Lulu’s Back in Town

Did you know you can see G. W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box on YouTube?  (I first found the movie on Hulu, for free; but when I returned to it, I was told I had to belong to Hulu Plus to access it. Not sure if that means your first time watching is free or if it was just a fluke. The music added to this silent film is better in the version on YouTube.) The film is based on Frank Wedekind’s play of the same name that was a source for Berg’s Lulu, and those who know the opera will be interested to see what is the same and what is different in Pabst’s version.

I was struck by how modern Louise Brooks’ face seems (she plays the title character) compared to other actresses of the era. Dr. Schön wears a monocle in the film, and I wondered a) doesn’t it hurt to have this hard object wedged between your cheekbone and brow? and b) how well does one see with a single corrective lens?
Of course, serious Lulu fans are aware of other sources relating to the opera. I am thinking of the comic book character Little Lulu.

Here are a few relevant scenes that provide alternative takes on the story. For example, instead of Lulu shooting only Dr. Schön, what if she took out both Schön and his son Alwa? (notice how Alwa becomes an Americanized “Alvin” in this version.)

An alternative vision of the murder scene (Schön’s ax is a nice touch):

In the opera, Rodrigo, the acrobat, plays no role in the murder scene, but here he is consulting with Lulu:

This next one clearly relates to Lulu’s unforgettable line addressed to Alwa, “Is this not the sofa on which your father bled to death?”

And let’s not forget Schigolch:

My musicologist friends who are interested in critical theory will enjoy reading about Little Lulu and Saussure.

Finally, there’s the possible source for the jazzy moments in the opera.

(Thanks to my dear friend Peter for his assistance in assembling this post.)

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