“A little more love and no-one would be lost in this world!”

Thymian Henning, an innocent young Pharmacist’s daughter, is seduced and raped by one of her father’s employees and gives birth to a child that is immediately put into care. Thymian is sent to a reform school where she and the other girls are subjected to brutal and occasionally sadomasochistic treatment before a riot in the dormitory allows Thymian the opportunity to escape. At the urging of a friend she takes refuge at a house which is actually a brothel and inadvertently slides into prostitution, although after a number of years her fortunes take a turn for the better when – after the suicide of her new husband – Thymian is ‘adopted’ by her guilt-stricken father-in-law, the wealthy Count Osdorff, and introduced into high society. Finally, in a magnificent twist of karma, Thymian is asked to become a benefactor of the purgatorial reformatory school within which she was once an inmate. When Thymian and her ex-tormentor come face-to-face it is time for truths to be revealed and scores to be settled.

Louise-Brooks-Diary-Lost-Girl-Studio-Point-to-PabstLouise Brooks’ film career lasted a brief thirteen years and ended when she was only thirty-two years old. She made twenty four movies, most of them only memorable for the moments she was onscreen, but two of them – ‘Pandora’s Box’ and ‘Diary of a Lost Girl’, both made in Germany at the end of the 1920s and both directed by G.W. Pabst – are universally acclaimed as examples of the greatest, most compelling, sensual and ground-breaking silent films ever made. They deserve those accolades, but without Louise Brooks’ powerful central performances and mesmerising iconic beauty they wouldn’t be the masterpieces they are.

Eureka!’s dual format edition of ‘Diary of a Lost Girl’ looks and sounds better than any version of the film I’ve ever seen before, including on the big screen. Having said that, it’s obvious that the source print hasn’t been treated kindly. The picture is riddled with lines and blemishes and, during the first half of the film, there are several moments when missing frames cause the image to jump slightly. Still, details are mostly very strong and Brooks’ physical presence remains so remarkable that, when she’s onscreen (which is most of the time), you’ll be too busy watching her to notice any deficiencies in the image.

There are original German intertitles (with optional English subtitles, both very easy to read) and an unobtrusive piano score that compliments the action perfectly. According to publicity, the published disc will also include a new video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns although that wasn’t included on my screener. The 40-page booklet, richly illustrated, contains writing by Louise Brooks, Lotte Eisner, Louelle Interim, Craig Keller and R. Dixon Smith and – as usual – is excellent.

In a perfect world an audio commentary would have been nice but that’s being picky.

How often do we look at film icons from years gone by and wonder what all the fuss was about? Barely a handful have ever truly stood the test of time and most of those only received iconic status after dying abruptly and leaving a big ‘what if…?’ for critics and audiences to ponder.

Louise Brooks, however, remains the ultimate silent-screen goddess for a reason. She was, by all accounts, as much a force of nature off-camera as she was on it and when she stopped making films it was because she consciously decided to stop making them and move on to another chapter in her life. She never seemed to take filmmaking very seriously, which is no doubt why her performances always seem so effortless and without guile, and a major reason why she rejected Hollywood’s studio system to make what should have been a career-suicidal journey to Europe, where she and Pabst made the two films for which she will always be remembered. But more than that, Louise Brooks was truly luminous. Watch Eureka!’s ‘Diary of a Lost Girl’ and the internal, eternal light that radiates out of her in every frame will amaze, enchant and hypnotise you.

I can also recommend Barry Paris’s excellent biography about Brooks if you want to know more. She led a life far more extraordinary than any of the characters she portrayed on film.

Do I really need to add this next part? ‘Diary of a Lost Girl’ is extremely highly recommended (‘Eureka!’ – any chance ‘Pandora’s Box’ could be soon?!)

Blu-ray Review: Diary Of A Lost Girl
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About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at http://ianwhitelondon.wix.com/ian-white