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“The Defect” (La Tare) 1911

In Silent films I like on June 24, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Louis Feuillade directed over 700 films for Gaumont studios between 1906 and his death in 1925.  Remembered today for his thriller serials like “Les Vampires“, Feuillade worked in nearly every genre, making comedies (both broad and slight), melodramas and kiddie films.

Kino Video’s “Gaumont Treasures” features 3 1/2 hours of his works.  My favorite of these is “The Defect.” It’s a 41 minute tragedy focused on Anna Moulin, an unhappy waitress in a brasserie in the Latin Quarter.  In the opening scene, a distinguished doctor drops in for a cocktail.  Anna tells her tale of sorrows and the doctor gives her a chance to change her life — “quit right now and come with me.”  She does and goes to work for him as a nurse in a hospital for poor and orphaned girls.  She selflessly commits her life to her patients, and, upon the doctor’s death, becomes the director of the hospital.

Even though the film is a tale of redemption, Anna never experiences any joy.  We see her grimly enjoy the satisfaction of hard work and accomplishment but we never see her smile.  Somehow this makes her downfall even more tragic.

An old lover appears with a blackmail scheme.  Anna pleads with him to let her continue her exhausting work, to no avail.  Her sordid past is revealed.  She is dismissed and banished from the hospital.

In the final scene, she is alone in a dark apartment.  She sits on the edge of an open window, preparing to jump.  Instead, she collapses in a chair.

The final card reads:  Anna considers the Far East — where people stricken by plague need nurses to liberate them from death.

THE END

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