Bestia (1917)

Pola Negri plays a disobedient teenager!

On Sunday, a miracle happened. My sister and I had just seen The Loves of Pharaoh in the cinema and I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, out of habit. A lady posted a link to Bestia, or The Polish Dancer, and from the vehicle, I yelled, “Oh, my God!”

Bestia is a movie I have wanted to see for quite a time now. The most important and obvious reason is because it is Pola Negri’s earliest surviving film. This is the only film that survives from her work in Poland, besides a fragment of Arabella.

I had looked for this film everywhere! I only ended up watching twelve minutes of it from a Polish website. It was included in the Pola Negri: Iconic Collection, but it is now out of print. I only imagined how it was…and how she would look in her very early work, aside of what I had seen in excerpts.

The movie is in Youtube and I did take a little time off from my studies and such to see it. It was like seeing a best friend after some time. I missed Pola.

Bestia opens with Pola (yes, the character’s name is Pola) enjoying her adolescence by dancing with her friends and drinking. Her parents are worried because she’s not spending any time at home. She is too busy with her overzealous boyfriend.

The opening shot of the film shows Pola’s longtime love for dogs.

The film turns to a dramatic point when she runs away from home after her father hits her for coming late. She goes to her boyfriend for financial and emotional support and realizes his lifestyle is pauperized. Even at twenty years old, Pola could play a careless teenage girl who will use anyone for her pursuit.

She shares a drink with her boyfriend and a comical part of this movie is when she pretends to take a sip and pours it on the floor when he’s not looking.

But, as a typical character Pola Negri plays, she is not satisfied. Being with him would probably lead to nowhere. Just endless days of poverty! She decides to steal his money and go off to start a new life. He is enraged, of course!

She is hired in a modeling job and here one can see the beginnings of when Pola would speak to the camera with expressions of happiness and extravagance. She really was an outgoing girl! She is seen trying on many feathers and hats and I can just say that the woman was born with inborn style. She studies hard for her modeling career by practicing dances and life brings success for her, which is most unusual for someone who just started being independent.

Screenshot (2870)
Seeing the ballet with her employer.

Screenshot (2871)

There is a part here where she is shown performing in a cabaret. She wears the prettiest raven black dress, cut in half in the calf area, and small black boots. That is how I will always remember the Pola in her young Poland days. She is sharing an incredibly seductive dance with this man. What proves her acting was impressive was that she was quite innocent in those times and on the screen she seduced most of the time. The dance sure was so suggestive that it made me raise my eyebrows for a second.

Someone happens to see her dance and he becomes immediately smitten. He is married and has a daughter and soon starts an affair with Pola. Apparently she becomes very successful from there on and the wife of her new boyfriend suffers a lot. I’m just going to stop here.

This movie was…not that entertaining and kept me yawning most of the time. Besides its crap quality, the course of the story is shoddy and my reaction is indifference. The character of Pola is certainly selfish, but her ability to be independent is impressive. Her ex-boyfriend should have moved on. The married man should’ve certainly heard of common sense.

There were no close-ups in Polish film by this time, I think, so everything was faraway and we had to observe at times about five characters in the same scene move around.

Oh yes, I also believe Pola’s character should grow the hell up.

I can conclude this by writing that my favorite thing in this film was Pola Negri and her radiant personality that felt so exciting to watch. She acted remarkably in a bad movie.

What will keep you watching is her.

I recommend this to individuals who are interested in seeing her early work from her career. To be honest, this makes the bottom of the list of my favorite movies in which she starred.

All in all, I am very glad to have watched this and thankful for the person who shared it.

I strangely want to see it again.


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