Art, Culture & Society

“Greed” (1924) – Movie review

The American silent film Greed (1924) was directed by Erich von Stroheim and is based on the novel McTeague, written by Frank Norris in 1899.

What is Greed?

greedIt is a masterful analysis of the different types of greed. This is one of the seven deadly sins or human faults of the Catholic Church, along with anger, gluttony, pride, lust, laziness, and envy. All these deviations of human behavior also appear, to a greater or lesser extent, in some of the characters in the film.

Also in Buddhism, greed is understood as an excessive attachment to things. According to this cultural current, is the origin of human suffering. The goal of a good practitioner, according to this tradition, should be to overcome this attachment through the eightfold path. A series of procedures and techniques that lead to the reduction of this attachment to material goods.

Philosophy has also considered this habit as something alien to virtue. For Aristotle, avarice would be a deficiency when it comes to giving and an excess when it comes to receiving. The middle ground, in which the virtue of generosity would be found, would be the opposite: a balance between giving and taking wealth. For Voltaire, the avaricious end up being dragged down by their passion for things and end up depriving themselves of what is necessary.

Characters in the Film

– Trina (ZaSu Pitts), receives a $5000 prize and ends up feeling an unhealthy obsession with money.
– Dr. John McTeague (Gibson Gowland) a San Francisco dentist, who upon marrying Trina tends to consider his wife’s money as his own as she becomes more and more obsessed with protecting every penny he gets his hands on.
– Marcus Schouler (Jean Herlsholt), Trina’s cousin, friend, and later enemy of McTeague considers McTeague to have “taken his bride.” Therefore his money. He feels an obsession with this couple that lasts until the end of the film and his days.
– Zerlow, a scrap metal dealer who is convinced that, in a fleeting moment, he saw among all the junk a golden crockery. He just has to keep looking for it among the junk until he finds it.
– Maria Miranda Macapa is the one who sells the lottery ticket to Trina. She becomes obsessed with money. When Zerlow tells her that he is about to find the golden crockery and proposes to her, Maria accepts. However, Zerlow ends up accusing her of hiding this china. His delirium goes so far as to murder her.
– Charles W. Grannis and Miss Anastasia Baker, are two retirees, neighbors of Trina and McTeague. They listen to each other through the wall to keep each other company. To stop being alone, they put a door in the wall and get married. It is then that Grannis informs Miss Anastasia Baker that he also has $5000 but this does not cause any change between them, they live oblivious to greed and go on with their lives.

The original film was 9 hours long. However, the director had to shorten it at the request of the production company. So there are several versions of this film that include different parts of the work. A few years ago a compilation of the different versions was made. It was a remastered film of 3h 56 minutes and 18 seconds appeared, which is the longest we have today.

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