Mata Hari (1931)

by Paul on October 7, 2012

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Mata Hari is a 1931 drama film depicting, in a loose adaptation, the life of a spy living in France. It is 1917, and working for the French Spy Bureau, Dubois (C. Henry Godron) knows that the exotic dancer, Mata Hari (Greta Garbo), is a spy. HeMata Hari is willing to go to great lengths to get evidence against her, but she seems to put all men under her sexual spells.

Lieutenant Rosanoff (Ramon Novarro) lands in Paris delivering dispatches from Russia. While in Paris he convinces General Shubin (Lionel Barrymore) to take him to see the much desired Mata Hari. Rosanoff instantly falls for her charms and will stop at nothing to have her. Shubin is already one of Mata Hari’s many lovers and seems irritated with Rosanoff’s childish behavior. Mata Hari soon learns that Rosanoff is carrying important documents and she begins to warm up to the young pilot, causing Shubin to become jealous and childlike himself. Dubois decides to play Shubin and Rosanoff against each other in order to trap Mata Hari. Their destructive love triangle puts all of them in Mata Haridanger from the French and each other.

Honestly, Mata Hari is a little bit melodramatic for my tastes. There seems to be an abundance of characters that don’t think anything through before they act. Also, Rosanoff is supposedly a trustworthy pilot, having been chosen for the top-secret mission, but he instantly is willing to give up everything in which he believes just to be with her for one night.

Of course the performance of Greta Garbo helps to keep this movie from being too over the top. She has so much talent and a natural presence that makes her seem in control of the entire movie. Because the role is so dramatic, I don’t think anyone else could have been castMata Hari as well as Garbo. She was perfect for the part.

It was an entertaining movie that will hold anyone’s attention, but the role lacked the passion of some of her other movies (Camille, Anna Karenina). It is about the overwhelming power of woman’s sexuality, and her ability to control everyone around her. Perhaps this was the intention, but I thought there was going to be a greater love story, and I think that “love” is obviously where Mata Hari fell short.

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