Opening Pandora’s Box: A Masterwork of Silent Cinema

This class will devote its attention to one film, a gem from the Golden Age of German cinema, Pandora’s Box (Die Büchse der Pandora, 1929), and explore the enigmatic screen presence of its magnetic star, Louise Brooks. Along the way, we’ll explore the classical myth of Pandora, Hollywood, the Golden Age of German cinema, the heady and decadent days of the Weimar Republic, modernism, sexuality, violence, innocence and, of course, the star of the film, Louise Brooks as Lulu. In Louise Brooks—a flapper from Kansas, Ziegfeld Follies dancer, and budding film star who ditched Hollywood for Berlin—the director G. W. Pabst found the embodiment of the femme fatale Lulu, originally a Teutonic character in the fin de siècle plays of Frank Wedekind. In Pabst, Brooks found the director who immortalized her inscrutable screen presence—an ineffable charisma that still thrills first-time viewers.

As David Thomson, the British film critic, wrote: “One of the most mysterious and potent figures in the history of the cinema … [Louise Brooks] was one of the first performers to penetrate to the heart of screen acting.” Or, as Henri Langlois, founder of the film archive Cinémathèque Française exclaimed during a retrospective of her work: “There is no Garbo. There is no Dietrich. There is only Louise Brooks.”  Intensely modern and surprisingly shocking even today, Pandora’s Box is a masterpiece from the silent era that deserves more attention. Come discover Lulu as she opens that fabled box and (innocently?) lets loose upon those in the world around her … well, you’ll just have to see it for yourself, won’t you?

Each class participant will do one short presentation from a list of suggested topics during the 5-session seminar.

Venue: The Engineering Center
Meets on: Fridays 10:00 am to noon
Starting: 4/7/2023
Sessions: 5
Class Size: 16
Teaching Style: Seminar
Weekly Preparation: 0 - 1 hour
Group Leader Biography:

Robert Manning is a graduate of Providence College and Boston University School of Law. He was a labor lawyer for 30 years, representing workers and negotiating for unions in many industries and employment sectors, and is currently an arbitrator. Robert and his wife are residents of Beacon Hill and their two children attend public and private schools in the city. Robert is passionate about the classical world and the humanities and, post law school, has pursued these passions at Harvard Extension School, studying, among other things, screenwriting, Greek, Latin, German, religious studies, classical literature, and philosophy. He is also a member of the Classical Association of New England (CANE) and is on the Steering Committee for the CANE Summer Institute.