Mauritz Stiller

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Mauritz Stiller, 1927

Mauritz Stiller (born July 17, 1883 in Helsinki , † November 18, 1928 in Stockholm ) was a Russian - Swedish director and screenwriter . He is considered the discoverer and mentor of Greta Garbo .


He was born in Helsinki with the name Moshe Stiller, the son of Russian Jews. In 1899, at the age of 16, he was already active as an actor at the Helsinki People's Theater. After an acting engagement in Sweden in 1903, he worked on the Finnish stage until 1911 . This year he was entrusted with the management of the Stockholm “Lilla teatern”. In March 1912 the film company Svenska Biografteatern offered him a three-year contract, and Stiller began his career as a film director, screenwriter and actor. His work was based on Danish film , which was one of the leading productions in Europe at the time. It was not until 1916 that Stiller succeeded in moving from popular trivial films to thematically and artistically more demanding works. An early example of this is his film Ikarus , a 1916 film adaptation of the novel Michael by Herman Bang . In addition to the already established Victor Sjöström , Stiller's name developed into a trademark for the artistically high-quality Swedish silent film of the late 1910s and early 1920s. While Sjöström chose more dramatic material, Stiller was considered a talent for directing comedies. Both were discovered and promoted by the film producer and pioneer of the Swedish film industry, Charles Magnusson .

In 1919 a series of literary film adaptations began in Sweden. Stillers was the first to shoot The Song of the Red Flower by Johannes Linnankoski and, like Sjöström in Berg-Eyvind and his wife before, focused on the harsh nature of the north and man's efforts with it. His first masterpiece today is the 1919 film adaptation of the Selma-Lagerlöf novel Mr. Arnes Schatz . However, the author of the template was not satisfied with the result and declined further collaboration with Stiller.

In 1920 Mauritz Stiller succeeded with the comedy Erotikon, an innovation in the field of narrative technique in film, which was later imitated by Ernst Lubitsch, among others . Stiller let comic scenes play seriously and thus achieved a "falling apart" of text and image, which enabled the representation of irony and offered a witty alternative to the prevailing slapstick .

With Johan Stiller returned to the landscape-oriented film adaptation in 1921; the story about people in the vastness of Lapland based on a book by Juhani Aho was remade by Aki Kaurismäki in 1999 in the style of a silent film as Juha . After Die Herrenhofsaga (1923), another Lagerlöf film adaptation of Stiller, the writer tried in vain to prevent Mauritz Stiller from directing the film adaptation of her novel Gösta Berling . For Gösta Berling , his last film in Sweden, he worked with Sjöström's cameraman Julius Jaenzon and hired the unknown small actress Greta Gustafson, who took on the stage name Greta Garbo as a result of his efforts . The film, with its strong external drama, is considered to be the final highlight of Swedish silent film.

The success of this film brought him and Garbo initially a contract with the German film company Trianon , which promised him a fee of 150,000 Reichsmarks per film. Garbo received a multi-year contract with a monthly fee of 500 Reichsmarks. The first project, a film adaptation of the novel Die Odaliske von Smolna (other: Die Odaliske von Smolny ) failed. The contract was dissolved and Stiller began to negotiate in parallel with UFA and Svensk Filmindustri in order to conclude a contract with the newly founded US company MGM .

Stiller and the Garbo went to the United States together in 1925, but while Garbo was becoming a star, Stiller had differences of opinion with the film producers. The direction of Demon Woman with Greta Garbo in the lead role was withdrawn from him in 1926 after a few days. Stiller then went to Paramount , where his friend Erich Pommer had established contact. Stiller celebrated a kind of comeback with the film Hotel Imperial with Pola Negri in the lead role. The critics praised the dense staging of the story and he made two other films with Negri, but both of them flopped . Shortly afterwards Stiller was withdrawn from directing The Way of All Flesh and he returned to Sweden in mid-1928, already seriously ill.

Shortly after his return, he died of pleurisy, aged only 45 .

Filmography (selection)

  • 1912: Mor och yolter
  • 1912: The gardener (Trädgårdsmästaren)
  • 1913: When love dies (När kärleken dödar)
  • 1916: Icarus
  • 1917: Thomas Graals best film (Thomas Graals bästa film)
  • 1917: Alexander the Great (Alexander the Store)
  • 1919: The song of the red flower (Sången om den eldröda blomman)
  • 1919: Mr. Arnes Schatz (Mr. Arnes pengar)
  • 1920: Erotikon
  • 1921: Johan
  • 1923: Herrenhof Saga (Gunnar Hedes Saga)
  • 1924: Gösta Berling (Gösta Berlings Saga)
  • 1926: Demon Woman (The Temptress) (with Fred Niblo)
  • 1927: Hotel Stadt Lemberg (Hotel Imperial)
  • 1927: Barbed wire (barbed wire) (with Rowland Lee)
  • 1928: Madame de Thèbes (Streets of Sin)


  • Hans-Jürgen Hube: Film in Sweden. 2nd Edition. Henschel, Berlin 1988, ISBN 3-362-00179-3 , p. 22 ff.
  • Mauritz Stiller. In: John Wakeman (Ed.): World Film Directors. Volume 1: 1890-1945. The HW Wilson Company, New York NY 1987, ISBN 0-8242-0757-2 , pp. 1063-1069.
  • Kevin Brownlow : pioneers of film. From silent films to Hollywood. = The Parade's Gone By ... Stroemfeld, Basel et al. 1997, ISBN 3-87877-386-2 .

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