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L’Atlantide marked a change of direction for German filmmaker G.W. Pabst. Following a string of features on which he’d made his reputation – the masterpiece Pandora’s Box, the classic World War I picture Westfront 1918, the Brecht adaptation The Threepenny Opera and the mining disaster movie Kameradschaft – Pabst ventured into fresh territory with an adaptation of Pierre Benoît’s fantasy-adventure novel.
Set in 1896, L’Atlantide concerns the exploits of two French officers searching for missing comrades in the desert. During their rescue mission, the pair are kidnapped and taken to the subterranean lair of the goddess Antinéa (played by Metropolis’s Brigitte Helm) in the ruins of the city of Atlantis – the infamous realm had not sunk beneath the sea but instead been buried under the sands of the Sahara.
Shot on location in the Sahara and at Berlin’s Efa Studios, L’Atlantide presents a wonderful fantasy world. Originally filmed by Jacques Feyder in 1920, and later the inspiration for a camp Maria Montez classic, an Italian Hercules picture and a Totò parody among many others, Pabst’s vision of Benoît’s novel remains one of cinema’s best.