The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg
seen on TV @ TCM
The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg is as simple a story as it gets. It's basically a romantic fairy tale: beloved prince finds love while mingling with commoners in a cosmopolitan city, but ultimately must choose between love and duty. With silent movies, as I've talked about before, one must pay much closer attention than one normally would for a "talkie" or else you'll miss information, but I didn't have that problem here.
This was direct and uncomplicated, and yet it moved and cheered me as much as if it had been made last year. These days, there are lots of movies, in various genres, that needlessly complicate their stories, and for the life of me, I can't understand why.
I'm sure you've seen examples of it too, whether it's a rom-com, an action movie, or a horror movie, sometimes there are plot points that add little to the tension of the story (someone please explain to me the point of the "codex" thingie in Man of Steel), or you get a bunch of exposition that means nothing to the overall plot (I remember that was one complaint about last year's After Earth). Sure, this usually isn't a problem in films made by Paul Thomas Anderson or the Coen Brothers or Kathryn Bigelow. But how many filmmakers make movies like those directors?
With Prince, I found myself marveling at the ability of such a simple story, that's well over eighty years old, to have such a positive impact on me. Maybe that was the result of it being silent, but I've seen more intricate silent films. I suspect it simply comes down to being one more example of what made director Ernst Lubitsch what he was.
He didn't need to make a big deal out of this tale; it looked like he got what he wanted out of it. There are nice little character moments, there are beautiful relationships at play, and there are all sorts of contrasts at work between life as a monarch and life as a commoner. Plus there are lots of gorgeous location shots.
Is there really no more room for movies like this today? I find that impossible to believe. Some say that romance in the movies is evolving, at least out at the fringes, and that it's only a matter of time before mainstream Hollywood catches up. That's certainly possible. I hope it's true.