‘Die Puppe’ by Ernst Lubitsch

‘The Doll’, 1919


Year of Première 1919
Format 35mm/1.33:1 original aspect ratio

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Written by Ernst Lubitsch
Hanns Kräly
E. T. A. Hoffman
Cinematography by Theodor Sparkhul
Production design by Kurt Waschenk
Art and costume design by Kurt Richter


Marx Kronert Baron Von Chanterelle
Hermann Thimig Lancelot
Victor Janson Hilarius
Marga Köhler Dessen Frau
Ossi Oswalda Ossi – His Daughter
Jakob Tiedtke Lacelot’s Maid
Ernst Lubitsch Director in Prologue

Die Puppe by Ignatiy Vishevetsky, 2010

Ernst Lubitsch, Alfred Hitchcock, D. W. Griffith, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Jerry Lewis, Jean Renoir, Sergei Eisenstein — they’re all just different words for the same dream, the same idea that makes people watch and make movies: the dream that is possible, through a camera lens, to control the world. If Louis Feuillade was the first to grasp the effect an individual image had on people and Griffith was the first to use this power on a mass scale, Lubitsch was the first to realise the control a director wielded. In 1919, when Lev Kuleshov was still establishing his principles, Lubitsch understood directing completely enough to illustrate it in Die Puppe. It’s there in the opening: there’s Ernst himself unpacking his boxes and building a little mock-up of the set, the same way a director inevitably unpacks his or her self while building a film. The story may be from E. T. A. Hoffmann, but the film is completely Lubitsch’s. It’s because of this sense of control that Die Puppe is the director’s most comic film, a movie where every item of clothing, every backdrop and movement serves some comic purpose. They’re Lubitsch’s funniest images, all damn good jokes: the doll-maker with the Dalí mustache who makes a toy in the image of his daughter, the girl pretending to be the doll, the animated moon and rooster, the dancing monks, the father’s hair turning gray. The doll herself is Ossi Oswalda, one of the most adventurous comic performers in film — as happy romantic heroine. They used to call her the German Mary Pickford, but that doesn’t do justice to how singular of a presence she is onscreen. Her comedy isn’t just funny to watch — it’s inviting, like a friend who cracks a joke and then asks you to tell one too. She begs a like-minded idiocy from the audience. In a sense, she’s the perfect match for Ernst Lubitsch; as he seems, in directing, to control a world, she, in performing, seems to have had that world built for her.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky is a film critic. He lives and works in Chicago.

  • File created on 19th March 2021 with Handbrake free open source software for archive of theoryreader.org
  • Silent film with German intertitles, music encoded in 320bit AAC
  • Subtitles in English
  • Video is 1h 5min 23sec in length, H.264 10-bit (x264) encoded, with cropped black edges
  • The file is 3,53 GB in size, contained in Matroska .mkv, uploaded and hosted on mega.nz encrypted cloud storage
  • Video Lan Client (VLC) video playback software recommended for .mkv on Linux, Windows, Mac and Android.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: