Dragoon Don José (Harry Liedtke) comes from the provinces to Seville, where he is to be promoted. There he meets the attractive Carmen (Pola Negri), who works as a cigarette maker by day and turns men’s heads by night. When Carmen is arrested after a brawl in her factory, José is assigned to guard her. But Carmen sweet-talks him and he helps her escape. As punishment, he is demoted again and serves as a simple guard soldier. When he meets Carmen again, she distracts him to make sure a gang of smugglers led by her remains undetected. After José is expelled from the army for killing an officer in a duel, he joins Carmen’s smuggling ring. But then he realizes that Carmen’s love is reserved solely for the bullfighter Escamillo (Leopold von Ladengast)…
Lubitsch’s screen adaptation of a popular love drama based on the opera by Georges Bizet was made in the summer of 1918 and was his first major production. Historic Seville streets were recreated in the PAGU studios in Tempelhof, and hundreds of extras in early 19th-century costume took part in the crowd scenes. Pola Negri as the spirited title character largely dominates the film. Under the title GYPSY BLOOD, Ernst Lubitsch’s Carmen adaptation ran successfully in American cinemas; the first building block of his later Hollywood career.
CARMEN underwent extensive digital restoration by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation with financial support from Bertelsmann. In August 2021, it was presented to the public again for the first time in a largely completed edited version and with reconstructed coloring.
ARTE will broadcast CARMEN on September 27, 2021 at 11.30 p.m.