A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Outlaw and His Wife (Victor Sjöström, 1918)

The Outlaw and His Wife is a standard domestic melodrama made memorable by fine performances under the restrained direction of Victor Sjöström, who doesn't allow the usual stagy gesticulations that contemporary viewers often find ludicrous in silent films. Sjöström himself gives a fine performance in the role of the outlaw, Ejvind, who in the middle of a severe famine stole a sheep to feed his family and had to flee after breaking out of jail. He appears one day in a small Icelandic village under the assumed name Kári, and soon wins the heart of Halla (Edith Erastoff), a widow who runs a prosperous farm. Halla's brother-in-law, Björn (Nils Aréhn), also has designs on Halla, and when he discovers that Kári is a wanted man, Ejvind is forced to become a fugitive. Halla gives up everything to join him, and when we see them again they are living happily in the mountains with their small daughter. They are joined by Arnes (John Ekman), who is also on the run, but when Arnes begins to lust after Halla, trouble brews, compounded by the fact that Björn has never relinquished his pursuit of the couple. The film's story, based on a play by Jóhan Sigurjónsson, gains depth from the wild natural setting -- northern Sweden posing as Iceland -- in which the strong simple emotions of the tale seem integral. Sjöström makes the most of the mountain scenery, the waterfalls and hot springs, which are well-photographed by Julius Jaenzon. Sjöström did his own stunt work in a particularly hazardous scene in which Ejvind dangles on a rope from a cliff.