This 2-disc DVD set shows the versatility of silent diva Asta Nielsen: She fights for Women's rights in DIE SUFFRAGETTE, speculates successfully at the stock market in DIE BÖRSENKÖNIGIN, and shows off as an adolescant woman in male attire and as an Eskimo woman in the comedies DAS LIEBES-ABC and DAS ESKIMOBABY. Four rare films in newly restored and reconstructed versions for the first time available on DVD.
Die Suffragette - Germany 1913 - Directed and written by: Urban Gad - Photographed by: Emil Schünemann, Karl Freund, Guido Seeber - Cast: Asta Nielsen, Max Landa, Mary Scheller, Fred Immler - Produced by: Projektions-AG "Union" - Premiere: September 12, 1913 (Berlin)
Das Liebes-ABC - Germany 1916 - Directed by: Magnus Stifter - Drehbuch: Louis Levy, Martin Jörgensen - Photographed by: Carl Fischer - Cast: Asta Nielsen, Ludwig Trautmann, Magnus Stifter - Produced by: Neutral-Film GmbH - Premiere: August 16, 1916 (Berlin)
Das Eskimobaby - Germany 1916 - Directed by: Heinz Schall - Drehbuch: Louis Levy, Martin Jörgensen - Photographed by: Carl Fischer - Cast: Asta Nielsen, Freddy Wingardh - Produced by: Neutral-Film GmbH - Premiere: April 5, 1918 (Berlin)
Die Börsenkönigin - Germany 1916 - Directed and written by: Edmund Edel - Cast: Asta Nielsen, Aruth Warten, Wilhelm Kaiser-Heyl, Otto Gebühr - Produced by: Neutral-Film GmbH - Premiere: May 23, 1918 (Berlin)
About Asta Nielsen
IIn DIE SUFFRAGETTE (THE SUFFRAGETTE, 1913, director: Urban Gad), Asta Nielsen plays the Englishwoman Nelly Panburne. Through her mother, Nelly comes to know the suffragette movement and joins it. In the course of the film Nelly must undergo a crucial test in the conflict between her political convictions and her love for Lord Ascue, the bitter opponent of the suffragettes. The characters of Nelly Panburne and her mother are based on Christabel Pankhurst and her mother Emmeline Pankhurst, who in 1903 founded the Women's Social and Political Union, an organisation that fought for women's right to vote with public protests and hunger strikes. The name suffragette derives from "suffrage," the political right to vote. The film DIE SUFFRAGETTE was submitted to the censor by the Berlin police headquarters on the 2nd of September 1913 and was passed without cuts, though forbidden to young audiences. In Munich, however, police headquarters demanded cuts. Urban Gad responded by withdrawing the film from distribution in Bavaria.
While, in DIE SUFFRAGETTE, Asta Nielsen played a young woman captivated by a significantly older man, in DIE BÖRSENKÖNIGIN (THE QUEEN OF THE STOCK EXCHANGE, 1913, director: Edmund Edel) she is an accomplished woman. As a speculator in shares, the queen of the stock exchange commands the market in copper but happiness in love eludes her. Nielsen's acting is as different as the two women she plays. In DIE SUFFRAGETTE she is untypically restrained as the young Englishwoman from a good family, but highly dramatic in DIE BÖRSENKÖNIGIN. The comedies DAS LIEBES-ABC and DAS ESKIMOBABY, the screenplays of which were written by the team of Louis Levy and Martin Jørgensen, are also fine examples of Asta Nielsen's facility for transformation; both showcase her delight in grotesque physical comedy.
The first minutes of DAS LIEBES-ABC (THE ABC OF LOVE, 1916, director: Magnus Stifter) show Asta Nielsen as an adolescent, expectantly caressing a drawing of an impressive gentleman endowed with a moustache and a proud look. How disappointed she is when the one chosen for her is revealed to be a shy and inexperienced youth! With no further ado she decides to initiate him into the ABC of love in Paris, for which purpose she herself dresses up as a man. Devastatingly, and yet still with delicate nuance, Asta Nielsen projects masculine mannerisms, deconstructing gender roles in the process. The Erste Internationale Filmzeitung (19 August 1916) recognised this: "Das LIEBES-ABC gives Asta Nielsen the opportunity to show herself off in a trousers role. She knows how to caricature a tipsy young bon viveur brilliantly."
In Heinz Schall's DAS ESKIMOBABY (THE ESKIMO BABY), also filmed in 1916, though not premiered till the spring of 1918, Asta Nielsen can again be seen in a "trousers" role. This time, however, the break with the conventions of fashion is based not on the expectations and stereotypes of gender roles, but on differences of culture. Asta Nielsen is Ivigtut, an Eskimo female brought back to Berlin by an explorer from an expedition to Greenland. Ivigtut is an attraction, but she may not appear at an evening party, because her fur pants are socially unacceptable. In her childishly naive dealings with the accomplishments of modern industrial society, Asta Nielsen again pulls out all the stops. The Kinematograph wrote in 1918: "Nielsen's acting is overwhelmingly comic, every scene appears thoroughly thought out, the exploitation of each type of situation is the best example of the mastery of all the opportunities afforded by screen acting."
DVD features (Doppel-DVD)
- Die Suffragette 1913, 61'
- Das Liebes-ABC 1916, 50'
- Scores by Maud Nelissen
- 12-page trilingual booklet
- Das Eskimobaby 1916, 70'
- Die Börsenkönigin 1916, 63' (tinted)
- Scores by Maud Nelissen
Edited by: Deutsche Kinemathek - Museum für Film und Fernsehen
DVD authoring: Ralph Schermbach
DVD supervision: Annette Groschke
First edition June 2012