The Mysterious X | Chicago Reader

The Mysterious X

Danish director Benjamin Christensen is best known for his silent documentary Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922), whose sinister images have made it a cult favorite as well as an object of scholarly interest. This 1914 thriller, Christensen's first feature, has been praised by film historian Kevin Brownlow for its highly expressive lighting, and two of the more dramatic examples—silhouettes of a boy in prayer before a window and of soldiers leading their horses toward an eerie windmill—surely influenced Carl Dreyer's Vampyr. The plot involves a naval lieutenant who's accused of espionage after his wife's suitor steals a communique from his coat and forwards it to the enemy; the acting is relatively naturalistic for the time, though the storytelling is still dominated by dull wide-angle shots. 85 min.

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