The Film: 4.5/5
I don’t consider myself to be a die-hard silent film fan, even though I do have my share of them predominately of the horror and science fiction genre including The Lost World, Nosferatu, Phantom the Opera. When Diary of a Lost Girl was announced by Kino Lorber earlier this year, I decided to research the film as many fans were thrilled that it was getting a domestic blu ray release. After I read about the film on a couple of choice movie websites, I decided to watch it as it sounded like a movie that I would be into, and I was not disappointed at all. It greatly surpassed my expectations!
This is a very gripping tale of a girl; Thymain Henning (Louise Brooks) is a teenager who had been living comfortably with her father (Karl Friedrich Henning) and housekeeper Elisabeth, when all begins to fall apart. Elisabeth commits suicide because she was fired by Thumain’s father after he discovered she was pregnant. Suspiciously a new housekeeper, Meta is hired the same day and eventually they get married. Within the first half hour we already know what a despicable man Thymain’s father Karl is. Meanwhile Thymian, who is working in her father’s pharmacy, is seduced, and raped (off-screen obviously) by an older man, Meinert, who is a pharmacist hired by her father to help him out. Some help! The scene is directed brilliantly as Meincart carries the unconscious Thymain to his bed. The scene freezes just as Meinert is on top of Thymain. I thought this effect was done especially well. Poor Thymain winds up pregnant, gives birth to her child but refuses to get married to the father. Her father, however, wants her to marry Meinert to protect his own image. Because she refuses, her baby is taken away from her and she, now rejected by her family, is put into a reform school where her life becomes a struggle. Back in 1929, single parenthood was considered taboo, which was why Thymain’s father wanted his daughter to marry Meinert. Back then, if a woman was pregnant, you were expected to marry the father of the child. So glad things have changed since the 1920s!
Along comes Count Nicolas Osdorff (Andre Roanne), another person who was disowned by his family, who aids Thymain along with her friend Erika, in escaping the reform school. Thymain, now free, looks for her child and discovers her baby is dead. From there, what happens next is something you should see for yourself, as I don’t want to be the spoiler for those interested in seeing this movie.
Not to give away too much, but things do not stay bleak forever for Thymain, but to learn of her fate and what happens to her, I strongly suggest seeing this film. You will not regret it. I will say for 1929 this touches on topics and social issues that were ahead of its time. That’s what makes Diary of a Lost Girl a terrific film; it’s a film that dares to address subject matters which were controversial at that time, but now they are very commonplace. This movie actually reminded me of Fritz Lang’s M, which is no surprise as both Lang and Georg Wilhelm Pabst were two brilliant German directors.
Kino release of Diary of a Lost Girl in 1080p 24fps AVC MPEG-4 is nothing short of spectacular. Who says a 1920s film can’t be restored? This looks really outstanding. According to Kino, this mastered in HD from archival 35mm elements. Some reviewers will say the faces of the characters look vertically stretched but to be honest, it seems fine to me. I don’t have the Eureka bluray to compare it to, and others have said that the images are horizontally stretched on that disc, so take your pick. Whatever the case may be, this review very much likes this Kino release. It has good black and white textures; there is some print damage but it still looks as good as it ever will.
Audio – The music (no dialog) is LPCM 2.0 stereo. I encountered no audio issues. We do get English subtitles to go with the German intertitles.
While this release isn’t loaded with extras, what there are of them are significant such as
An audio commentary by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society
"Windy Riley Goes Hollywood" 1930 short
Promotional Trailer (0:52)
Diary of a Lost Girl to me is a terrific silent classic that I guess could have been considered a “lost classic” until both Eureka (overseas) and Kino Lorber (USA) released it. For me, it was a great discovery, as I have always enjoyed films that go against the grain of modern society. The presentation from Kino overall is more than satisfactory. A great film with excellent picture quality and the extras, which are few, are just perfect for this release. Highly recommended!