Film Review: Pandora’s Box

G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box is a classic of the silent era, and this new 2K DCP does the film justice. Louise Brooks is hypnotising. 

Lulu is a dancer and a social climber. She has her lover, a wealthy newspaper editor, wrapped around her finger, and a role in a musical production. He is not the only one to fall for Lulu’s charms, however…

This new 2K DCP of the Munich Film Museum’s 1997 restoration showcases the talents of director G.W. Pabst and star Louise Brooks. Pandora’s Box is considered a classic of the silent era for good reason. The film is immensely watchable.

Much of the power of Pandora’s Box stems from the fact that it feels both of its time and modern. First released in 1929, Pabst’s film is a powerful evocation of its Weimer-period setting. The preoccupation with social standing and reputation is depicted incredibly well. It seems of its era, yet has a modern resonance. This combination of contemporary and antiquated comes through strongly in the portrayal of the protagonist Lulu.

Lulu is a memorable and multifaceted protagonist. She is an alluring beauty who captures the attention of both men and women, another indicator of Pandora’s Box‘s modernity. In some ways she is a precursor to the femme fatale which followed in later decades. Nevertheless, Lulu has a innocence about her. The resultant fallout from her magnetism does not come across as calculating. It is likely viewers will still feel sympathy towards the character during darker times. Louise Brooks is wonderful in the lead role.

The narrative could be considered a ‘rise and fall’ tale. There is certainly an element of moralising in Lulu’s final state. In Pandora’s Box, the protagonist is punished for both her desires and her power over men. Yet there is more to the film than a chastisement of immorality. Pandora’s Box is also a study in self-preservation. This is true of both the protagonist and the supporting characters. The story is told in an engaging manner, with a well-crafted protagonist and sympathetic characters such as Francis Lederer’s Alwa. Peer Raben’s score is a fine accompaniment.

Pandora’s Box is being screened at the BFI Southbank, as well as selected venues throughout the UK from 1st June 2018.

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