114 min.DK/FeatureDrama, Melodrama, AdaptionsSilent films
The biologist von Kammacher is struck by a double misfortune: his wife is taken ill and loses her mind, and his doctoral dissertation is rejected. He travels to Berlin, where he is bewitched by Ingigerd, a young dancer. Impulsively he follows her when she leaves for America. The transatlantic steamer is wrecked, and the two are among the few survivors. In New York, her capriciousness gets increasingly on his nerves, but he does not notice that the sculptress Eva admires him. He flees to a remote mountain cabin, where he suffers a nervous breakdown. Eva helps him rediscover the will to live and love, and he marries her.
Nordisk Film's biggest and most ambitious production, which the historian Erik Ulrichsen called "the first modern film" in 1958. It was the most important Autorenfilm, based as it was on a novel by Gerhart Hauptmann, winner of the 1912 Nobel prize and generally regarded as the greatest living German writer. The novel Atlantis was semi-autobiographical, and Hauptmann insisted that two important roles should be played by the actual people who inspired the characters: Hauptmann had been bewitched by Ida Orloff in 1906-7 when she was in her mid-teens, but her charms do not really register in the film; and Unthan, the armless man, basically plays himself. Hauptmann had described the sinking of a transatlantic liner in a section of the novel that was intially serialized just weeks before the wreck of the Titanic, and the shipwreck scene became the big selling point of the film (prompting accusations of shameless exploitation of the Titanic disaster); it still impresses with its realism and sheer scale. However, Atlantis is really a psychological portrait, showing a man of the modern age who lives through a profound mental crisis. For that reason, it lacks a strong narrative backbone, but it succeeds through Fønss' restrained performance, the beautiful cinematography, and Blom's refined direction.
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