For Reel

The Mysterious X (1914)
June 30, 2012, 7:16 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Benjamin Christensen

One of the forefathers of Danish cinema, Benjamin Christensen was an innovator who not only directed, but often produced, wrote, and even starred in his pictures. In his debut feature, The Mysterious X, he not only captivates through an extensive use of parallel editing – cuts between a number of concurrent events that both heighten the drama and contextualize the action – but through an astonishing use of light. In a particularly suspenseful scene, the son of a wrongly convicted traitor attempts to help his father escape from prison. As the boy runs through the naval base, he is often framed against a single light source to create a dramatic silhouette. Considering that it was shot in 1913 and released in 1914, the visuals must be considered especially ambitious, and one could speculate that the film might have influenced the German expressionist films of the early 1920s. While the narrative is slow in the early-goings, the latter half is dense with high-stakes drama as the mishandling of several important letters has disastrous consequences. Christensen would be most famous for Häxan, his 1922 film about the occult, before having fairly unremarkable stints at both MGM and Warner Brothers in the mid-late twenties.

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