Victor Sjostrom

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6.3 Ingeborg Holm (1913)
6.0 Kiss of Death (1916)
6.0 A Man There Was (1917)
6.5 The Lass from the Stormy Croft (1917)
7.2 The Outlaw and His Wife (1917)
6.5 Sons of Ingmar (1919)
6.2 Karin Daughter of Ingmar (1920)
6.0 The Monastery of Sendomir (1920)
7.0 The Phantom Carriage (1921)
6.2 Love's Crucible (1922)
6.0 Name the Man (1924)
7.0 He Who Gets Slapped (1924)
6.5 The Tower of Lies (1925)
6.5 The Scarlet Letter (1926)
7.2 The Wind (1928)

If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me. 1) Le saghe

Victor Sjostrom (Sweden, 1879) cominciò adolescente a recitare nei teatri Finlandesi e Svedesi, e nel 1912 divenne attore cinematografico del collega Steller nei trogloditi teatri di posa allestiti da Magnusson nei dintorni di Stoccolma. Lo stesso anno iniziò la carriera di regista, con Ett Hemligt Giftermal/ A Ruined Life (1912) e Tradgardsmastaren/ The Gardener (1912), producendo fino al 1916 una mezza dozzina di film per annata, in alcuni dei quali comparve anche come attore. Molti di questi film sono perduti.

Il primo film di valore, Ingeborg Holm/ Margaret Day (1913), based on Nils Krok's play of 1906, è il patetico dramma di una madre che, caduta in miseria e separata dai suoi bambini, impazzisce e, quando molti anni dopo uno dei suoi figli la ritrova, non lo riconosce. I film di questo primo periodo passavano con disinvoltura dal melodramma alla commedia, ma mettevano già in luce la maestria nel dirigere gli attori, il gusto per un montaggio semplice e l'alternarsi sapientemente teatrale di pause e slanci lirici.

A couple, Sven and Ingeborg, lives happily in a nice house in the country with their three children. The bank has just approved a loan so they can open a grocery store in the big city. Everything seems to go well except that Sven is frequently coughing. Sven hires a helper and sets up the shop. Even before opening for business, Sven faints in the shop. He then is confined to his bed. The helper cannot be trusted to run the store without supervision: he flirts with a cute girl upsetting a customer. Sven dies of tuberculosis. Ingeborg cannot pay overdue bills and soon is bankrupt. She mails a letter to a lawyer asking for help. When she falls sick too, of a stomach ulcer, she has to sell the shop and sell the furniture at an auction, and move into a small room with her three children. She cannot raise her children and applies for city subsidies but the board only offers her a position at the workhouse, which is basically a dormitory inside a prison. The children relocate with her but she doesn't make enough money to feed them. Soon she has to let her youngest child be boarded out to a foster family, and the other two follow. She packs a picture of herself inside their humble suitcases before parting from them. The conditions in the workhouse are terrible. She assists a very old man who is forced to go to work even if he doesn't have the energy to get up from bed and she is treated like a slave, but maintains her dignity. One day the foster mother of her daughter Valborg writes that Valborg has fallen sick and needs surgery: the foster mother asks the workhouse to pay for the operation. Ingeborg finds the letter on a table and begs to be allowed to go and assist her daughter. That night she waits until everybody is asleep and then escapes. The warden of the workhouse calls the police. They police hunt Ingeborg. Exhausted, she finds shelter in a house whose owners hide her in the basement so she can sneak out un seen by the cops who are chasing her. She is arrested just when she reaches Valborg's house and is allowed only a brief time to see Valborg. Back to the workhouse, the warden has to pay a fee to the police for capturing her. One day some foster families must bring the adopted children to the workhouse for a routine check, and one of them is her little child. Ingeborg is summoned so she can say hi to her child but the child doesn't recognize her and is actually scared by her. Ingeborg turns instantaneously mad. Fifteen years later, her elder son Erik, who is now a sailor, finally has a chance to visit her mother. He still keeps in his pocket the picture of her that she packed in his suitcase. At the workhouse Erik is informed that his mother is crazy. This time it is Ingeborg who doesn't recognize her child Erik shows her the picture and finally Ingeborg recovers from her madness.

