Posted by: philosopherouge | November 3, 2007

Old Analysis: Diary of a Lost Girl (Pabst, 1929)

I was very busy in the last few days, so no time to watch anything new or write anything new. I wrote this a while back when I was analyzing the portrayal of women in classic film. I’ve always found Pabst’s portrayal particularly enligtening. I don’t recommend reading if you haven’t seen the film though, as there are many spoilers.

Although Diary of a Lost Girl bears little ressemblance to Pandora’s Box in story and even character, I’d again argue this is a film that showcases a positive message about women. Louise Brooks is Thymiane, a young innocent girl drapped in white for her communion, on this very day she is raped by the clerk who works in her father’s store. She gets pregnant, and so as not to bring shame to the family she is sent away to a horrid “school” for girls. Just looking at this part of the film (it’s only just the beginning), Pabst lets the viewer see the hypocracy of the situation. Thymiane was an innocent victim, and she was punished for it. Although particularly relevant at the time, since in the VERY rare case a rape was brought to case, a man could argue that a woman is pleading rape because she was found out. He could also argue that if she said no, she was just saying it because she wanted to give the appearance of being a “good girl”. Pabst very succesfully establishes the fact that Thymiane is not only innocent (the white flowers, dress, her naivity) but also that she is adored by her family. It makes their decision all the more frightening. On the other hand the clerk who commits the crime continues to advance in life while she is thrown at the sidelines of society.

Early on in the film, the subject of the father’s infidelity is brought up. He is a serial adulterous, and Thymiane always naively wonders why his secretaries are so often fired (they get pregnant, and are sent away, they are damaged goods). This in comparison to what happens to his daughter is a very revealing look at chauvinistic society, and the low value of women (not only the ones he has an affair with, but also his wife and daughter). This is enforced later, when he doesn’t leave the money to his second wife who bore him children, he leaves her with absolutely nothing.

Just like in Pandora’s Box, Diary of a Lost Girl enforces female companionship. Too many films portray female friendships as heavily charged with negativity, and competition almost moreso in today’s films. In this film, on the other hand, the girls in the “reform school” come together as a support network. They are friendly, they work together, and help each other. Even in the brothel, the only friendship and intimacy that really is exists is between women. Men come and go, but they are except in very rare cases (there are some “good” men in this film, who do their best to help Thymiane, and succeed).

There is a point in Thymiane’s life when she’s all but forced into a life of prostitution. She can’t easily accept it, but she has no choice. Presumedly sometime afterward she meets up with her father in a club. He once again rejects her for her ways, and yet it was his decisions and actions that thrust her into this life. This is an important moment in the hypocracy and double standard of the male mind. He has many affairs with women, and there is no problem. She has no choice but to become a prostitute and she is a disgrace, and a slut. As far as we’ve gone in society, this image is persistent. A man is a “player” while a girl is a “slut”.

A very admirable character, with the help from an old boyfriend Thymiane is able to pull herself out of this life of prostitution. She goes looking for her child and receives her father’s inheritance. There is a very tragic moment when she finds out the child her family made her give away had died, and matched very closely with a scene where she finds out her father has left her with all his money without leaving anything for his wife and children. Her step mother’s daughter, bears a very uncanny ressemblance to Brooks; the black hair, short hair and the glowing smile. She is reminded of what could have been, but even if she wasn’t I don’t think her decision to give most of the money to the woman she had hated when she was younger would have changed. Again, the message that woman have to help themselves and each other is reinforced. In the final scene when Thymiane returns to the school she was after her pregnancy, now as a woman of society she keeps her eyes to the floor. They bring in a young woman who used to be Thymiane’s friend, and scold her for trying to escape this “haven”. Thymiane can’t take it, and in an ourburst she not only defends her friend but condemns those that would support this establishment. Taking her friend by the hand she storms out.

The film is no doubt one of the most empowering films about women I’ve ever seen. Although there are several men in this film who are ruthless, disgusting and hypocrits they are not all as such. Thymiane’s childhood sweetheart helps save her, and after his untimely death his father takes in Thymiane and treats her as his own daughter. He even understands and helps her in her causes to rallying to help other women in the end. It’s a very well made film, and is quite subtle in it’s execution and message.

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In other news, I’ve convinced my little sister to get a blog. She’s a huge anime/manga fan, and it seems that’s what she will be focusing on primarily. Here is the LINK

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