During the 1918 world-premiere Stockholm engagement of The Outlaw and His Wife, the film was accompanied by an orchestra playing an arrangement of various pieces by Sibelius. Victor Sjöström’s silent classic is now on view at the Walter Reade in a rare, finely tinted print never seen before in this country, accompanied by a rousing original score composed by Stephen Endelman and performed by the Parabola Ensemble.
Perhaps best remembered as an actor—especially for his poignant appearance as the old professor on the brink of death in Bergman’s 1957 Wild Strawberries—Sjöström was the great father figure of Swedish cinema. In Outlaw, set in Iceland, a man and a woman hounded by society live out their amour fou among the mountain glaciers. In collaboration with his brilliant cameraman Julius Jaenzon, who achieves images of breathtaking beauty, Sjöström uses nature as more than a background—it becomes one of the dramatis personae. The film falls into three parts, each dominated by a different type of landscape and its apposite mood: idyllic life on the farm; peaceful refuge in the hills; and solitude, despair, and death in the mountains. Sjöström himself plays the outlaw. It’s a moving, understated performance, all the more indelible for the director’s matinee-idol good looks.