Wednesday, 11 August 2010

POOR JENNY (GERMANY/1912/URBAN GAD)

Jenny is a young woman from an impoverished background who works as a cleaner in various elegant residences in the city. While cleaning the stairs of a wealthy man named Eduard Reinhold, she receives an enigmatic invitation from him but decides against telling her proud parents. With the assistance of her sister, Jenny sneaks out of the house to rendezvous with Eduard, who takes her for a meal at a restaurant before inviting her back to his place. Returning home at dawn, Jenny is shocked to discover her family still awake, and the ensuing argument leaves her on the street. Seeking comfort and shelter from her wealthy lover, she is told that she is unsuitable to be seen on the arm of such a well-to-do man and, with no-one else to turn to, she takes on a series of sordid jobs before eventually committing suicide.

The word ‘poor’ in the title relates both to Jenny’s financial situation and her repeated rotten luck, and the lesson here is something along the lines of not giving into temptation, as Jenny finds herself even lower down in society than she had been before thanks to her spontaneous tryst. Legendary temptress of early cinema Asta Nielsen, star of Gad’s sensuous film The Abyss, portrays Jenny with appropriate gullibility despite being thirty at the time of filming. Though a mostly unremarkable film, (Louis Feuillade’s The Defect dealt with similar themes a year earlier), Poor Jenny does feature some interesting photography, particularly at its tragic climax.





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