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End of the World, The [film 2]

Entry updated 21 March 2022. Tagged: Film.

Danish silent film (1916; original title Verdens Undergang; vt The Flaming Sword). Nordisk Film. Directed by August Blom. Written by Otto Rung. Cast includes Olaf Fønss, Johanne Fritz-Petersen, Frederik Jacobsen, Thorleif Lund, Ebba Thomsen and K Zimmerman. 77 minutes. Black and white.

Rumours that the new Comet discovered by astronomer Professor Wisemann (Zimmerman) will shortly hit the Earth leads to a stock market collapse. Wisemann's cousin, industrialist Frank Stoll (Fønss), responds by buying up cheap stocks. Though Scientists confirm Wisemann's calculations they decide not to publicize it, to avoid panic; however Wisemann tells Stoll the comet "will enter the Earth's atmosphere on September the 20th and a Disaster, particularly in north-western Europe, can be expected". Stoll leaks a story to the newspapers that scientists predict the comet will miss the Earth: stock prices recover, enabling him to sell his for a vast profit.

Stoll plans to be sheltering in one of his mines with his beloved wife Dina (Thomsen) when the comet hits. However, the mine is located by her hometown – their whirlwind romance had shocked Dina's puritanical father and embittered her former boyfriend, Flint (Lund): indeed, the father is overcome and dies when she returns. On 20 September Stoll holds a party for his rich friends, announcing that "we ... will found the new world, and be its masters". However, as the meteor's embers fall on the town, the miners, realizing the world is ending, attack Stoll's mansion: leaving his friends to their fate, Stoll retreats with his injured wife into a secret passage leading to the mines, but Flint follows.

With "the Earth in flames" (see End of the World), we see Flint die from poisonous gases, Dina from her wound and Stoll from grief. Meanwhile, the oceans rise, flooding the town; Edith (Fritz-Petersen), Dina's sister, is rescued by a family friend, a preacher (Jacobsen), who then walks off. The following morning, as "the sun rises over the scorched Earth", Edith wanders through the ruined, deserted – but no longer flooded – town: finding a church, she rings its bell, hoping to draw other survivors to her. Only one comes, her sailor boyfriend, recently washed ashore: the virtuous pair have survived. It is not clear whether they are the last people on Earth, but we are doubtless intended to infer Adam and Eve.

Until we reach 20 September the story lacks urgency, but picks up from that point. Considering the year of release, the special effects are good, with the panic following the comet's arrival effectively conveyed, though let down slightly by some surprisingly untroubled cows. Though the film uses family melodrama to provide emotional engagement, this suffers from the unoriginal characterization – the evil tycoon, the wayward daughter, the noble daughter, the unbending religious patriarch etc. (see Clichés). The restoration work by the Danish Film Institute is excellent, though the new soundtrack – interesting in and of itself – does not really suit the film.

Though this source is not credited, The End of the World was inspired by Camille Flammarion's La Fin du Monde (1894); the 1908 Tunguska event and the 1910 appearance of Halley's Comet doubtless also had their influence. Having fire rain down from the heavens underlines the films Religious elements, whilst the downbeat tone reflects the release date: the destruction caused by the comet invites comparison with that caused by World War One. [SP]


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