Nel 1916 Sjostrom diresse, sceneggiò e interpretò (in due ruoli) Dödskissen/ Kiss of Death, un poliziesco in cui lo stesso fatto viene narrato da più testimoni attraverso altrettanti flashback (solo 30 minuti del film esistono ancora).

Terje Vigen/ A Man There Was (1917), set during the Napoleonic wars, is the drama of an ordinary man at the mercy of historical events.

A sailor, Terje, returns to his village in Norway to find that his wife has given birth to a girl. He is happy, and his wife is happy that he is back. Then in 1809 war erupts between Napoleon's France and England, and Denmark-Norway allies with France. A messenger comes on horse to bring the news that England has begun a naval blockade. Soon the villagers are starving. Terje illegally and bravely rows to Denmark to find food for his family. He manages to avoid the British patrol, and fills the boat with supplies. On the way back, however, he is stopped by an English ship before he can reach his village. The English sink his boat, and he tries to swim ashore, but he is captured and spent five years in an English jail with no news of his family. In 1814 the war ends and the prisoners are sent home. Terje finds out that someone else lives in his house and that his wife and daughter have died of starvation. He resumes his work as a sailor and years go by. He lives alone in a humble hut by the shore. One day the villagers spot an English ship that is in trouble while a storm rages on. Terje promptly jumps in his small sailboat and sails towards the ship while the villagers watch. Terje climbs on board the ship and takes the helm. But then he recognizes the ship's captain: the same man who sent him to prison and caused his family to starve to death. Terje helps the captain, his wife and their baby escape on his boat but then he is ready to take his revenge. He reveals himself to the English captain and is about to kill his wife and daughter when the baby reminds him of his own. Terje brings them to safety on a rock until another boat comes to rescue them. Years later the English family returns to thank him.

Nel 1917 iniziò la proficua collaborazione con la scrittrice Selma Lageröf (con Tösen Fraan Stormyrtorpet/ The Lass from the Stormy Croft, 1917) che portò a maturazione il suo fascino religioso per la natura e gli spazi immensi, grazie ai soggetti, leggendari e invernali, della scrittrice.

Il capolavoro delle saghe nordiche del binomio Sjostrom-Lageröf è Berg Ejvind Och Hans Hustru/ The Outlaw and His Wife (1917), based on the play by Johann Sigurjonsson, in cui il regista impersona un proscritto che si nasconde sulla montagna con una contadina; la montagna si erge imponente come il simbolo di un fatalismo ineluttabile, ed è protagonista della tragedia: nel rifugio isolato dal mondo viene alla luce un bambino, in un torrente i due braccati dagli inseguitori, affogano il neonato, nella neve muoiono di stenti dilaniati dal rimorso. La natura fa da contrappunto agli stati emotivi dei due fuggiaschi, e ne segna inesorabilmente la fine. L'interpretazione e la scenografia sono quindi funzionali l'una all'altra. The dramatic landscape is a coprotagonist.

