Variety ★★★★½

The ultimate circus love triangle movie - surely unsurpassed in the near-century since (probably surpassed, but I haven't seen it!). This one has some great circus segments that capture the fun and the tension of a circus show, but it's good that they don't outstay their welcome to make way for the searing melodrama between the lead performers. The actors are all great especially leads Emil Jannings and Lya de Putti.

The most interesting thing about the film for me was the lack of god-bothering and prudishness. The film portrays the circus and fairground as a debauched, fleshy, drunken party for the performers, which allowed me to get immersed in the story rather than feel like I'm being knocked over the head with a moral tale. It does have a broad 'thou shalt not kill' message, but in the end it is really just a good story well told. And of course, there are plenty of moments that sing on the screen - the fireworks display, carnival rides, and busy Berlin streets.

My only concern is that with a different soundtrack treatment to the completely madcap modern one (by the Tiger Lillies) I had this would potentially have been a lot slower. This one had heaps of vocals in English (with lyrics that were occasionally kind of awful but a good laugh in themselves) and funny sound effects which helped amp up a number of already laugh out loud moments in the movie, with the small band playing a cross between some kind of recurring circus tune improbably inflected with some modern pop/indie sensibilities and expressionist music. So experiences may vary.

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