1920 expressionist masterpiece
Plot: A guy embezzles a chunk of change from his bank, leaves his family behind, and flees to the big city to buy himself a top hat and look for passion. It goes about as well as you might expect.
If you love both silent cinema and avant-garde tomfoolery, I think I found the film for you. I loved the look at just general strangeness of this surreal morality tale. The sets are twisted and minimalistic, sometimes almost like something a child could have put together. Of course, I mean that in a loving way. Just check out the gnarled bank doors with, naturally, the word "bank" written above them. Well, here, check it out for yourself:
That's not the bank, but you get the idea. And it's not just a few sets; there are a bunch of these lovely and grotesque sets, like the somnambulist in Caligari had an allergic reaction to some sleep medication he was on and vomited them all up. Again, I mean that in a loving way because I really did love to look at this movie. I'm not even sure if the above simile makes any sense anyway.
The story drifts and doesn't always make a lot of sense, making the production even more dreamy. Or nightmarish. The motivations of the protagonist, especially since he seems to have a loving family, are unclear, and his decisions once he's got all that money and attempts to look for "passion" to buy (that's the intertitle's words, not mine) are baffling. I wouldn't say the plot follows dream logic; it's more like a half-assed fable. I guess there's a lesson to be learned here, but it's not all that easy to identify with the story's central character.
By the way, is this supposed to take place over a single day? I don't know why I'm asking you because you haven't even seen this. But is that title meant to be taken literally?
Aside from the unique set design that kept my eyes glued to my screen, there's other stuff to enjoy here. There's some light, primitive animation, including some really cool flashes of light that are supposed to be cyclists. There is a pair of little people--a waitress and a guy watching the bike race. There are some odd special effects, including a blizzard and these recurring skulls. A guy at a secondhand shop has a beard that might be the longest I've ever seen in a movie. There's brief nudity and a ridiculous painting. There's some terrific melodramatic acting that would stand out in most movies--even most silent movies--but seems to fit in perfectly here. Just check out the scene where the main character's mother finds out what's happened to her son and raises her arms in the air and then just leaves them like that for the duration of the scene. And finally, there's my new favorite intertitle ever--"Holzbein!" I'd tell you what that means, but I don't want to spoil anything.
This movie apparently wasn't even shown in Germany after it came out and is lucky to survive. It did play in Japan somehow. I'm really glad it survived because it really is one of the more unique movies I've seen. I strongly recommend it.