# Similar Movies Like Das grinsende Gesicht
Das grinsende Gesicht 1921
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Released: 18 Mar 1921 Director: Julius Herska Writers: Victor Hugo (novel), Louis Nerz Actors: Franz Höbling, Nora Gregor, Lucienne Delacroix, Anna Kallina Genres: N/A
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Das grinsende Gesicht Reviews:

I could declare a private interest here: the Austrian movie 'The Grinning Face' is based on one of my all-time favorite novels, 'The Boy Who Laughs' by Victor Hugo. How favorite is it? Well, the protagonist of this novel is called Gwynplaine (Hugo's imperfect attempt at creating a British name). When I first encountered this novel in my adolescence, I found Gwynplaine's exploits so inspiring that I took his name as my own middle name, changing my name legally by deed poll.Anyone reading this page is likely to know that Paul Leni directed a very impressive movie ver of 'The Boy Who Laughs' in Hollywood, at the very end of the silent era, starring the brilliant actor Conrad Veidt. That film made few changes to Hugo's novel (including the addition of a satisfied ending), but on the entire it's an perfect movie with magnificent production values and a brilliant central performance by Veidt.This earlier Austrian ver sticks closer to Hugo's novel ... which isn't entirely a mission in this film's favour, as Hugo's novel has a rambling plot that territories too much attention on peripheral characters, most of whom could have been deleted altogether.Linnaeus Clancharlie (how's that for an Englishman's name?) is a baron in the British peerage. He's also the Marquis of Corleone in Sicily, but he'd rather live in England and be a baron instead of being a marquis in Sicily, even though a marquis is three rungs higher up the peerage. In 1682, Clancharlie incurs the displeasure of Lord James the Second ... who has the baron murdered. The lord also orders the murder of the baron's young son and heir, two-year-old Fermain. But the corrupt Doctor Hardquanonne sells the man to some bandits, who mutilate Fermain's face so that they can exhibit him at funfairs. They carve his mouth into a permanent grin.Years later, in the reign of Queen Anne, the mutilated man -- who has no knowledge of his noble birthright -- is actually the young boy Gwynplaine, manly of figure and presumably handsome of face except for the mutilation of his cake-hole. Gwynplaine lives with Ursus, a travelling mountebank who sells folk remedies. Their jolly family is finished by Dea, a pretty foundling who is blind. She is passionately in love with Gwynplaine, all unaware of his deformity. Whenever Dea passes her fingers across Gwynplaine's disfigured face, she assumes he gotta be satisfied because of his broad grin. But meanwhile, under torture in Queen Anne's dungeon, Hardquanonne has confessed Gwynplaine's birthright...This movie presents a fairly straightforward and simplified retelling of Hugo's novel. Comparisons to the Leni ver are inevitable, so here goes: although the Leni movie had magnificent production values, its depiction of early 18th-century England was not especially convincing. (I still cringe when I recall the Ferris wheel in the funfair sequences.) This Austrian movie was made on a far lower budget, but the costumes and sets are vastly more convincing than in Leni's version. Leni's movie boasts the splendidly sensitive performance of Conrad Veidt, and few perfect helping performances. In this Austrian 'pre-make', most of the actors are dull and stolid. The actor who plays King Dirry-Moir could have been deleted from this film altogether. One exception is Nora Gregor as Princess Josiana, the jaded heiress who is attracted to Gwynplaine precisely *because* of his deformity. Gregor makes it clear that Josiana is sexually aroused by Gwynplaine's deformity; the Leni makeover was very close-mouthed on this subject.In the central role of Gwynplaine, Franz Höbling possesses barely a fraction of Conrad Veidt's electrifying presence and sensual virility. Höbling is further handicapped by a wretched makeup job simulating the mutilation of his face. In his own performance as Gwynplaine, Veidt expertly rose to the challenge of being unable to test the lower half of his face to convey emotion, skilfully employing his eyes and his hands to convey emotions that radically contradicted the broad grin on his face. Höbling is simply unable to do justice to a role that requires him to hold his mouth immobile.As the blind heroine Dea, Lucienne Delacroix is a disaster, but I shan't blame the actress for this. One of the low points of Hugo's novel is that Dea is really a compendium of frailties rather than a totally realised human being. She resembles those doomed Victorian heroines -- Tiny Nell, Eva St Claire -- who exist for the sole purpose of dying tragically young. That's how Delacroix plays the role here. Unlike Leni's version, this Austrian film retains the tragic ending of Hugo's original novel: Dea abruptly dies at sea, and Gwynplaine flings himself overboard to a watery grave.I enjoyed 'The Grinning Face', but I'm prejudiced in its favour. In a several aspects, it now surpasses the Leni film. But, on a point-for-point basis, there's no question that the Leni ver is superior. I'll rate 'The Grinning Face' 6 points out of 10.



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