Fior di male
- 1h 2m
Lyda is a prostitute with no education and no hope for the future. Unfortunately, this ungrateful job leads her to have an unwanted pregnancy, and once born the child abandons her.Lyda is a prostitute with no education and no hope for the future. Unfortunately, this ungrateful job leads her to have an unwanted pregnancy, and once born the child abandons her.Lyda is a prostitute with no education and no hope for the future. Unfortunately, this ungrateful job leads her to have an unwanted pregnancy, and once born the child abandons her.
Thus, "Flower of Evil" features closer views of its diva than did its predecessor and moves at a quicker pace. "Love Everlasting," however, is a visually remarkable film for its great staging in depth and seeming deep-focus cinematography. In my review of it, I went so far as to compare it to "Citizen Kane" (1941). Very little of the sort appears in "Flower of Evil," although there is some deep exploration of depth of field here or there, such as the tellers in the background in the bank scene, or Borelli emerging from doors in the distance and passing a standing mirror as she moves towards and the film cuts to her looking at herself in a wall mirror. The most remarkable aspect of this feature, though, is the lighting, especially the considerable amount of the low-key, shadowy sort. This was even before the fantastic chiaroscuro effects in Cecil B. DeMille's studio-controlled "The Cheat" (1915).
Although scratchy in parts, the print presented at the International Bonn Silent Film Festival still looks quite good. The use of lighting through windows is another highlight, and even the outdoor scenes tend to be well photographed, including with characters beside foliage or bodies of water. There's a particularly nice shot of Borelli in silhouette as waves crash on the beach behind her. Later, there's considerable nighttime photography, some of which is accomplished by tinting, while a room is lit by a burglar's flashlight and other scenes by street lamps. Additionally, the narrative emphasizes clothes, with Borelli playing a prostitute turned seamstress turned Countess, all of which is apt given that the actress is said to have been a fashion icon. It's a lovely film.
It's also a tortuously contrived melodrama. A lot is going on in a plot that barely runs over an hour, which I don't necessarily consider a bad thing, as it does tend to move the pacing along, but it also has the tendency to require a good too many title cards to explain everything. Besides our diva protagonist, there's her one-time warden, the Count who adopts her, a banker suitor, an adopted daughter, a love-triangle-forming violinist, and a burglar--plus Borelli's character's search for the child she abandoned in her prostitution days. It all culminates in the usually tragic way, but there are a couple things I like even about the dated melodrama. One, Borelli's search leads her full circle to returning to her roots at a low-class tavern where she danced for customers. If it weren't all so overwrought, one might argue that there's some interesting investigation here regarding class and social mobility.
I'm also intrigued by the child having a distinctive birthmark, as I am whenever a character leaves a trace in some such form, as it plays into semiotics film theory. Not the nonsense about film being a language or any Christian Metz gobbledygook, but as regards C. S. Peirce's signs (i.e. Icon, index, symbol). "The Invisible Man" movies do a good job in this regard of focusing on traces left by an individual (especially the 1933, 1940 and 2020 versions), for obvious reasons. My favorite example, though, is probably the eponymous and reflexive "M" from Fritz Lang's 1931 masterpiece, but I digress. The point is that Borelli's character's child is marked in more than one sense, to be searched for by his mother and to be marked by her former life in crime and poverty. Inadvertently or not, it's also a nice allusion to cinema in general, which is nothing if not traces and shadows flickering on a screen.
The other thing I like has more to do with the festival's modern score by celloist-duo Cellophon. Even though the film never shows its violinist character playing, at least we get to hear some good music. I think it makes the ending scene, which I otherwise probably wouldn't care much for, but since it plays to Bach's No. 1 Prelude in G Major, I found it to be quite moving. Of course, it has played in a good many motion pictures, although the one that stuck in my mind is Josh Lyman's PTSD episode from "The West Wing" TV series. For a prelude, it's also reserved well for the ending here.
- Aug 23, 2021