Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)

Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst.

A silent weepy drama about an innocent girl seduced (or raped) and sent to a hellish reform school run by psycho-sexual sadists. Then: revolt, escape, the death of her child, prostitution, a suicide. But then finally a chance to show kindness to those who have mistreated her, as well as to another woman in her situation.

This is commonly taken as an indictment of hypocritical morals: our main character lives for three years in an upscale bordello and seems happy there; an improvement over what she might otherwise have had. It is her choice and she controls her own life as much as anyone ever does.

Louise Brooks said the director was trying to work out something about his relationship with women.

The second and final collaboration between Pabst and Brooks. I like Pandora's Box (1929) better, both the story and the cinematography. It's hard to see Brooks as an innocent after she played the courtesan. Nevertheless, the dancer from Cherryvale, Kansas is a magnetic screen presence. They are both harrowing tales.

The film was immediately censored, then banned, then rereleased in edited form. Over and over in many countries, making a complicated hash of the available versions. The novel was banned by the nazis.

I wonder what Pabst would have thought if he had known his villains would become the stock "German" characters in films for many decades.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. A film scholar provides a helpful commentary track.

A big restoration effort went into this but it is assembled from many loose pieces and there is film damage throughout. They were able to achieve a cut very close to the original uncensored version and you can see what bits were cut as objectionable because they were not as well preserved.

The new score seems like generic silent film piano, not always very appropriate.