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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Benjamin Christensen: Blind Justice (1916), Mikael: Story of Third Sex (1924)

Benjamin Christensen (28 September 1879 – 2 April 1959) was a Danish film director, screenwriter and an actor both in film and on the stage. As a director he is most well known for the 1922 film Häxan and as an actor, he is best known for his performance in the film Michael (1924), in which he plays Claude Zoret, the jilted lover of the film's title character.

In 1913, Christensen assumed control of the small, Hellborg-based production company for which he worked and reorganized it as Dansk-Biograf Kompagnie. The first film he directed, Det hemmelighedsfulde X (The Mysterious X, 1914), was one of the most astonishing directorial debuts in film history; although a routine spy melodrama, the camerawork, cutting and art direction were revolutionary for the period.

Christensen himself played the main role, as he did in his second film, Hævnens nat (Blind Justice, 1916). Once again, Christensen portrayed a man wrongly accused of murder, and the artistic quality of his sophomore effort was equal to his first.

In the United States - Benjamin Christie was used as his “film name” on both the marquee and openingh credits.

Despite the success of his first two films, Christensen did not find acceptance within the Danish film industry, and after Blind Justice he returned to the stage.

Blind Justice (Denmark, 1916)

Plot ... A simple-minded circus strongman, John Sikes, has been wrongly accused of a crime committed by Wilken. On the run with his infant son, he enters an affluent house and seeks help from Ann, but is taken captive and imprisoned. Fourteen years pass. Ann has married Dr. Richard West. John, a broken man, is released early for good behaviour.

He goes to find his son Robert at the orphanage, but the boy was adopted years before. A flashback shows the baby being adopted by Ann. "Slim" Sam Morton runs a ring of thieves specializing in dog-napping. John knows one of them from prison.

One of the gang sells a dog to Dr. West. He also steals the keys to West's country house, The Lindens. The thieves burgle the house. In the sack of loot, John finds a box belonging to Ann, the woman he believes betrayed him years before...

Original title: Hævnens nat
Country: Denmark
Year: 1916
Duration: 100 Minutes
Director: Benjamin Christensen
Screenplay: Benjamin Christensen
Starring: Benjamin Christensen, Karen Caspersen, Peter Fjelstrup, Charles Wilken
Cinematography: Johan Ankerstjerne

Mikaël, Chained: The Story of the Third Sex (1924) a/k/a Michael (1924) Silent gay theme classic starring Walter Slezak, Benjamin Christensen, Nora Gregor.

Mikaël, Chained: The Story of the Third Sex, and Heart's Desire was a silent film released in 1924 (approx. 90 minutes), directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer, director of other notable silents such as The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), Master of the House (1925), and Leaves from Satan's Book (1921).

The film stars Walter Slezak as the titular Michael, the young assistant and model to the artist Claude Zoret (Benjamin Christensen). Along with Different From the Others (1919) and Sex in Chains (1928), Michael is widely considered a landmark in gay silent cinema. Dreyer based Michael on the gay Danish author, and theatre director, Herman Bang's classic "decadent" 1902 novel of the same title.

It is the second screen adaptation of the book, the first being "The Wings", made eight years prior by director Mauritz Stiller. Michael, however, follows Bang's storyline much more closely than the earlier film version.

Plot ... A famous painter named Claude Zoret falls in love with one of his models, Michael, and for a time the two live happily as partners. Zoret is considerably older than Michael, and as they age, Michael begins to drift from him, although Zoret is completely blind to this ...

Original Score by Brian Pinette

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