The Love of Zero by Robert Florey (1927)

Two hearts, joined together in love but town apart by fate. It’s a tale told time and time again, through humour and tragedy alike, an everlasting theme found through stories, poems, plays, and movies alike. In The Love of Zero, Beatrix (Tamara Shavrova) and the trombonist Zero (Joseph Marievsky) are our two young lovers, star-crossed souls who come across one another on a cold Sunday night and soon confess their love for one another. The two live blissfully for some time, until Beatrix receives a letter from Kabul, which states that she must return to the palace as a concubine and never see Zero again. Both are distraught and, after much heartbreak and heartache, *SPOILER ALERT* both end up dying in the end.

The film was taped within the span of one day and within a budget of two-hundred dollars. Approximately fourteen minutes in length, the black and white film was nothing less than an abstract experimental piece which mirrored the avant-garde style of art. However, many people will say that the impressionistic style has more of a hold over the entire piece. While I can see where this may be true – we never really see the train that Beatrix leaves on, the ballet-style movements of the actors portray their emotions more greatly than their expressions and actions, and the constant incorporation of symbolic representation (such as the music box grinder being a symbol for how commercial the world had become for Zero after his lost love had passed) – I’m not entirely certain the film can be referred to as purely impressionistic. The style overall is incredibly odd, from the set design to the acting itself, and leaves the impression of something which the likes of had never been seen at the time of its creation.

The piece also shows off something which may be a bit less subtle to the 21st century viewer than it would be to those born in this era. The special effects – no matter how cheesy, overplayed, and perhaps disturbing they may be – are quite sophisticated for their time. To imagine, in 1927, not only were cameras fully operational and being utilized to create movies like this, but the amount of editing and special effects they could create were truly remarkable. Sure, nowadays when we see a film, we expect to see robots battling in front of a dilapidated skyline of New York city as aliens rain down and attack everything around them. The advancements in CG are breathtaking nowadays (See: Marvel’s The Avengers or Warner Bros.’ Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole to see some absolutely stunning examples of how far computer-generated imagery has come). But back then, being able to split the screen in half or to use lenses to duplicate an image were advanced technologies! The utilization of such methods is impressive, and it’s nothing short of incredible to watch how the science of special effects evolves from here, henceforth.

The Author’s Thoughts

I hate modern art. There. I said it. I absolutely detest the style, and haven’t been able to find a way to warm up to it at all. But why? Well, as seen in the film above, it is quite an erratic art style, dominated by rash, uncertain methods of symbolizing the meaningless. Even Pablo Picasso’s works look like nothing more than a jumble of colours and lines which grate against the visual aesthetic. (Don’t get me started on cubism. I’m not being paid enough to write this blog)*. Anyways. I chose The Love of Zero as the piece I analyzed because it was the only thing that held my attention long enough for me to write about. Unfortunately, I don’t feel any reason to truly enjoy the piece, but I can appreciate its nature enough to write about it.

*Note: I don’t get paid at all to write the blog. How sad.




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