BU Film School

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

FT 540 Reading: Pandora's Box

Screenplay info
Written by: Joseph Fleisler, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Ladislaus Vajda (based on plays Erdgeist and Die Büchse der Pandora by Frank Wedekind)
Film info: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0018737

Synopsis
An official is checking Lulu's gas meter. Even here, her charm is evident, as she gives the official a drink and some money (he smiles). A shabby old man, who turns out to be Schigolch (her first sugar daddy), shows up, and Lulu pulls him in. She shows him how well she's doing, but he cautions her (how long will this last?), and tells her about Rodrigo Quast and his variety act.

Dr. Schön visits, Schigolch hidden on porch. He tries to break it off, because he's getting married. They end up kissing. A dog out on the porch barks at Schigolch. Lulu calls over the dog, Schigolch's presence is revealed (Lulu identifies him as her first friend). Dr. Schön leaves, Rodrigo is waved up by Schigolch. Rodrigo and Lulu get along, she feels his muscles and swings from his arm.

Dr. Schön's fiancée is sending out wedding invitations. Her father cautions her. She doesn't acknowledge the rumors.

Alwa is playing music for his new revue. Anna Geschwitz comes by with costume drawings. Lulu stops by, requests a gladiator costume. Alwa looks at her adoringly, but Geschwitz is a little put-out. Geschwitz leaves. Schön catches Lulu looking at his fiancée's picture, she leaves. Alwa asks why Schön doesn't marry Lulu. "One does not marry women like that!" Alwa mentions that Lulu's doing a variety act. Schön has a better idea -- put her in Alwa's play. He warns Alwa to watch out for her.

Great set piece of backstage goings-on with Alwa's play. Lots of stage business and comic bits ... the stage manager dashes around sending gladiators onstage, making sure everyone's in place, conferring with the director. Alwa is backstage, Lulu is performing. Schön and his fiancée visit, with flowers. In the hustle, the fiancée is momentarily separated from Schön, and sees Lulu, who also sees her. Schön sees Lulu, but doesn't acknowledge her. Upset, Lulu refuses to go onstage, pushing away makeup and costume people.

Anxious, the director pulls Schön aside. Schön tries to talk to her, but she remains angry, storming away from him. He pursues her into her dressing room, at one point closing the door on the poor stage manager. Eventually they seem to reconcile, only to be discovered by the fiancée. She leaves, and Schön decides he must marry Lulu. "That'll be the end of me."

The wedding reception is at Schön's apartment. Alwa is disconsolate -- he tells Schön that he's leaving for a long trip. Geschwitz and Lulu do a tango. Schigolch and Rodrigo have a table to themselves and are getting cheerfully drunk. Schigolch decides to place flowers on Lulu's bed; the two slowly make their way into the bedroom, drinking and picking up flowers as they go. Lulu goes to the bedroom door, beckons for Schön to come, though he's still dealing with guests.

When Lulu goes into the bedroom, Rodrigo is drinking by the mirror, and Schigolch is laying flowers on the bed. Schigolch embraces and kisses Lulu. Schön discovers them (though it takes a while for them to notice him) and takes a gun from the drawer. The two run out of the room, slowly pursued by Schön. The guests and musicians leave. Alwa, in the bedroom, pleads with Lulu. He kneels, she takes his head into her lap and strokes it. Schön finds them, tells Alwa that he'll miss his train. Alwa leaves.

Schön closes the door. Lulu, unheeding, goes to comb her hair in the mirror, then notices Schön standing behind her. He holds out the gun, forces it into her hand, and tells her to kill herself (the only way to save us both). He tries to force her to pull the trigger, but she shoots him instead.

At the trial, the defending attorney tries to portray Schön's death as an unfortunate circumstance. The prosecutor says that Lulu is like Pandora -- a beautiful, charming woman (at these words, Lulu behaves as such, which momentarily distracts the prosecutor) who let loose a bunch of ills on the world. Geschwiz confronts the prosecutor, then tries to talk to Lulu and is hustled out. Geschwitz, Schigolch and Rodrigo plot. The verdict is announced: manslaughter, with five years in prison. A false fire alarm goes off. The crowd separates and sweeps Lulu away from the warders.

