The Elements II

film 1 of 6

By the Law

Draft Review by Dean Duncan Jun 18, 2015

At first it’s full of that peculiar Kuleshov acting, and the most interesting thing is wondering what revolutionary point they’re going to make with London, there’s an obviously telling in frame montage with Kokhlova’s hiked dress, fancy boots and a bible over top, but though she does a fanatical religious act all through, which is significantly linked to the insistence of trial by law (she’s the one who demands it), which I gather is somehow a critique of capitalist justice or capital punishment or something–the confusing thing is that the Irish guy, though he was oppressed and taken advantage of, did brutally murder two people–I’m not sure if the religion bash is tied up, which is maybe to the film’s credit, because at the end you’re left with ambiguity, not polemics, which could come from the source; anyway, come to think of it, the valid revolutionary point is that mistreating the people who do the work will result in reaping the whirlwind; for all that interesting food for thought, the best thing, and it’s very good indeed, is the long sequence of the murders and their aftermath: explosive, shocking gunshots, horrible violence indirectly betrayed as one victim’s face slams into his food and the coffee spatters all over the floor, the acting’s very emphatic, even melodramatic, but here it complements the emphatic, untrammeled tour de force of cutting and direction, as savagery encroaches and takes over, the water starting to bleed through the walls as the weather changes, the man trying to kill the criminal, the wife trying to stop him, a grave dug in the frozen ground, seen from above, the criminal madly trying to escape as the couple drags through the muck to the grave, the rain becomes prodigious, unbelievable, and as it’s backlit and seeping it becomes as oppressive and maddening an elemental force as Sjostrom’s wind; does the flooding mean something, or is it just flooding? and what are the implications of the broken rope? man’s justice may be inadequate, but is the notion of justice to be abandoned?