Circus and variety films were a popular genre in the silent film era. This was Robert Reinert's last film collaboration; he died before the production was finished. It tells the story of a clown who hides his identity while courting a young female artist. The atmospheric sets by Robert Herlth and Walter Röhrig, the masterful direction by Arthur Robison, and especially the dramatic performance by Werner Krauss raise the film considerably over other works in the genre. The elaborate digital restoration by the Munich Film Museum displays the film’s visual beauty.
Can it be possible that people are so impressed with circus films? Here is another, and the theme is one we know inside out, backwards, forwards, and upside down. Nevertheless, Robison has managed to give us a film which – story apart – is able to hold our attention, and now and then our admiration. Werner Krauss, for once acting straight and not in character, has never been better. His role as clown is hardly important, and does not matter. It is the Krauss behind the clown, the – so to speak, ache behind the smile, that matters. He has insuperable suavity, a charming worldliness. And power. There is no one false gesture, not one over emphasis, not even one moment where the triviality of what he has to do seems trivial, for he has succeeded in giving a profound character study, which in itself and unrelated to other incident could not be bettered. Jenny Jugo has great quality, and is convincing and consistent in the part of a sullen, stupid girl. Her sullenness is very adroitly conveyed through her various flirtations, and the entirely meretricious character is drawn with exactitude and good balance. The photography, the lighting are good, and the technique brisk and convincing.
Close Up, Nr. 3, September 1928