It's New Year's Eve. Three drunkards evoke a legend. The legend tells that the last person to die in a year, if he is a great sinner, will have to drive during the whole year the Phantom ... See full summary »
God and Satan war over earth; to settle things, they wager on the soul of Faust, a learned and prayerful alchemist. During a plague, Faust despairs and burns his books after failing to stop death; Satan sends Mephisto to tempt Faust, first with insight into treating the plague and then with a day's return to youth. Mephisto is clever, timing the end of this 24 hours as Faust embraces the beautiful Duchess of Parma. Faust trades his soul for youth. Some time later, he's bored, and demands on Easter Sunday that Mephisto take him home. Faust promptly sees and falls in love with the beautiful Gretchen, whose liaison with him brings her dishonor. Is there redemption? Who wins the wager? Written by
Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau was the most important director of the German expressionism era. He made 22 films from which only 11 have persisted. Murnau often made several different versions of his films, which made it impossible to tell which was the original one. Faust was no exception; he made 9 different versions of it whose editing, rhythm and acting differ from each other. F.W. Murnau did a lot of breakthroughs in cinema - he's the most influential filmmaker of his time. For instance in his earlier film Der Letzte Mann (1924, The Last Laugh) Murnau used the camera as a character for the very first time. It was the first time the audience couldn't tell when you were watching the events as an outsider and when as a character. Faust is no lesser. Eric Rohmer has written about it in his dissertation and Herman G. Weinberg saw Faust as the most beautiful film ever made.
Everybody knows the German writer Goethe who wrote Faust. But the story did live before his play. It lived as a folktale. And this is where the critics did wrong. They thought that Murnau's Faust was a fiasco; probably because they tried to compare it to the original play. But F.W. Murnau did Faust (1926) based on the folktale. So the philosophy of Goethe's Faust was left away. The production company (UFA) of Faust also produced another artistic film, Metropolis by Fritz Lang. When the audience didn't like either of these films the company failed.
Faust is a story about God and Satan who wager. A man, Faust, agrees to sell his soul to Satan so he can have all the power of the world. First he wants to use the power to help the diseased people but the temptations of eternal youth and beauty win. "Damned be the illusion of youth!" Faust is a timeless story because the idea of selling one's soul will always be there. Faustic contracts are still made. There is only one thing that can terminate the contract. Liebe - Love. The flaming word appears on the screen to assure us. Earlier I mentioned the new camera-work of The Last Laugh. But Faust did something new too. It was the first film that was based on the metaphorical force of light and shadow. The use of shadows in Faust is symbolic and brilliant. When talking about light and Murnau one might be reminded of Nosferatu (1922), a Gothic vampire story by F.W. Murnau, where the beams of light killed Nosferatu.
Faust deals with essential and timeless themes. On the surface the themes are good and evil but Faust is much more complex than that. I would recommend this masterpiece of the German Expressionism to all film lovers. I wouldn't be surprised if one said that Faust is the best film ever made. F.w. Murnau manages to capture real humane emotions.
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