Le giornate del cinema muto 2020: Ballettens Datter (DK, 1913)

Ballettens Datter is a star vehicle for Rita Sacchetto, a very important avant garde ballet dancer of the early 20th century.

As far as movies go, this is silly but very watchable, especially for a 1913 feature, and worth it for the excellent cinematography and for Rita Sacchetto. I wouldn’t call her the greatest actress, but she has an extremely compelling and charismatic screen presence, and it’s easy to imagine her holding a whole theatre spellbound.

Spoilers for a 107 year old movie.

Odette (Rita Sacchetto) is an actress and dancer who marries the Count de Croisset (Svend Aggerholm). Upon their engagement, the count makes her promise never to act again and she complies.

But as time goes by she comes to miss performing, and when the theatre manager asks her to fill in for a leading lady who was injured, she does so. When her husband finds out, he challenges the theatre manager to a duel because he (for some reason) thinks the theatre manager is having an affair with his wife. But the theatre manager chooses to duel by pills, making them both choose between two identical pills, one of which he says will cause instant death. However, all the pills do is knock you out for a while.

When the Count comes to, he’s happy to be alive and finds a letter from the manager explaining he hasn’t even seen Odette without his wife there. Happy ending!

As you can tell, the story is no great shakes, but this movie has some wonderfully framed shots and Rita and her costumes are a joy to watch. I do wonder if she wore a wig or hairpiece because she always has on some kind of hat or hairnet.

The restoration looked great and I loved the score by John Sweeney. It’s really amazing how sophisticated Danish cinema was at this time, and this film is extremely accessible for people new to early silent film because of the simple story, charming star, attractive cinematography, amazing outfits, and short length.

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