Pandora's Box

Pandora's Box ★★★★½

The most singularly arresting aspect of Pandora's Box is most certainly Louise Brooks, who is a force of personality, a flapper who explores hedonistic pleasures with delightful innocence and palpable enjoyment. Her freewheeling sense of fun and lust for life immediately pulled me into Pandora's Box, G.W. Pabst's melodrama of a fallen woman whose pleasure-seeking comes crashing down and brings ruin to everyone she touches. That's how Pandora's Box is often described, anyways, but I'm not sure that's totally fair. The structure of fallen woman stories usually have that element of punishment, but neither Pabst nor Brooks's performance feel particularly judgmental of protagonist Lulu. Her victimhood is not invited by her sexual hedonism or debauchery, but the result of the insecure, capricious, and violent.

And boy does this film go to some dark and violent places. Much as the first act revels in Weimar decadence (to great effect I might add), Pandora's Box becomes a far more haunting journey, the final episode in particular a clear precursor to noir with its foggy streets and chiaroscuro lighting. One shot of someone emerging from darkness and smoke which opens the film's final act is especially haunting. Pabst more generally shoots this thing with luminous beauty, Pandora's Box rich in gorgeous imagery which runs the gamut from spellbinding eroticism to crushing tension and despair. The film on the whole is a great achievement of the silent era, and certainly encouraging to see more from both Pabst and Brooks.

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