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Burning Soil, The (1922) * Worst Hit *

Tastes like SOIL!
Tastes like SOIL!

Genre: Silent Drama (Germany)

Starring: Eugen Klöpfer, Vladimir Gajdarov

Directed By: F.W Murnau (Tabu: A Story Of The South SeasSunrise: A Song Of Two Humans)

Overview: When a farmer dies, one son stays true to the land while the other sets his sights on more barren endeavors.

Function: noun
Etymology: modification of French mélodrame, from Greek melos song + French drame drama, from Late Latin drama
Date: 1802
1 a: a work (as a movie or play) characterized by extravagant theatricality and by the predominance of plot and physical action over characterization b: the genre of dramatic literature constituted by such works
2: something resembling a melodrama especially in having a sensational or theatrical quality

F. W. Murnau's The Burning Soil is one of his first films, and as such is fairly basic in all things. From a film made in 1922, one is entitled to assumptions of what it may look like cinematographically, and in The Burning Soil, those assumptions are all too much the low-grade norm, from stiff blocking techniques to scenes meant entirely for pacing: a descriptive intertitle, a horse-trot across a field, another descriptive intertitle. Actors sporting the white make-up indicative of melodramatic performances ripe with flagrant emoting rang true with this play-on-film and acts ending abruptly with Intertitles stating nothing more than END OF ACT 1.
At least the plot, simple as it was, was entertaining enough to carry this viewer to the end. The Burning Soil begins with an almost supernatual premise: the tract of land across the way from the Rog Farm is known as Devil's Field, and as with all land where nothing grows, it is said to be cursed. unfortunately, the supernatural ends there, and leaves us only with a foreshadowing of what may very well come to pass. The two sons of the Rog Farm patriarch are quite different men, Peter driven to the land and Johannes driven to ambition and riches. When their father dies, Johannes does what he can to get out of the family business and begins to woo the daughter of his rich neighbor. With grace and charm he insinuates himself into the household, however his goals are never quite noble. When he learns that the Devil's Field is actually the site of a rich petroleum deposit, he becomes ever more manipulative in his gold-digging ways and woos instead the old neighbor's wife in hopes of earning her love - and money.
As morality plays go, Burning Soil is basic and predictable, though I will admit that the climactic scene is definitely one that excites the cockles of heart, even if the twist is a rather foreseeable one.
Yep, you guessed it: one of the manipulated
Yep, you guessed it: one of the manipulated
Performance: 6 Cinematography: 6 Script: 5 Plot: 6 Mood: 6
Overall Rating: 58% (Not So Hot)

Some films are enjoyable by their own merit, some are worthy only for reasons of study. The Burning Soil is not quite either of these things, unless you're an F.W. Murnau fan to the end. For me, it's no harm no foul. For you, I suspect there's far more important Silent film to reccomend before ever cooming to this piece.

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