Starring: Tatiana Pauhofová, Karl Markovics, Gedeon Burkhard
Director: Filip Renč
Running Time: 106 mins
The Devil’s Mistress (Lída Baarová) is a Czech film about Lída Baarová, a hugely famous actress from the black-and-white era, whose promising career turned sour when she entered into a relationship with the infamous Joseph Goebbels.
With its historical setting and story of rags to riches and then back to rags, The Devil’s Mistress seemed a fascinating prospect at first. Although it’s never quite the riveting masterpiece it wants to be, it works fairly well in the opening stages, establishing Baarová as a high-achieving but still somewhat flawed character, making her fate portentially intriguing. However, the film soon undoes all of its good work with an excessively sensationalist second and third act that really take away from the most fascinating side of the story.
But before that, let’s look at what does work with this film. The first act, as it establishes the main character as well as the time period, is pretty engaging throughout. Although some of the scenes in current day where an older Baarová is looking back on the events do fall flat, it’s pretty easy to find some intrigue in the story of this rising actress at the same time that the Nazis are gaining power in Germany.
And in that, there’s actually a bit of tension to be seen in the first act. Although the film does well to emulate the likes of The Artist in portraying the world of cinema in its early years, where most of the intrigue comes from is the intervention of history in this woman’s career, and the arrival on scene of numerous high ranking Nazi officials in her personal life, including Joseph Goebbels himself.
Despite that, however, just when it looks like the film is going to get really interesting as Baarová and Goebbels end up in a romantic relationship, there’s a marked shift towards a much less genuine and far too sensationalist apporach to the story at hand.
There is still some historical merit in what the second and third acts bring to the table, but all of a sudden, the film starts to feel like a big action drama, ramping up the pace way beyond necessary levels as the Nazis gain power and Baarová’s career starts to take a turn.
The current day sequences become totally melodramatic, Baarová becomes a far less likable and supportable character, and there are even some fairly tasteless portrayals of some of the Nazis pre-war atrocities, particularly a very sensationalist scene depicting the infamous Kristallnacht in 1938.
On the whole, things don’t go all that well for the film once it starts to think so highly of itself, and rather than keeping a solid atmosphere and an intriguing story about the actress, it turns into a big, sensationalist drama that just doesn’t grab you in any way like the opening act, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.4 overall.