It is most appropriate and also timely that Kino International has released this DVD together with its partner DVD, "A Man There Was/Ingeborg Holm" to showcase the talents and most famous works by one of Sweden's greatest directors of early cinema: Victor Sjostrom, or Seastom, as we was known in America. "The Outlaw and His Wife" has been called a masterpiece of Swedish silent cinema, and among other outstanding features it shows that Sjostrom's skills as director and also actor had already reached great heights in the year 1918. Even after 90 years, this film still packs a punch and leaves an impression, especially due to the spectacular wild and rugged landscapes of far northern Scandinavia. Already before this landmark film, Sjostrom had developed his style of using the outdoors as a backdrop for his characters and their plight, and with famed photographer Julius Jaenzon capturing the untamed beauty and power of the natural elements, audiences must have been doubly impressed. In fact, Sjostrom's reputation led to an invitation from Hollywood in the 1920s which resulted in one of his most famous American productions, "The Wind", starring Lillian Gish. As master of outdoor cinematography, Sjostrom was the perfect choice for combining intense emotional drama with fierce outdoor elements, and "The Outlaw and His Wife" is another fine example of this style. On the run for a petty crime wrought by severe and unjust circumstances, the outlaw, played by Sjostrom himself, finds respite for a while when he is employed by a widow on a remote rural property. When recognized and forced to flee, the widow chooses to go with him as his wife, resulting in a rough, isolated existence in stunningly beautiful surroundings. The newly composed orchestral score for this film features tunes and sounds which may be unfamiliar to some viewers because they contain elements of Scandinavian folk music, which nevertheless seem to be perfectly fitting to this story and setting.
In order to appreciate this film better, the one-hour documentary "Victor Sjostrom" on this disc gives a brief overview of his career, mainly with rather lengthy excerpts from various films from 1912 to his last acting appearance in "Wild Strawberries" in 1957. It also features an interview with director Ingmar Bergman who was greatly inspired by Sjostrom, but interviews and narration are all in Swedish and at times some of the English subtitles are missing. A nice 4-page leaflet of good and easy to follow notes on Sjostrom's silent film career might fill in some blanks, and the extensive film footage in the documentary still says a lot without words about Sjostrom as both director and actor. Best bought with its partner DVD of two earlier Sjostrom films, but on its own "The Outlaw and His Wife" still stands as a beautiful and unforgettable classic of early cinema.