Pandora’s Box (1929) Review

Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora’s Box 1929) Director: G.W. Pabst


Already a popular play at the time of its release, “Pandora’s Box” was still highly controversial for its blatant eroticism and overt lesbianism. The film offers a seamlessly edited narrative and, above all, it stars Louise Brooks in her famously “bobbed” flapper haircut. In Pandora’s Box, Brooks plays the elusive and sexual femme fatale, Lulu, who promises ruin to all men she seduces. She is the mistress of a middle-aged newspaper publisher, whom she forces into marrying her even though he is already engaged (he relents so as not to ruin his reputation with news of the affair). On the day of their wedding, he catches her seducing two other men, and grabs his pistol but in the ensuing disagreement, he is accidentally shot and killed. At her murder trial, Lulu is whisked away when a fire alarm is pulled and chaos ensues, forcing her into exile. She is treated like a slave, and eventually winds up in a slum in London, working as a prostitute. Her first client is modeled on Jack the Ripper, and the audience is led to believe she is stabbed to death in the end. I wasn’t really sure where else to go with this film so below I have listed some notes on the director and lead actress.

G.W. Pabst: Georg Wilhelm Pabst was an Austrian director. He was captured as a prisoner of war during World War I. After the war, he returned to life in Europe and was encouraged to pursue film, with Pandora’s Box being his most famous. He died in Vienna in 1967, after living through the Nazi years.

Louise Brooks: Born in Kansas, she has been very much open about the fact that she was sexually assaulted by a man she knew at a young age. In later years, her mother suggested it was because she was ‘leading on’ the man. In any case this affected her sexuality for the rest of her life. She began her career as a dancer, and was also one of the dancers in “Ziegfeld’s Follies” on Broadway. She had a brief affair with Charlie Chaplin, the first of many affairs with men in Hollywood. She was close friends with Marion Davies, the mistress of William Randolph Hearst, and frequently visited his castle in San Simeon. She eventually lost interest in Hollywood and went bankrupt, dancing in nightclubs to pay the bills. She worked odd jobs and was later found living as a recluse in New York when a newfound appreciation of her early career occurred in the 1950s and she became a writer about cinema. Pandora’s Box is her most fondly remembered film.

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