I woke up on Woman's Day thinking of Brigitte Helm's classic performance in Fritz Lang's epic 1927 masterpiece, Metropolis.
For his Sci-Fi wunderwerk, Lang called on Helm to play dual parts: first; Maria, the gentle prophet preaching the coming of the 'mediator' to bridge the gap between the head (planners) and hands (workers) in the sprawling and exploitative Metropolis, second; various incarnations of sin and death, aka the possessed machine-man created by mad genius scientist, Rotwang, to look like Maria. It really is rather as complicated as it sounds, but it is daring, iconic, stirring and gorgeous.
As for Helm, silent film acting hardly led itself to subtlety, but in her debut role/s, she melts the screen with warmth as the caring and whole-hearted Maria, and burns it up with her vivid embodiment of demented, delirious evil as she seduces the city to sin and destruction. Her performance is painted in broad strokes, with her crazy eyes and sharp body angles, but it is perfect, startling and unforgettable. Check it out below:
Maria's Transformation (followed by quite a bit of Gustav Frolich's mopiness):
And the Trailer: