Her Violet Kiss

Her Violet Kiss is a short film made from salvaged footage from a lost film, Pawns of Passion. Pawns of Passion was a German film from the 1920s, starring a Russian ballerina who searches across Europe for her lost love after the War. It actually has a great name in German, Liebesholle, meaning ‘Love’s Hell’, which, why wouldn’t you use that for the English title? That’s awesome.

Bill Morrison, the director, rescues old nitrate film, and tries to preserve, as best as can be done, fragments of these lost films. Her Violet Kiss is a reworking of some of the salvaged footage. As the original is silent, this one is put to a beautiful score by Michael Montes. The film comprises a ballroom scene, a masquerade, where the young and beautiful heroine oscillates between joyful play and dancing, and feeling overwhelmed and swept away in the pressing crowd, a sense of ominous foreboding emanating from the watchful eye of a masked figure.

Morrison uses this scene in 2021 to evoke the longing for the carefree, crowded socialising that so many missed during lockdown. Equally, the moments where the protagonist feels overwhelmed by the surging crowds communicates so clearly that sense of being out of control the whole pandemic created, in the moments where you were among people, even just at the supermarket or on public transport, the sense of being pressed in on too close, generating the bubbles of panic. The masked figure which stalks her from the shadows reminds me of the hooded figure in The Masque of the Red Death, another film about a plague. He stands as the pathogen itself, waiting to strike upon anyone, as they play and dance and embrace others in happiness.

As the film starts to dissolve and warp, the images are lost in this chaos, there is a sense of a world coming undone. The fragility of that merry world, being broke in upon by the forces of destruction echoes our own alarm at the fragility of our social system in the face of this microscopic virus.

Only 5 minutes long and has no dialogue, but communicates so much.