"Eternal Love" (1929) is a silent romantic drama starring John Barrymore, Camilla Horn, and Victor Varconi. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, this film is about how the jealousy of others can destroy a couple's happy plans. The story begins in 1806, when France and Austria are fighting one another and the Swiss village of Pontresina is caught in the middle. The French military officers demand that all men in the village surrender their weapons. All the men immediately surrender their weapons except for hunter Marcus Paltran, played by John Barrymore, a loner who is in love with Ciglia, played by Camilla Horn, the niece of the town priest, Reverend Tass, played by Hobart Bosworth. Marcus is pursued by Pia, played by Mona Rico, a wild mountain girl whose interest in him is purely sexual. Marcus is hunting for his dinner in the mountains when the villagers hear his gun noise after they had given up their guns. As Marcus is leaving the mountains with his meat, Pia shows up just to flirt with him and this annoys him. By the time he is back in the village, everybody is pressuring him to give up his gun. Marcus refuses until Ciglia persuades him for the safety of their village. Shortly after the French army is driven from the village, the villagers celebrate by throwing a masked ball with a great deal of liquor. After getting drunk at the masked ball, Marcus makes a pass at Ciglia. In a moment of anger, she rejects him. Marcus leaves only to run into Pia who takes advantage of the situation to seduce him. They end up in Marcus's bed together. When Ciglia and Marcus decide to get married with her father's consent it is spoiled when Pia finds out and tells her mother that she and Marcus spent one night together. Pia's mother wastes no time in telling Reverend Tass about what happened between her daughter and Marcus. At this point, Marcus is forced by Reverend Tass to give up Ciglia and marry Pia. Ciglia is heartbroken until Lorenz Gruber, played by Victor Varconi, starts courting her. They end up getting married, but Ciglia is still in love with Marcus. When he realizes that Ciglia is still in love with Marcus, Lorenz decides to murder his rival. How will this love quadrangle end?
The late silent film era in Hollywood saw a number of artistic films made by European directors. F.W. Murnau's "Sunrise" (1927) is perhaps the most obvious example, but Ernst Lubitsch's "Eternal Love" (1929) is definitely in that category. This film has all the elements of a German film. Mountain backgrounds and dark shadows in the film are elements that were created in German cinema and later destroyed by the Nazis. "Eternal Love" is a visually beautiful film which is derived mainly from the outstanding cinematography of Oscar-winner Charles Rosher, who covers the depths of interiors in gloom and shows the actors in sharp detail. Filmed not in Switzerland but in the Canadian Rockies, Lubitsch makes the most of both setting and starring actors. Lubitsch's earlier work back in Germany showed his skill in various kinds of comedies. Even though "Eternal Love" is a romantic drama, the Lubitsch sophistication is definitely there. Both John Barrymore and Camilla Horn give top-notch performances. Matinee idol John Barrymore could always play a role in which he conveyed passionate love so magnificently. With such a beautiful setting, intense plot, and Lubitsch's expert direction, "Eternal Love" is one of the gems of the late silent era that deserves a viewing.