Diary of a Lost Girl showcases the problem of “lost girls” who have mental breakdowns or have a baby out-of-wedlock and then shipped to these reformatory houses. Our protagonist is a young woman who is taken advantage of by her father’s employee and becomes pregnant. Once she has the baby, her family ships her off to reformatory house where she is forced to eat black soup and put up with daily torture from the crazy woman with a mustache. Once she breaks free of the oppressive house, she is forced into prostitution by her destitution. She comes into money via the man she marries and then goes back to the reformatory to “reform” it.
From an intellectual stand point, this film is rife with important questions that the audience has to ask themselves.Questions as to why they need to hide these young women from view, why she decided to not give up who raped her, and how people of a higher society (economically) wouldn’t find a reason to better their conditions until the young woman decides to do it. From a purely intellectual level, you can see this film as the definition of first wave feminism, because of the issues it raises about rape and reformatories and forced prostitution.
But from a plot and emotional standpoint, this film is boring and full of contrivances. Several plot points seem to exist only for a moment and then erased again. For instance she seems to have a fainting problem that only comes up when it helps her get raped and then later on to get yelled at by the mustachioed woman. There are no other times she faints. If that was really a problem for her wouldn’t she being doing it a lot? Wouldn’t something be mentioned about her having some sort of condition. But the film doesn’t care to explain it at all. Instead they just assume that every woman faints at the most oppurtune moment in real life also.
I have grievances with a lot of social problem films. Most of the time, the filmmakers want to make the protagonist (especially if it is a female, but it also happens with males) like a perfect angel that falls into this problem no matter what she tries to do.The protagonist is usually naive and therefore taken advantage of quite easily. It isn’t a realistic depiction of the problem they are trying to address. Most women don’t just fall unconcious for no reason or have a formerly rich lover who gets his money back after he dies. It just isn’t the way it happens. Thousands of women get raped every year and most of the time it is a brutal affair where the woman is concsious the whole time. These women also can’t solve all their problems by having a rich relation. They were born poor, stay poor, and die poor. But of course that isn’t very convienant for films is it?
I would not recommend this film for several reasons, none of them being the direction or the performance of Louise Brooks. I think both are handled well, but instead of seeing this film, I would recommend watching Pandora’s Box instead.