Nielsen plays a famous opera singer, Tamara (there are some tempting stage scenes of Nielsen as Salome), now under the spell of drugs, in the clutches of her demonic manager Mangol (Alfred Abel), a drug dealer. There are some amazing, very overt scenes of cocaine sniffing and opium pipes; morphine is also mentioned. Werner Krauss (of DR. CALIGARI fame) tears up the scenery (literally, at one point), as a twitching cocaine addict in withdrawl. This story of drugs and debauchery is intertwined with a tale of mother love and redemption: The singer’s husband has told their daughter her mother is dead. When mother and daughter eventually meet, Tamara sacrifices her only chance at salvation to preserve her daughter’s happiness, saving the girl from the same fate.
This important German production has been unseen for years, probably due to its blatant depiction of drugs. It was restored in 1993 by the Belgian film archive, working from the only known surviving material, a b/w French distribution print found at the Luxembourg Cinémathèque. The story for the French version seems to have been considerably softened, never directly referring to drugs; contemporary French reviews describe Nielsen’s character as an alcoholic!
Catherine A. Surowiec, The Lumière Project. The European Film Archives at the Crossroads, Lisbon 1996
We are showing this film as part of a double programme. The first film is THE CURE