I had tried to do my homework before seeing this film, so I already knew that it was the vehicle that made Greta Garbo a huge star. I also knew that this film began the real-life stormy love affair of the two stars. However, even if you did not know that Garbo and Gilbert were lovers offscreen, you would have figured it out very quickly upon seeing them together.
There was no artifice in their scenes together. The first scene where Gilbert sees Garbo as she gets off the train at the station--that look is one of a man completely besotted by love. It gives you the chills to peek into someone's heart like that.
"It was an explosion. I've never seen two people so violently, excitedly in love. I mean when she walked through a door if he was in the room he went white and took a great, long breath and then walked toward her as though he were being yanked by a magnet or something." ...Director Clarence Brown said that when he would shoot a love scene with the two he would finish the filming and leave them alone. "It was embarrassing," he said, feeling like an intruder.
I wish more people were exposed to and had the chance to learn to enjoy these movies. The perception that they are irrelevant could not be more untrue. To quote The Boy: Silent movies are anything but silent. The way Garbo hands Gilbert the cigarette that she has been toying with in her lips...um, that cigarette is anything but a cigarette. She knows it, he knows it, and so do you. These movies are full of moments of extreme feeling and emotion because actors need more than dialogue to tell you their story.
What I love about these films are the nuances. The things that exist between the words. If you know what to look for and even if you don't.