Synopsis by Hal Erickson
G. W. Pabst's The Joyless Street (Die freudlose Gasse) is an unvarnished study of post-World War I Vienna. Plagued with skyrocketing inflation, the Austrian metropolis becomes the domain of every scurrilous form of profiteering. The central character is a crooked butcher, whose negative influence dominates the lives of virtually everyone on a single Viennese street. The supporting characters include a poverty-stricken professor, his beleaguered daughter, an idealistic American Red Cross worker and a slinky harlot. Each character is photographed in a symbolic manner underlining his or her basic personality: the domineering butcher is photographed from a low angle, emphasizing his corrupt power, while the professor is lensed in long shot, highlighting the bareness of his apartment-and by extension, his life. The stars of The Joyless Street include Asta Nielsen and Werner Krauss, but latter-day audiences will find more interest in the supporting part played by young Greta Garbo. Incidentally, despite the claims of many film historians, Marlene Dietrich does not appear as an extra.
economy, family, morals, slice-of-life, struggle, survivor
High Artistic Quality, High Historical Importance