I'm surprised that there are no reviews yet for this film. Maybe it's due to its absence on DVD (as of 2011). Why this masterpiece is still neglected is beyond me. It is one of the great achievements of silent cinema.
Based on the novel by McTeague by Frank Norris, the story follows a dentist whose wife wins the lottery only to become obsessed with the money. The money acts like an infectious disease that destroys all the lives involved, it brings out the worst in people. Filmed in San Francisco and Death valley, and at great expense, the film was famously chopped down from 10 hours to the the 2 hours that remain, perhaps justifiably, but what remains is astounding.
If you've never seen any of Stroheim's films, they are highly detailed, complex and tightly structured. They also have a very naturalistic look to them with scenes of beautiful natural light. His camera is distant but unrelentingly observant, trapping characters in the frame as it slowly exposes their disturbed minds. For Stoheim, the American Dream doesnt liberate people but is a trap where people become victims. The acuisiion of things and money warps their minds and their relationships with each other. And what is interesting is how Greed is against the grain of the American romantic film. These characters are so dirty, vicious, insane, lustful, pathalogical almost. And yet its shown with such restraint, no melodrama just a very controlled drama.
Several scenes stay with me - the marriage shown in front of a funeral procession; Trina lying naked in bed full of money; the final scene in death valley. If you like Sunrise (Murnau), The Wind (Sjostrom) and The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer) then you will love this film.
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