As I write this it is past 12 at night. I have slept 3 hours in the past two nights because of work. I have told myself that I should keep the entries of this diary short, but I watch so much that it is impossible for me to. How can I relegate a film like Algol (a.k.a. Power, 1920) to a few lines?
Let’s see how it goes.
Born of the German Expressionist movement, Algol was one of the few narrative features by a German production company of the time that originally focused on documentaries and travelogues. Its director Hank Wreckmeister is described as a journeyman in the catalog.
Yet, the catalog entry by Stefan Drossler also implies that set designer Walter Reimann directed the film. He was the man responsible for the stylistic look of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, made that same year.
Reimann’s fingerprints are all over the film; especially in the fantastic design of the “engine room.” This engine room is that which generates not only the plot of the film but also the energy for the entire world. It was set up by a former coal miner after a visit from a demon from the mysterious titular star, that has inspired many legends due to its mysterious nature. The demon reveals to him how to exploit a the power of Algol and, in the process, corrupts his soul.
The film is about power and greed, which recalls Kracauer’s writings and makes me want to read them. The film is a visual spectacle but also well able to infuse realism in its surrealist plot (in the live musical performance, the sequences that take place on the titular star featured synth sounds, for the first time at the festival. Usually, I’m not a fan of electronic sounds at silent film screenings, but when done appropriately and only at a minimum, it can really add something.) Its energy resource plot, inspired by the problems faces by Germany during the first World War, fees quite contemporary. It is surprising that coal should be viewed favourably opposed by a nearly miraculous natural energy source coming from somewhere in the universe.