In Iceland during the 18th century a shepherd complains that a boy neglected his sheep and Bjorn the cruel bailiff whips the boy. The bailiff orders the two to find the lost sheep and they search the mountain. They find the missing sheep but a thief has already shorn them. In fact, Kari, a stranger, has seen the laborer Arnes shear the sheep and then mix lichen in the wool. When the shepherds check his bag, they only see the lichen. As they leave, Kari tells Arnes that he knows of his theft. Arnes tries to attack him with a knife but Kari tells him that he is only looking for work. Arnes takes Kari to Halla's farm. She is a wealthy widow and the sister-in-law of bailiff Bjorn. Her busy farm needs extra help so Kari gets hired right away. Halla is immediately struck by Kari's looks. The bailiff comes to visit while the whole farm's workers are having lunch together with Halla. The bailiff, brother of her dead husband, proposes to Halla because the union of their properties would make them the richest in the whole region. Halla, however, hasn't forgiven him: when his brother proposed to her, a poor servant, he opposed the marriage. He insults her and leaves. Kari proves to be a hard-working man and a good man, and Halla is increasingly attracted to him. One of the female servants is in love with Kari and resents what he ignores her because she is poor. During mass at the church a friend tells Bjorn the bailiff that he recognizes the charming Kari as the fugitive thief Eyvind. Arnes warns Kari of trouble. Halla appoints Kari steward of the farm, causing the bailiff to become not only suspicious but also jealous. The bailiff informs Halla that Kari is a fugitive but Halla doesn't believe him. Kari denies the accusation. Halla challenges the bailiff to fight Kari in a wrestling match. Kari easily wins the wrestling match and everybody laughs at the bailiff. But later, when Halla proposes marriage to Kari, Kari admits that he is indeed Eyvind the thief. She is heartbroken. A flashback shows how the poor Eyvind was tempted to steal a sheep from a rich parson to feed his family, how they arrested him after finding his gloves, how he was then accused of other unsolved thefts too, how they condemned it to ten years of prison, and how he escaped. At the end of his tale Eyvind begs Halla to forgive him. The bailiff returns to arrest Eyvind, but Halla hides him and then flees with him. She is willing to abandon her wealth and spend the rest of her life in hiding with a thief. After staring one last time at Halla's farm, they ride their horses to the cold hostile mountains. Five years later they have built a farm near a glacier and the have a baby girl. Arnes finds them: he too is a fugitive, having spent more than two years on the same mountains. Halla and Eyvind happily employ him. Arnes seems to envy Eyvind's life and be in love with Halla. When Eyvind falls from the edge of a cliff, Arnes hesitates to help him but then he does. Arnes is increasingly gloomy as he witnesses Eyvind's happy life, and one day Arnes tries to kiss Halla while Eyvind is away. Rejected and humiliated, Arnes decides to leave. As he walks down the mountain, he sees a posse led by the bailiff and runs back to warn Eyvind and Halla. As the bailiff's men capture Eyvind and are about to capture her, Halla throws their baby down the cliff into the rapids. However, Eyvind manages to kill the bailiff and the couple can escape again. Years later they are older and starving in a desolate cabin, and a blizzard is raging outside. They don't smile anymore. Halla now blames Eyvind for her misery, and Eyvind calls her ugly. Eyvind sets out to abandon her and she begs him to stay reminding him of their 16 years together. He repents and stays, and finds comfort in the Bible, but she feels that he stopped loving her. She sends him out to look for firewood and then walks out in the blizzard, either to leave him or to commit suicide (in the middle of a blizzard, it's the same thing). Eyvind returns with the firewood and frantically looks for her. He finds her frozen to death and hugs, letting himself die with her in the snow.

Folklore, lirismo e tragedia si ritrovano anche nei due film tratti dal romanzo "Jerusalem" di Selma Lagerlof: Ingmarssönerma/ Sons of Ingmar (1919), un film di grande successo, e Karin Ingmarsdotter/ Karin Daughter of Ingmar (1920), nel secondo dei quali vi è la celebre scena del vecchio ferito che muore quando estrae l'orologio dal taschino e vede che è andato in frantumi.

