Greta Garbo and Victor Sjostrom

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Scott Lord: The Outlaw and His Wife (Victor Sjostrom, 1918)

After having appeared in “The Outlaw and His Wife”, actress Edith Erastoff starred with Lars Hanson and Greta Almroth In “The Flame of Life” (1919), directed by Mauritz Stiller And “Let No Man Put Asunder” (“Hogre Andamal”, 1921) directed by Rune Carlsten.
In Sweden, Victor Sjostrom continued directing in 1922 with the film “Vem domer”, starring Jenny Hasselqvist, which he co-scripted with Hjalmer Bergman.

Victor Sjostrom had written four hundred letters to Edith Erastoff, his co-star from the film “The Outlaw and His Wife”, their eventually having married during 1922.

The historiography of the film criticism that delineates the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film was perhaps easily formulated while the films were still being screened internationally in theaters if we heed the review placed in the periodical Picture Show magazine during 1919 that astutely notes "On stage it is easy to calculate the effect of limelights....a glance at the top photographs of Seastrom (left) in 'Love the Only Law' and (right) 'A Man There Was' well illustrates how the one appealing figure dominates the immense landscape around him". The magazine quotes Victor Sjostrom explaing his liking screen adaptation over stage adaptation almost propheticly in regard to the film criticism, if not film theory, that would later follow. "One has to deal with more people', he says, 'and also with grande, terrible landscapes, with shifting effects of shade and shadow'".

Author Forsyth Hardy, in the volume Scandinavian Film written in 1952, explains the film of Victor Sjostrom as having established Sjostrom as an auteur of the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film by his work having created a poetic cinema. Hardy writes, “There was a greater freedom of movement, an assured sense of rhythm and a fine feeling for composition. In ‘The Outlaw and His Wife’ Sjostrom used landscape with a skill which was to become part of the Swedish Film tradition. He found a way of filming the tree-lined valleys and wide arched skies of his country so that they became not merely backgrounds but organic elements in the theme in the theme. There was still, however, a lingering tendency to melodrama in the acting....the end of the film especially was marred by melodramatic excess, but despite this fault, Berg-EJvid was memorable because of its theme, and its demonstration in the earlier sequences of the film medium's affinities with poetry." During 1960, Charles L. Fuller, writing for Films in Review, succinctly described the films motifs, "Its theme was that no man escapes his fate 'though he rides faster than the wind' ".

About the film, Einar Lauritzen wrote, “But Sjostrom never let the drama of human relations get lost in the grandeur of the scenery.” To this can be added that Jean Mitry, in his work The Aesthetics and Psychology of Cinema, writes of the mountain in "The Outlaw and His Wife", up to the tragic ending, is a symbol of granduer and isolation, as well as a symbol for the effort of the man and woman to reverse their fate. The snow, in Mitry's interpretation symbolizes not only purity but alao redemption.

Peter Cowie writes, "Prominent too in this masterpiece is the Scandinavian approach to the seasons. Summer is recalled in short, wrenching spasms, as the outlaw sits starving in his mountain hut toward the end; but winter, equated inthe Swedish arts with death, destroys the spirit and whipsthe snow over the couple's bodies with inexorable force."

"The Outlaw and His Wife" was reviewed in the United States during 1921 under the title "You and I". Motion Picture News concluded, "The picture is marred by an utterly irrelevant prolougue and epilougue which should be dispensed with immediately. It has no place in advancing the drama and really spoils the good impressions of the picture."

When Bluebook of the Screen in 1923 introduced Victor Sjostrom as then currently filming his first feature made in the United States, "Master of Men" as Victor Seastrom it related, without quoting him directly, that Sjostrom felt that his "tragedy of Iceland", "The Outlaw and His Wife", was his est work and that to him it "would not be understood or appreciated in England or America".

Greta Garbo

Victor Sjostrom

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