Diary Of A Lost Girl (Tagebuch einer Verlorenen)

Germany (1929) Dir. G.W Pabst

Thymian Henning (Louise Brooks), the young daughter of pharmacist Robert Henning (Josef Rovenský), is distraught when their housekeeper, Elizabeth (Sybille Schmitz), commits suicide. Unaware that her father got Elizabeth pregnant, Meinert (Fritz Rasp), Henning’s pharmacy assistant, promises to tell Thymian the truth but instead rapes her, resulting in an illegitimate baby. Thymian refuses to name the father but the culprit is revealed in her diary and it is insisted that she marries Meinert. Thymian refuses so she is sent to a strict reformatory establishment for wayward girls, just the start of a series of life changing events for the naive young girl.

Helmed by renowned Austrian director G.W Pabst, this adaptation of Margarete Böhme’s 1905 novel was the second and final collaboration between Pabst and the legendary Louise Brooks. Unable and unwilling to fit into the Hollywood mode of operation, the beautiful and talented but equally capricious and restless Brooks moved to Germany where she made her best films including this title and Pandora’s Box a year earlier proving her worth as an actress. This has all the melodrama elements present and is completely reflective the time, which might date it due to the quantum leap in attitudes in society today. However that doesn’t make the tale any less compelling nor Brooks a believable and captivating heroine.

Young Thymian goes on quite the journey across the duration of this film, from chaste daughter to rebellious unwed mother, inmate at a reform school – from which she escapes with the help of friend Erika (Edith Meinhard) and the somewhat useless and recently disowned Count Osdorff (André Roanne) – to becoming a high class prostitute and more. In the meantime, Thymian’s father has married the new housekeeper Meta (Franziska Kinz) who won’t share him with anyone else, playing a huge part in Thymian’s departure from the pharmacy.

There is a lot going on but Brooks handles the various transformations of Thymian well, although Pabst never once has her looking anything less than stunning even when she is at her lowest. Pabst is considered a contemporary of Murnau and Lang but in this film he doesn’t show the same flair for creativity or deeper meanings, laying everything out clear as day and relying on his cast to keep the story moving – not that this film really needs it or that he doesn’t deliver the goods here.

Most of Louise Brooks’ films have been lost over time or remain unreleased here in the UK so any chance to see this zeitgeist legend in action is a welcome one.