Pandora’s Box, Louise Brooks, Frank Wedekind

Frank Wedekind wrote the play “Die Buchse der Pandora” in 1903. Wedekind anticipated modern drama using techniques that became generally familiar only later after his death. His plays contained brutal and explicit subject matter.
Frank Wedekind

Already, in 1891, his first play contained scenes of “… masturbation, homoeroticism, and suicide as well as references to abortion.”(see WIKI “Wedekind“)

Classical music fans may have met Wedekind through Alban Berg’s unfinished opera “Lulu” which is based on two of Wedekind’s plays, “Pandora’s Box” (Die Buchse der Pandora) and “Erdgeist”. These plays also form the basis for G.W. Pabst’s masterpiece “Pandora’s Box” starring the incredible (at least for this one role) Louise Brooks. Brooks was an American actress that Pabst chose after a long search for the perfect Lulu:

Pabst’s film features gorgeous black and white photography (gleaming eyes and teeth), detailed sets, and stunning performances. The above clip is from the end of a virtuosic “backstage scene” where the main characters, actors, and stagehands move in a great comic choreography that becomes a set piece that temporarily forgets the plot. The prominent businessman Schon is drawn into the prop room in order to convince his ex-mistress to go on with her performance.

As Lulu throws her fit on the bed, her figure is split into two by Schon’s interposing himself between the camera and Lulu. We see the kicking legs on the left and the wailing arms and head on the right. Schon’s laughter causes Lulu to move upright, become whole, and to rapaciously envelop Schon with a bite and a kiss just as Schon’s fiancé enters the room. Lulu now dominates. Louise Brooks facial expressions as this scene closes are priceless.

To the extent that one can rid oneself of the image of Lulu portrayed by Miss Brooks, the following segment from Berg’s Lulu presents a jarring visual alternative to the Wedekind play:

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