The Salvation Hunters (Sternberg, 1925)

The Salvation Hunters (Josef von Sternberg, 1925)

Geez louise, are there worse intertitles in the history of silent film? What could have been a fantastic portrait of poverty, companionship, and love using only images is completely watered down with intertitles explaining EVERYTHING with hammy Hallmark moment statements. It was so frustrating watching a scene full of depth and realistic emotion, beautifully shot and acted, followed a literal translation of every emotion on display.

It’s a shame because the film features rich characters. All impoverished, the man bounces from place to place, mostly optimistic he will get things turned around soon; the woman is worn and calloused, presenting an impenetrable front; the boy is lonely, desperately seeking love and affection. The setting is ugly and harsh, and Sternberg has no issues showing these people continuing to make poor decisions in a cyclical pattern. And though they aren’t able to break this curse, the impromptu forming of their little ‘family’ is a refreshing light in their otherwise darkened world. But guess what? I could decipher this myself, and didn’t need the constant barrage of exposition from the filmmaker to do so.  7.5/10

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