Lulu goes to Schön's apartment. Alwa discovers her, upbraids her on her lack of caring. She picks up the phone and calls the prosecutor's office (presumably to turn herself in), but he wrestles the phone away from her, and simply asks if there was any news of Lulu. Disconsolate, he hangs up. She says she'll go with him, borrowing Geschwertz's passport.

On the train, Alwa stands guard outside their compartments. Lulu peeks out. A man, who turns out to be the Marquis Casti-Piani, recognizes her (consulting a newspaper), and passes a note to Alwa. Alwa gives him money to keep silent. The marquis recommends that they not go to Paris, but to a quiet, discreet place he knows. Schigolch and Rodrigo are on the train too, to Alwa's irritation.

Geschwitz's visit introduces the ship where the four are staying. Alwa is gambling at cards, and losing. Rodrigo has a new fiancée with whom he wants to do a variety act. He demands 20,000 francs from Lulu, or he'll turn her in. He suggests borrowing the money from a young bald man who's been winning a lot of money. Casti-Piani negotiates with an Egyptian for Lulu's services. Rodrigo tries to push the young man on Lulu, who gets angry and boxes Rodrigo's ears, then leaves. Undaunted, Rodrigo sets his fiancée to work on the young bald man.

Casti-Piani, the Egyptian and Lulu talk (mostly the two men). When Lulu says that it sounds like the Egyptian is buying her, he confirms it, insisting that she be ready to leave in one hour. If she doesn't go along, he'll turn her in.

Geschwitz gives money to Lulu, who gives it to Alwa, exhorting him to win. He gets cards from Schigolch (who'd previously offered them). Lulu tells Schigolch about Rodrigo's threat, and he determines to fix Rodrigo. He tells Rodrigo that Geschwitz is in love with him, and that she's loaded. Lulu pleads with Geschwitz to go along, and she does so very, very reluctantly. Rodrigo and Geschwitz have a drink, then go to a cabin, where Rodrigo seizes and kisses Geschwitz.

Alwa is gambling and winning. Unfortunately, he gets caught with cards up his sleeve. There's a big ruckus in the casino. Alwa tries to grab his money several times, but can't. The young bald man complains, says he'll call the police, eventually gets tossed into the water but rescued. Lulu, disguised as a cabin boy, and Alwa end up on a boat procured by Schigolch. The cops come, discover a hysterical Geschwitz and a dead Rodrigo.

Scene is in a London slum. A young man (who looks uneasy, tortured even) comes across a group of Salvation Army workers. A girl is handing out hot drinks. He gives her money, she gives him some mistletoe. He slowly walks away.

Lulu is putting on makeup in their wretched flat, watched by Alwa and Schigolch. She goes out. A man talks to her, but is forestalled by Alwa. Schigolch drags him away. Lulu meets the young man, generously invites him home even though he has no money. Schigolch leads Alwa out of the apartment; Alwa refuses to go to the charity place, though. The young man gradually relaxes in Lulu's presence, even seems happy. He gives her mistletoe, she lights a candle. She sits on his lap, they embrace. But over her shoulder he sees a knife, is irresistibly drawn to it, takes it and kills Lulu.

The young man exits, unnoticed by Alwa, who's hanging out outside. Alwa doesn't go in. He hears the sound of the Salvation Army people, and slowly walks after them. People in the charity house are singing. Schigolch gets a plum pudding, and is happy. Alwa continues to follow the Salvation Army.

My notes
-- truly pathetic characters!
-- some shot indications, but told mostly in prose.
-- implied dialogue, lot of indicative action (silent)
-- Lulu innocently stupid!
-- how could she afford the same haircut for the whole movie?

FT 540 notes (from 05/29/03)
Lulu is a free spirit -- pure love. Woman is disturber of peace, or helps, or gets out of men's way.

Temple courtesan -- ideal vanishes once goddess cults are destroyed. Lulu is goddess as a disturber of peace, nature. She destroys authority. She gives love freely to whoever needs it, acts without thought, leaves trail of corpses in her wake.

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Comments:
I have just seen this for the first time, at a screening at the National Film Theatre in London (in a Louise Brooks season).

Whilst I found the Lulu character quite believable, it was Alwa who struck me as pathetic. Why Dr Schoen felt he had to marry Lulu after being caught with her in the dressing room was beyond me.
 

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