(Diary of a Lost Girl)
Director: G. W. Pabst
Production: Hom-Film; black and white, silent; running time: 130 minutes.
Producer: G. W. Pabst; screenplay: Rudolf Leonhardt, based on the novel by Margarethe Boehme; photography: Sepp Algeier; assistant directors: Marc Sorkin and Paul Falknberg; art directors: Erno Metzner and Emil Hasler.
Louise Brooks (
); Josef Rovensky (
); Fritz Rasp (
); Edith Meinhard (
); Vera Pawlowa (
); Franziska Kinz (
); Andre Roanne (
); Arnold Korff (
Elder Count Osdorff
); Andrews Engelmann (
Director of the reform school
Borde, Raymond, and others, Le cinema realiste allemand , Lausanne, 1965.
Amengual, Barthelemy, Georg Wilhelm Pabst , Paris, 1966.
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Groppali, Enrico, Georg W. Pabst , Firenze, 1983.
Rentschler, Eric, editor, The Films of G.W. Pabst , Piscataway, 1990.
Jacobsen, Wolfgang, G.W. Pabst , Berlin, 1997.
Interim, L., "La fille perdue et retrouvée," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1982.
Lefèvre, R., Image et Son (Paris), January 1982.
Petat, J., Cinéma (Paris), January 1982.
Kral, P., "Par-dela le bien et le mal," in Positif (Paris), February 1982.
Milne, T., Monthly Film Bulletin (London), December 1982.
Petley, J., Films and Filming (London), December 1982.
Schlüpmann, Heide, "Das Bordell als arkadischer Ort?: Tagebuch einer Verlorenen von G.W. Pabst," in Frauen und Film (Frankfurt am Main), no. 43, December 1987.
Sarris, Andrew, in Video Review , vol. 11, no. 11, February 1991.
Clark, Jeff, in Library Journal , vol. 116, no. 4, 1 March 1991.
Cox, T., "Diary of a Lost Spectator: Carving a Space for Female Desire in Patriarchal Cinema," in Spectator (Los Angeles), vol. 16, no. 1, 1996.
Schluepmann, H., "Spending Money on Laughter," in Cinegrafie (Ancona), vol. 6, no. 10, 1997.
Knop, M., "The Brothel as a Convalescent Home," in Cinegrafie (Ancona), vol. 6, no. 10, 1997.
* * *
American actress Louise Brooks achieved stardom after abandoning Hollywood, where she was most frequently cast as a flapper in an unvaried array of cinematic concoctions. Brooks opted for the artistically richer pastures of Europe—where she teamed with the great German director G. W. Pabst for a pair of scandalous films, Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl , that packed movie houses and outraged the censors on several continents in the waning days of the silent cinema.
Based on Frank Wedekind's play of the same name, Pandora's Box , the movie highlights Brooks as the alluring Lulu, who uses her considerable beauty and sexual charms to get ahead, destroying the lives of several men in the process. Lulu gets her comeuppance at the hands of Jack the Ripper when her wanton ways reduce her to a life of prostitution on the streets of London.
The film caused a sensation for its remarkable frankness and potent images of an amoral society swamped in sin and perversity. But it was but a harbinger of things to come from the Brooks-Pabst team. Their follow-up collaboration, Diary of a Lost Girl , caused even more a furor. Pabst cast Brooks not as a sexual predator this time around but as a waif whose repeated victimization by men leads her into a life of prostitution. She triumphs in the end—at least in the sense that she suffers no retribution for the sinful life she, however involuntarily, has been forced to pursue.
Diary of a Lost Girl pushed the envelope of sexual frankness on the screen even further than Pandora's Box with its earthy look inside the daily, not just nightly, workings of a brothel and the candor of its seduction scenes.
These scenes were presented symbolically rather than graphically, but their content was no less clear. For example, when Brooks's character, Thymiane, is carried to bed by her first seducer (Fritz Rasp), her swaying legs knock a glass of red wine off a nightstand, splashing the dark liquid across the sheets—an unmistakable visual metaphor for the subsequent taking of her virginity. Such a hue and cry arose among contemporary watchdog groups on both sides of the Atlantic that this scene was cut. Other equally potent scenes were altered so that the film could be released. The film's original sins-gounpunished ending was also changed. By simply chopping the ending off and letting the film conclude, albeit somewhat abruptly, at a low
Had Louise Brooks and G. W. Pabst continued working together, they might have enjoyed the ongoing success of that later actress-director duo, Marlene Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg, whose pairing on a number of steamy extravaganzas the Brooks-Pabst team-up somewhat anticipated. But after making one more film in France for another director, Brooks returned to her native country to resume the stalled Hollywood career which had spurred her to seek fame, fortune—and better roles in better films—in Europe. By then the talkies had arrived to finish off the careers of many a silent screen superstar. Brooks was not one of them. It was not the advent of sound that drove her from the screen, but her unwillingness to pick up her career where it left off. She demanded the kinds of roles in the kinds of arty films that made her a name in Europe. What she was offered instead was froth, and she retired from the screen permanently in 1933.
G. W. Pabst fared little better. Although he continued directing movies until 1956, his work never again achieved the acclaim or the notoriety Pandora's Box and, especially, Diary of a Lost Girl had brought him.