Marcus Paltram (John Barrymore). Marcus is madly in love with Ciglia (Camilla Horn, German actress), the pretty niece of Father Tass (Hobart Bosworth). Meanwhile shifty mountain girl Pia (Mona Rico) sets her sights on snagging Marcus, even though he rejects her.

When the occupation ends, the grateful village throws a masquerade celebration party and the hot-blooded inebriated Marcus’s attempts at romance are rebuffed by the temperate Ciglia. But their love is so strong, they reconcile. Later the scheming Pia and her vile mother (Evelyn Selbie) tell Father Tass that Marcus compromised her and as a result he’s forced into a loveless marriage with the shrewish Pia. The crestfallen Ciglia succumbs to the wooing of the wealthy Lorenz Gruber (Victor Varconi) and they marry, even though she still loves Marcus.

During a blizzard Marcus is missing in the mountains, but no one cares but Pia and Ciglia. When Marcus returns unharmed, Lorenz realizes his wife still loves Marcus and he offers him money to leave the village forever. Marcus refuses, which prompts Lorenz to try and kill him in the mountains. But in self-defense Marcus shoots his attacker, who returns to the village to die after pointing an accusing finger at his rival. The crude judgmental locals are egged on to believe that Ciglia persuaded Marcus to kill her husband and the lynch mob crowd pursues them in the mountain. There the ill-fated lovers pray they will be together forever in eternity, as they make a suicide pact to walk together into the path of an avalanche. A weepy ending that somehow didn’t affect me as it was supposed to. What I liked best was how village life was depicted, and the locals small-minded mentality making it nearly impossible to live in peace if you were a non-conformist.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”