The Dumb Girl of Portici

Archival Presentations | 1916 | 115 minutes

Stranger Says:

Anna Pavlova was a prima ballerina, a superstar and a dream, and in this restoration of Lois Weber’s 1916 silent ballet film The Dumb Girl of Portici, she’s on-screen. Commanding and emotive, she dances like an unusually graceful goblin or a small child. Her performance, the bloody revolution against the aristocracy, and intertitles reading things like “With her own hands the Princess had embroidered a scarf that was destined to play an important part in her life’s tragedy” make the film a must-see combination of frivolity, drama, politics, and art. (JULIA RABAN)

SIFF Says:

Two of the most iconic and talented women of the 20th century, Lois Weber and Anna Pavlova, teamed up to create this romantic silent drama. Shot in 1915 and recently restored, The Dumb Girl of Portici follows the love affair of the mute Fenella, a poor Italian girl, and her lover, the wealthy Spanish aristocrat Alphonso. In her only starring role in film, prima ballerina Pavlova (1881-1931) portrays Fenella. Gesturing with her whole body, her graceful dominance commands the screen to the point that the audience is almost grateful for the lack of dialogue; any distraction from her performance would be criminal. Weber (1879-1939), a pioneering auteur and arguably the most powerful woman director in film history, simultaneously captures the intimacy of an illicit love affair and the war and chaos stirred by it. The Dumb Girl of Portici showcases the extreme responsibility each woman takes on in regards to her craft. Together they created a film that asserts its significance over a century after its creation.

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Film Credits
Lois Weber, Phillips Smalley
Anna Pavlova, Rupert Julian, Wadsworth Harris, Douglas Gerrard, Jack Holt
SIFF 2017