Ingmar, now an old man and a widower, lives in a rural region where people still live according to old traditions. Ingmar has a son and a daughter, Karin. The young shopkeeper Halvor has asked her in marriage but never received a definite answer. Ingmar is a melancholy man because he misses his wife. He would like to die but his son is still too young to take over running the farm. Ingmar is reluctant to accept Halvor's proposal of marriage because his father was a drunkard. Finally the marriage is arranged. Halvor and Karin travel to the city to buy the wedding rings. Halvor meets some old friends at the inn, who get him into drinking more than he wants while the good Karin is waiting for him. Halvor is eventually found lying unconscious in the street and carried to Karin. Karin cancels the wedding because she is afraid that Halvor will turn into a drunkard like his father. Halvor is bitterly disappointing and feels unfairly punished. He overhears two ladies discussing the forthcoming wedding of Karin with another man, Eljas, who has been raised by a cruel father. Eljas and Karin get married. During a flood, Ingmar risks his life to save the people carried away by the strong current, but is wounded by a colossal log. He makes it back to the riverbank but, after checking his watch that has stopped, collapses to the ground. Taken to his house, and knowing that he is dying, he asks to see Strong Ingmar, one of his sharecroppers, who can take care of the farm while his son is too young. As soon as Ingmar dies, Eljas stops working and devotes himself only to drinking and partying with his friends, and also mistreats Ingmar's son (Karin's little brother). Ironically, Eljas turns into the drunkard that Karin feared Halvor would turn into. Karin thinks it's divine punishment because she was unfair to Halvor. Seeing her cry, Karin's little brother grabs an axe and threatens Eljas, but Eljas is stronger. One day Eljas takes the boy with him to an inn where the men go wild, and gets the boy drunk. They return home in the morning. A furious Karin is afraid for her brother's life, and so she sends him to stay with the schoolmaster, Storm, who has a wife and a daughter, Gertrude. As she walks out of Storm's house, she runs into Halvor who is going to visit Storm. Halvor refuses to shake hands with the young Ingmar. Halvor shows Storm his new watch. Hearing that Storm is an expert, the young Ingmar pulls out the watch that used to belong to his father. Storm says that he cannot fix it. A flashback shows us the old Ingmar giving him the broken watch and asking him to give it to Halvor in recognition that Halvor had been unfairly hurt. Halvor is now grateful to the boy and gifts him his new watch. Later Eljas tries to steal the watch from Halvor but falls down the stairs and injures his back. Eljas is paralyzed, confined to his bed, for the rest of his life. Karin spends her life taking care of a useless husband who only asks for albohol. One day Halvor offers to move Eljas to his house, promising to keep him away from alcohol, and Karin is touched by his generosity. A friend, however, smuggles in a bottle of alcohol while Halvor is busy in the shop. When Karin visits next time, she finds the bottle on the floor and Eljas dead. The villagers gossip that Halvor gave Eljas the bottle on purpose, to get rid ofhim and marry Karin. Karin receives marriage proposals from several men, while Halvor is derided as the one who made Karin a widow. Karin, however, chooses him.

Könkarlen/ The Phantom Carriage (1921) è il film più audace per realismo e fantasia di Sjostrom. Alle minuziose scene nelle stamberghe si contrappongono i frequenti flashback sul passato del protagonista e il sogno macabro dello stesso. Vita e morte, veglia e sogno, si fondono e confondono nella nebbia e nel buio che avvolgono la notte di capodanno. La cronologia è abilmente sconnessa per rivelare poco alla volta tutti gli elementi della contorta vicenda.

