Tuesday 4 December 2018

100 Essential Films That Deserve More Attention - 25. Rapt

People embrace the enchanting glow of the big screen for all manner of reasons; to journey to faraway places they could only ever imagine, to experience the escapism of a captivating story, or maybe to indulge in an obsession with the world of cinema. For me, all three of these reasons apply - and many more - but first and foremost is the satisfaction of recommending obscure films to other like-minded individuals who adopt them as their new favourites.

With over 100 years worth of films to choose from, and many of these now available at the click of a button, it can be extremely difficult to narrow your choices down to pick a film to watch. Although cinema has been around for over four times longer than my life on this earth, I have spent what some may consider an unhealthy amount of these years delving into the history of films to discover some of the best hidden gems out there.

This series of articles aims to highlight the overlooked masterpieces that I have unearthed whilst exploring the forgotten recesses of cinema. Take a gamble on any one of these films and I guarantee that you will be eagerly awaiting all future instalments in this series. You may well have heard of a number of these films; my aim isn't merely to shine a spotlight on the most obscure films out there, but to share my enjoyment of those films which don't have the cult following I believe they deserve.

Director - Dimitri Kirsanoff
Country - Switzerland
Year - 1934
Runtime - 102 Minutes

Set high in the Swiss Alps, Rapt was filmed on location where director Dimitri Kirsanoff used the impressive backdrop to create a visually engaging and arresting picture, befitting of such a beautiful location. Here is where two different cultures separated by the highlands collide; French speaking Catholics and German speaking Protestants, in an astonishing adaptation of a book by the Swiss author Charles Ferdinand Ramuz entitled La Separation des Races.

Hans and his fiancee Elsa reside in this stunning part of the Swedish countryside and appear to live a relatively peaceful Catholic existence alongside Elsa's younger brother. When Hans kills a dog who is terrorising his goat herd, the dog's owner, Fermin, kidnaps Elsa as retribution for the violent act and takes her far away from her idyllic life in the hills to his home village amongst his fellow Protestants.
Separated from her lover and held against her will, Elsa mourns for her past life and struggles to adjust to the loneliness of being held captive. Han's suffering is just as great; he is unsure where Elsa has vanished to - or even if she is still alive - and his initial attempts to find her prove fruitless. Fermin soon becomes infatuated with his captive, even though his ageing mother would prefer to see her son matched with a more agreeable Protestant lady, Jeanne. A village fool also falls for Elsa, with his affections providing her with an opportunity for the two lovers to be reunited, an opportunity that is aided further by the appearance of a travelling pedlar who frequents villages on both sides of the highlands.

Kirsanoff coaxes sublime performances from all of his cast and frames every scene with a keen eye for visual aesthetics. The awe-inspiring camerawork draws you deep into the story, with one standout scene where the camera erratically tracks the emotionally charged Jeanne as she runs back to her village being a personal highlight. Montage is also used to great effect throughout, with Kirsanoff cutting between characters and locations during crucial moments. This provides the audience with multiple views of simultaneously suspenseful events and heightens the tension close to unbearable levels.

Whilst Kirsanoff is renowned for his contribution to Avant-garde cinema (primarily the fascinating
short Menilmontant) his work on Rapt is equally as spectacular, if not more accomplished. It is a great shame that these two glimpses of brilliance were not accompanied by further ventures into the world of feature film-making, as his approach to storytelling is incredibly captivating and highly memorable.

Rapt is an unsung masterpiece that is revered by those familiar with it but is unfortunately known by too few. It is a film that deserves to be rediscovered and reappraised as its powerful and moving story still has the capacity to resonate with modern audiences. Kirsanoff's striking visual aesthetics are unusual for the film's era and its technical achievements in this area only serve to enhance the appeal of this first-rate melodrama, making it a must see for aspiring film-makers or those with a passion for vivid, evocative tales of love and revenge.

If you take the time to watch Rapt then it would be awesome if you could also take the time to let me know what you thought of it, either by commenting below or tweeting me @filmbantha. Thanks, and enjoy!

For previous instalments in the series click here

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