Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg

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.


  1. Sometimes it feels as if filmmakers are in a contest to mess with our minds. It's as if they don't feel they are successful unless they blow our minds with some sort of complicated plot twist. "The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg" let's us know the characters and take their journey in a most satisfying way. Thanks for reminding me of why Lubitsch was such a master.

  2. Like many things movie-related, I blame George Lucas.

  3. Agree 100% with your review, Rich. There's an art to compelling, straightforward storytelling that the current industry seems to have lost. Minus dialogue, artists like Lubitsch had to find inventive ways of telling the story visually, with body language, framing, the telling detail and close-up, another talent many current directors have yet to learn. Plus, with faces like Norma Shearer and Ramon Novarro, it's hard to go wrong. Did the version you watched have the excellent Carl Davis orchestral score?

  4. I honestly don't remember. It was a very nice score, and I think the name may have been in the credits, but I don't recall.


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