On her death bed, Edit, a "sister" of the Salvation Army (Fralsningsarmen in Sweden), has a last wish: to see David, a request that shocks her mother. Her fellow "sister" Maria visits David's wife, who is desperate, while her two children sleep. Maria sends a helper to look for David around town, and takes his wife to see Edit. The wife seems to hate Edit, but Edit hugs her and consoles her, and the wife starts crying. It is New Year's Eve, twenty minutes to midnight. David is drinking and chatting with two friends in a graveyard, and tells them the story of his friend Georges. A flashback shows David getting into a fight with another man over a card game on a previous New Year's Eve, and Georges reminding them of the legend that the last person to die on that day becomes death's coachman, charged with collecting all the souls who die the following year and carrying them away in death's cart. We see the cart picking up dead men. Georges was scared that he would be the last one to die that night, and that's just what happened: Georges was the last soul to die on New Year's Eve. The helper finds David but David prefers to wait for midnight with his friends than to see the dying Edit. His friends are shocked by his heartless behavior. A fight erupts on a graveyard and David is killed just before midnight. We see his soul emerge from David's body and the ghostly carriage coming to pick him up: the coachman is his friend Georges. Georges tells David that he must face the consequences of his evil deeds. Georges feels responsible for David's downfall.
A flashback shows David as a hard-working carpenter married to a happy Anna, taking care of their two little children and of his own younger brother. One night David and his brother got drunk. David was arrested for drunkenness (apparently, a crime back then). Upon his release, he learned that his brother, a mere kid, had killed a man while drunk and was going to serve a much longer prison term. It was all David's fault that his little brother got into drinking. David walked home determined to sober up but found that his wife has left him with the children. Nobody knew where Anna went, and the neighbors made fun of him. David searched for Anna until he found her in that town, the town of Edit, one year earlier, on the previous New Year's Eve. David, drunk and looking like a bum, coughing with pneumonia, rang the bell of the Salvation Army's office. Edit, considering him a guest from God, let him in, let him sleep in a guest room, and even mended his coat, staying up till late. She also prayed Jesus to grant the guest a happy year. When he wakes up in the morning, still coughing, David is surprised to see that his coat has been mended. Instead of being grateful, David refuses breakfast, tears his jacket, ruining all of Edit's work, and defiantly smiles at her. Nonetheless, sweet Edit tells him that she prayed for him to have a good year and begs him to come and visit her in one year, on New Year's eve again (now we know why her dying wish is to see David). David accepts because he wants to prove to her that her God doesn't care for her prayers. Back to the present, Georges tells David that he must visit Edit before departing, ties him up (hands and feet) and takes him on the carriage to Edit's place. Georges also mentions that David gave Edit the germ that is killing her. When they arrive, Georges informs Edit that David never reformed: she failed. Another flashback shows us the time when Edit and David first met. David was drinking in a bar and Edit was distributing posters of the Salvation Army. When a wife came to rescue one of David's friends, Edit helped her. Edit made an impression on the other friend sitting at David's table, who is now her helper. David attended the man's initiation at a meeting of the Salvation Army, and mocked the proceedings. Unbeknownst to him, Anna was at the meeting and witnessed, outraged, his behavior. Edit tried in vain to make David repent. He left defiant as ever. Anna, having witnessed the exchange, told Edit that she was David's wife. The goodhearted Edit came up with another mission: to reunited the couple. And so David's friend (now Anna's helper) organized a surprise meeting with his wife and his children. Edit falls sick, having contracted pneumonia from David. They hide from her the fact that David has become a drunkard again, and a violent one, who almost killed his wife with an axe when she protected the children from his coughing. Back to the present, David overhears the good Edit telling Georges that she loves him (David) despite all his evil deeds and despite causing her own death. David crawls to her bed and kisses her hands. Edit can finally die in peace. Georges now takes a remorseful David to see his wife Anna. Anna is sick with the same pneumonia, also infected by David. Anna is desperate about what will happen to her children after she dies. She decides to kill them with poison and then kill herself. David is now agonizing, impotent to do anything. Georges realizes that David has finally healed from his sinful life and disappears. David wakes up in the cemetery and runs to Anna's house, just in time to stop her from poisoning the children. He swears to her that he has repented and prays God to help him remain faithful to her.
L'attore e il regista si avvalgono di tutte le risorse del loro repertorio; l'attore, potente e penetrante come sempre, ha a disposizione diverse situazioni di estrema tensione emotiva per fare risaltare la sua magistrale tecnica di gesti e di sguardi, lenti e profondi. Il regista si abbandona ai trucchi più puerili, mescola e sovrappone le scene, dirige le ombre e i fantasmi; indugia nel moralismo e scade nel patetico con la redenzione finale; ma l'incedere della memoria, del sogno e dell'ebbrezza è un possente affresco di leggenda nordica, racchiusa tutta in un villaggio e in una notte. Il finale melodrammatico rovina un po' il film.

