Archive for January 28th, 2010

by Allan Fish

(Germany 1926 116m) DVD2 (DVD1 export version only)

Aka. Faust: Eine Deutsche Volkssage

Go to a cross road and call upon him three times

Erich Pommer  d  Friedrich W.Murnau  w  Hans Kyser  books  Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe  ph  Carl Hoffman  ed  Friedrich W.Murnau  Werner R.Heymann, Erno Rapee (Timothy Brock 1997/2006 restoration)  art  Robert Herith, Walter Röhrig  cos  Georges Annekov

Gösta Ekman (Faust), Emil Jannings (Mephistopheles), Camilla Horn (Gretchen), Yvette Guilbert (Marthe Schwertdlein), William Dieterle (Valentin, Gretchen’s brother), Frida Richard (Gretchen’s mother), Eric Barclay (Duke of Parma), Hanna Ralph (Duchess of Parma), Werner Fuetterer (Archangel),

At the time I write in 2006, we have become accustomed to, and somewhat take for granted, the sterling efforts of film restorers to bring the masterpieces of yore back to gleaming cinematic life, making them look arguably better than they did even on release.  In 2006, however, a further step was taken that is unlikely to be repeated; up until that time the only version of Murnau’s silent masterpiece seen was commonly referred to as the ‘export version’, which was made up of takes which Murnau discarded from his perfectionist German print.  Even in that almost second-hand form it was a near masterpiece, but the release in 2006 of that original, long thought lost German version, was more than a subject for rejoicing, it was almost a cinematic epiphany.

            Murnau’s vision borrows heavily from various previous interpretations by Goethe, Marlowe and Gounod, and shows the fight between the forces of darkness, and those of light personified by an unnamed archangel.  The Devil, Mephistopheles, wagers the archangel that, if he can turn the almost saintly old professor and theologian Faust to the dark side, as it were, the forces of light must surrender the Earth to the forces of darkness.  Mephisto spreads a pestilent plague on Faust’s home town from which few are spared and, in his desperation to save his townsfolk, Faust makes a fateful decision. (more…)

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