Film: 8154

Feature Drama | 1920 | Silent + Sound | B/W

Clip:

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Synopsis:

A feature telling the story of a street child violinist and his devoted pet dog. The dog is killed by a policeman who later repents. His efforts to console the child by replacing the dog fail and the child also dies.

Fairy-tale like landscape, a dark overhanging tree on a hillock in the foreground. Intertitles over this - 'to the little tragedies that pass unsung, we dedicate this simple tale'.

A scene in a town; wide stone steps lead down from a dark archway. A rug and plant pot on a window ledge. A small boy in very ragged trousers and shirt and clogs plays the violin. A dog sits beside him at the foot of the steps A man wheel a wooden cart of straw passed. Close up of the dog looking mournful, a small woven basket held in its mouth. Close up of the boy, curly-haired and angelic, concentrating on his playing, around him the picture fades into darkness, framing him.

A bow-legged man in a frock-coat with a hat curled at the brim leaps up a step to a flower shop. Flowers are hung outside in wicker baskets and tin cans. Outside, a woman in a bonnet and shawl gossips with a bearded man in shirt sleeves and an apron. They greet the bow-legged man and the three huddle together looking conspiratorial as a policeman with a cape walks passed. The man in the apron whispers a comment to the woman and she replies. As the policeman turns around indignantly, all three put on innocent smiles. The policeman gives them a warning and turns away, knocking over a pail of flowers as he does so. He picks them up and gives them apologetically back to the man in the frock coat. The woman pushes forward the second man who shakes his fist at the policeman, grapping the flowers from him. The policeman snatches them back and hurling them to the ground, stamps on them. Dramatic music as the three look horrified. As the policeman walks off they threaten revenge.

A woman in clogs approaches the child violinist and pets his dog, dropping a coin into his basket. The same policeman approaches the boy, who smiles at him. The policeman orders the boy angrily away, kicking his dog. The ragged boy stumbles, clutching at a wall by some steps on with lie coiled ropes and barrels. The boy coughs, stumbles forward, and collapses on the stone stairs, still clutching his violin. The dog runs to comfort him and he puts his arm around it.

The three conspirators by the flower shop are fumbling around suspiciously, turning to pretend to inspect some flowers as the policeman passes again, laughing over his shoulder at them. They shake their fists behind his back. The policeman passes on down a stone cobbled street with shuttered windows. A woman approaches in a short check skirt, beads, high heels and a fur, the policeman looks disapprovingly at her as she passes. Following her is a sailor with a limp, and in a doorway behind a woman mends something. The woman in furs approaches the flower stall. Seeing a rose on the floor she stoops to pick it up and stands caressing the petals thoughtfully. The bearded man snatches the rose from her. The other man tries to stop him, but the woman in the shawl stops him in turn and turns her back on the woman in furs, who puts her hands in her jacket pockets and walks off sadly.

The woman in fur comes to where the boy is lying gasping on the steps. She raises him up and he taps his chest to show where he is in pain. She takes some pills from her bag and offers them to the boy on an outstretched palm. He refuses, closing her fist and kissing it. She stands holding her hand to her cheek, and the boy begins to play his violin for her. She looks away, close to tears, pulling at the fur at her neck as he plays. The policeman approaches and the woman looks nervous. He kicks the dog, this time so violently that it falls down limp on the steps, and grabbing the boy's violin, he shakes him by the collar and throws him down onto the steps. The woman, trying to defend the boy, struggles with the policeman, who drags her off.

The boy raises himself and goes to his dog, which still lies motionless on the steps. He clicks his fingers, speaks to the dog and lifts its head but it doesn't move. The boy picks up the limp body of the dog in his arms and staggers off. The policeman returns with the boy's violin and sees the boy carrying the dog away, he looks down at the violin, ashamed.

The boy carries his dog through a wood and stone bridge, past a cart wheel lent against the side of a house. A man passes, leading two oxen pulling a cart. The boy steps through a gap in a wooden fence. Behind is a manger and a straw-covered floor, with a hen pecking around. The boy lays his dog down on a piece of sackcloth. The policeman follows the boy carrying his violin, and peaks through the hole in the fence. As he sticks his head through the boy is trying again to wake his dog. The policeman, too ashamed to speak, leaves the violin on a wooden crate next to the fence. The boy is crying. He strokes the dog, trying desperately to wake him.

The policeman, now carrying another dog under his arm shoves passed the two of the flower-shop trio, who are gossiping with another woman outside a house. He steps through the fence, and watches, hidden, as the boy picks up the violin from the crate and plays a song to the dog, still weeping. Outside the fence, a younger man in a striped jacket and cap pauses as he hears the tune. He is joined by a crowd of people including a man with a violin under his arm. All watch the boy play, and the policeman, hidden from his view. The policeman looks guilty, and steps half out from his hiding place. As the tune finishes the boy falls forward over the body of his dog. The crowd outside applaud, throw flowers over the fence, and move on. The boy prays over the dog. As he bows his head into his hands , the policeman steps forward, and hiding the dead dog, replaces it with the smaller live dog. The child opens his eyes to see the live dog, to him it seems to be his own dog (the camera cuts between images of the two dogs). He claps his hands shakily and picks up the new dog as the policeman watches. The dog leaps from his arms and dashes out of the hole in the fence, and the boy, falling forwards after it, finds again the body of his dead dog, hidden up the sacking. Finally realising the presence of the policeman, the boy runs at him and pounds him ineffectually with his fists. The policeman stand still, looking ashamed and allows himself to be hit until the child falls down coughing and thumping his heart, by his feet. The policeman bends and lifts the boy onto his lap. The boy convulses, and then goes limp in his arms. The policeman, horrified at what he has done, buries his head in the boys neck.

A close-up of white lilies and a girls hands holding an Easter basket of chicks and eggs. This the flower shop; where a man in a smock and clogs buys flowers then taking the girl's hand, leads her away. A bonneted woman emerges from the shop, handing a top hand to the bearded man. These two are joined by the other man and woman from the original three and all watch suspiciously as the policeman, out of uniform, buys the lilies and, taking his hat off courteously to the group, walks away. A close up of a church bell being rung . A nun walks through a graveyard beside stone arches. The woman who was in fur, now in a more sombre outfit, approaches with flowers , shakes her head sorrowfully, and clasping her hands, looks up in prayer. The policeman approaching with his lilies kneels down beside her at the small grave, and takes her re-assuringly as she starts away from him. He hands her one of the lilies and a close up shows her tears fall onto its petals.

A Catholic church; an ornate altar, carvings and candlesticks; boys in surplices carry a cross to the altar. The policeman and the woman look up, and an image of the boy playing his violin appears against the trees.


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