Il sodalizio con la Lagerlöf si sciolse quell'anno. Rimase ancora due anni in Svezia, durante i quali girò film come Klostret i Sendomir/ The Monastery of Sendomir (1920), storia di un monaco che in gioventù ha ucciso la moglie infedele e il figlio di paternità incerta, cupo saggio sulla gelosia d'atmosfera espressionista, e Vem Dömer/ Love's Crucible (1922), ancora intessuti di scene virili e larghi spazi senza tempo.

Nel 1923 emigrò a Hollywood, e diresse Name the Man (1924), based on the Hall Caine novel "The Master of Man", e He Who Gets Slapped (1924), loosely based on a Leonid Andreyev play of 1914, una tragedia espressionista dell'umiliazione e dell'angoscia.

Paul is an unknown scientist who has found a sponsor in a wealthy baron to continue his research while his loving wife keeps the baron company. What he doesn't know is that his wife has become the baron's lover. When he finally proves his theories, the baron arranges a hearing by the academy of science, except that he pretends that those are his own theories and Paul is merely an assistant of his. When Paul screams the truth, the academy laughs at him. Back at the baron's castle, his wife scorns him and tells him that she loves the baron and calls him "clown". Paul restarts his life as a clown in a circus. After five years he has become famous as the clown who gets slapped. In a cruel act that drives the audience hysterical, he lets all the other clows slap him and then rip his heart out and then bury it in the sand. The bright scientist has found peace in this cathartic ritual of self-humiliation and endless reenactment of his existential slap on the face. The circus also features Bezano the daredevil horse rider who falls in love with the daughter of an impoverished count, Consuelo, except that her father is trying to find her a rich husband. The baron falls in love with her and the count is just too happy at their good fortune. The count literally sells his daughter to the count, indifferent to the idyll between her and Bezano. The baron disposes of Paul's wife with a cheque. However, the clown too has fallen in love with her. He tries to warn her and confesses his love, but she slaps him in the face, thinking he is just playing a practical joke on her. While Bezano and Consuelo perform their horse-riding skit on stage, backstage the count and the baron are busy sealing their deal with champagne. But Paul has had enough of humiliation. He reveals himself to the baron and releases a lion from its cage. The lion kills the count and the baron. Paul begs the lion to give him the last slap, but the lion tamer arrives in time to save him. However, he has been fatally wounded by the count's sword. Both the circus personnel and the audience are unaware of what has happened. The show is going on. The clowns are called in, and Paul gives his last performance dying on stage, while the audience can't stop laughing. But he smiles at Consuelo, knowing that now she can be happy with Bezano.

The Tower of Lies (1925) was based on Selma Lagerlof's novel "The Emperor of Portugallia" (1914).

Quando non fu troppo condizionato dai produttori, tentò di trasferire il naturalismo mistico nella provincia americana, servendosi della maturità della più grande attrice americana di quegli anni, Lilian Gish, prima nella The Scarlet Letter (1926), trasposizione del romanzo di Hawthorne, felice soprattutto nell'esaltazione dell'amore fra le due vittime e nel ritratto della comunità puritana, nel contrasto cioé fra sentimenti teneri e sentimenti feroci; e poi in The Wind (1928), un vortice di sabbia, follia e morte.

