In deciding to adapt Arthur Schnitzler's controversial 1924 novella Fräulein Else-told as an interior monologue-for the screen, Paul Czinner directed the dazzling Elisabeth Bergner in one of her greatest performances, as a young woman forced to confront sexual and psychological humiliation and degradation in an attempt to save her father (Albert Bassermann) from disgrace. Finding a cinematic correlative to the lacerating mental deconstruction endured by Schnitzler's literary Else, Czinner's dissecting camera angles, oppressive focus on Bergner, and wintry emotional reserve that refuses to pass easy judgment combine to achieve a devastating portrait of a vulnerable character whose sense of self is shattered by the mores of a soulless society. Bergner, Czinner's wife, became his frequent collaborator and later the two went on to flee the Nazis, emigrate to London, and find great success together and separately in both film and theater. However, in each of their careers, neither ever surpassed the haunting chill of Miss Else and its existential gaze. Cinematography by Robert Baberske, Adolf Schlasy, and the great Karl Freund. A new archival restoration from the Cineteca di Bologna Germany, 1928.
Paul Czinner (1890-1972), one of the directorial masters of the German silent era, is best remembered for a style known as Kammerspielfilm, which relied on visuals, camera angles, and the expressive gestures and expressions of his actors to tell a story, while minimizing the use of intertitles between shots. Czinner's other films include The Way of Lost Souls (1929), As You Like It (1936), A Stolen Life (1939), Catherine the Great (1934), and Don Giovanni (1955).