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"Blind Husbands" Von Stroheim, Erich (1919)


“Blind Husbands” was a 1919 American drama film shot in Austria and directed by Erich Von Stroheim. The film was intended to portray that the husband took his wife’s love for granted. The wife became lonely, and she accidently attracted another man, Eric Von Steuben, played by director Erich Von Stroheim.


The movie opened up with a title card giving a preview of what the main idea of the entire film will be. The opening scene demonstrated beautiful and realistic scenery that would continue throughout the entire film. It showed the Austrian town and beautiful landscapes. Von Stroheim used title cards with dialogue that made the film overall successful and realistic. The realism in acting was portrayed by showing the husband neglecting the wife, and the wife creating a physical affection with Von Steuben, despite her discomfort. The film also portrayed obvious cues when Von Steuben was stalking the wife at an inn. Fifteen minutes into the film, it became clear that the main symbol was figurative blindness. Figurative blindness was illustrated in two different ways, one being that the wife needed attention from the husband and the husband did not notice. The other way was that the husband had no idea that Steuben was interested in the wife early on.


The film had phenomenal acting where there was typed out dialogue along with facial expressions, body language and hand movements. The wife, Francellia Billington was skittish towards Von Steuben most of the times he was around the wife. Von Steuben approached Billington very abruptly every time they were in the same place. Between Von Struben and Billington’s excellent acting, the relationship made the audience feel agonized. By the end, the husband finally realized that he was neglecting his wife once he met with Von Steuben while climbing up the mountain. He found a note written by his wife in Von Steuben’s pocket. Once he found the note, he went back down the mountain to reconcile with his wife after he recognized how blind he had been.


Many silent films including this film included three production processes, blue film, sepia film and traditional black and white. The different colors did well to highlight the film’s settings and moods for the viewers. Von Stroheim used a flashback successfully to portray the wife and the husband having happy times together. This may have been better with a montage portraying more happy times with the husband and wife. The film did not include any original music, but the music in this film was added decades later, and that music helped viewers follow along with the movie like it would be with a sound film including several sound effects. This overall was an innovative movie for the end of the 1910s.

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