Lilian Gish è una giovane orfana che va a vivere in un paesino dell'ovest, ai margini del deserto, eternamente battuto dal vento. Perseguitata dalla sua oste, accetta un'offerta di matrimonio fattale da uno dei cowboy del luogo, a patto che tra di loro non vi siano rapporti intimi. La situazione e` disperata e il marito deve mettersi in marcia con un gruppo di cowboy. La donna insiste per seguirlo, spaventata di rimanere sola in quel paesaggio terribile. Ma il viaggio si rivela un inferno (il vento non concede tregua) e la donna deve rinunciare. Non solo viene riportata a casa, ma le lasciano anche uno straniero, che il marito ha trovato ferito nella bufera. La presenza dell'ospite indesiderato accentua la sua timidezza e scontrosita`. E` una povera creatura eternamente spaventata, che non ha mai conosciuto un minuto di serenita`. Quando il marito ritorna, gli getta le braccia al collo. Ma i cowboy vivono a loro volta in un perenne stato di emergenza e il marito deve ripartire e lasciarla di nuovo sola. Il vagabondo ne approfitta invece per tornare alla casa. Nottetempo, mentre imperversa l'uragano e la casa sembra doversi sbriciolare da un momento all'altro, la donna da` in escandescenze. Quando arriva il vagabondo, la donna perde completamente il controllo e sviene con la visione di uno stallone bianco. Il vagabondo la riporta in casa, la mette a letto e ne approfitta. Il giorno dopo, finita la tempesta, l'uomo le ordina di scappare con lui, tanto piu` che il marito non la perdonera`, ma la donna prende la sua pistola e lo ammazza.
Quando il marito ritorna, occultano il cadavere e lei gli dimostra finalmente il suo amore. La tragedia e la violenza l'hanno liberata delle sue paure e adesso e` pronta a qualunque cosa pur di stare al suo fianco.
Il vento prende il posto della calma nordica, il deserto quello della montagna, la sabbia quello della neve. Ma il realismo e lo spiritualismo conservano le cadenze mitiche del periodo svedese: sono gli elementi della natura aggressiva a determinare le azioni umane. La morale piuttosto è in contrasto con il pessimismo precedente; in questo caso infatti il delitto (che in genere, reale o presunto, perseguita sino alla morte) premia addirittura chi l'ha commesso: d'altronde è una delle poche volte in cui bene e male sono chiaramente distinti, essendo la Gish orfana, immacolata e vittima.

The Divine Woman (1928), starring Greta Garbo, is lost. A Lady to Love (1930) and Vater und Sohne/ Father and Son (1930) were minor films.

Diresse l'ultimo film nel 1937#, Under the Red Robe (1937), e dedicò il successivo ventennio esclusivamente alla recitazione.

4)Naturalismo mistico

I film di Sjostrom contribuirono all'affermarsi del melodramma; non erano ambientati nell'epoca moderna, non c'era traccia di industrializzazione, era una Svezia anacronistica, una Svezia mitica dipinta con i costumi tradizionali, quella in cui si svolgevano le sue storie; il melodramma di Sjostrom, parallelo a quello di Griffith, si svolge nel passato invece che nel presente, ed ha perciò il vantaggio di far leva su sentimenti ormai connaturati all'animo dello spettatore.

L'idealizzazione della vita contadina e la celebrazione della natura sono i temi di fondo comuni a tutte le sue opere. La prima si esplica sia quando Sjostrom esamina i costumi a volte crudeli della vita di villaggio e quando fruga nell'intimità familiare, nella baracca, nel rifugio sulle montagne, nella casa ai margini del deserto. La seconda nasce dalla doppia scoperta che la natura è fotogenica e che il clima può produrre suspence e pathos quanto un'azione complicatissima. Insieme le due direttive del cinema di Sjostrom esplorano il rapporto inestricabile che lega l'uomo alla natura.

Tecnicamente le innovazioni apportate da Sjostrom concernono due aspetti della regìa: innanzitutto la dilatazione del tempo filmico che, riducendo l'azione (la densità di azione), consente allo spettatore di percepire la scena nei minimi dettagli e gli consente di capire i sentimenti che animano i protagonisti; in secondo luogo la presa di coscienza che anche gli ambienti, sia interni sia esterni, sono parte del film, e parlano allo spettatore in un particolare linguaggio di codici.

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