Dr. X – Mephisto in Denmark

Dr. X
R: Robert Dinesen. B: Niels Th. Thomsen. K: Sophus Wangøe. D: Carlo Wieth, Johanne Fritz-Petersen, Henry Seemann. P: Nordisk. Dk 1915
Engl. subtitles
Print: EYE collection

Doktor Voluntas (aka Dr. X) is a fairly obscure melodrama. Its presentation of a master puppeteer guiding the lives of innocents, as Ron Mottram has pointed out, looks forward to German Expressionism. Just as striking, however, is Robert Dinesen’s bold use of composition and staging.
Felix, an introverted researcher, asks the worldly Dr. Voluntas to guide him toward worldly pleasures. Dr. Voluntas accepts the invitation and leads his laboratory rival down the path of dissipation. One striking motif is that of a sweeping darkness associated with Voluntas’ control over Felix. Early on, both men become shadowy figures coming out of the foreground when Voluntas takes Felix to a jewelry shop. (…)

(About the Nordisk culture:)
My main point, though, is to show the level of achievement — one attained, remarkably, within only a few years. Progress is always a contentious notion in the arts, but when several artists share norms, purposes, and circumstance (here, a common studio culture), we can sometimes identify a growing mastery of technique. From the awkwardness of the office boy in Pat Corner in 1909 we can identify a growing confidence in choreography (depth, blockage, mirrors) that leads to the sustained intricacy of the pub scene in The Moth and the Flame and the bravura vivacity of Dr. Voluntas. In at least some films, the Nordisk directors display a progressive refinement of basic staging principles.”
David Bordwell: Nordisk and the Tableau Aesthetic

>>> on this site: August Blom and the Nordisk