We have most of us gotten used to experiencing how a typical film scene is constructed, there are even textbooks giving us the guidelines.A master shot taken from a longer distance is usually followed by dissolves or cutaways to medium or closer shots within the scene, or a zoom lens is used to move us forcefully within or back out from the space, or the camera itself pivots in a panning shot or moves forward with tracking or handheld or Steadicam.
It is bracing and actually quite fascinating to see in this feature length melodrama made in 1913 a totally different approach. in one of the first shots we see, the camera remains fixed in front of a large drawing room with two other rooms revealed in the background to the right (a darkly lit office/bedroom) and through the dramatic opening of a partition to the left (a dining room.) For several minutes characters move into and out of the fixed view and recede into the background with only two brief cutaways to clarify the events: The decadent young man we have been introduced to in the film's first shot is flirting with the heroine (daughter of a military official) and later he takes advantage of the absence of others to steal military plans. As viewers used to having things brought to our attention more clearly, we need to pay closer attention to the characters to realize what is actually going on.
This technique is used elsewhere in the film and adds dramatic interest to what is otherwise a rather dated woman's picture.The other point of historical interest is the foregrounding of performer Lydia Borelli in the role of the officer's daughter. She is drawn into a new life as a singer/actress to hide her shameful former identity as the daughter of an officer who let military material escape his responsibility .In this new role Borelli gets to display on stage an enactment of popular theater characters of the early 20th century. she is shot, except for one later scene where we get her lover's point of view, from a position backstage (not the usual way we are used to seeing a performance.) The Italian silent cinema would go on to develop a series of fantastic "diva" vehicles centering on such extravagant and flamboyant feminine depictions, this was one of the first.