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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
Cast: Gosta Ekman, Camilla Horn, Emil Jannings, William Dieterle Review:
Having seen Murnaus Nosferatu and having enjoyed it immensely I had to check out some of his other films. Faust quickly caught my attention. After Murnau made Nosferatu, he was given the opportunity to do whatever film he wanted..and they gave him the huge budget to do it. The result was an impressive, visually stunning, supernatural film.
God and the Devil are fighting for who gets to control humanity. They do a wager, they decide that if Satan (aka as Mephisto) can corrupt Faust then all of humanity would belong to Mephisto. After the wager is on, Mephisto spreads the plague throughout Fausts town and people start dying. He decides to call upon the powers of darkness to help people out.
First off, more then anything, this movie is a true visual feast. How Murnau made this movie with the limited resources he had at the time is a true testament to his talent as a filmmaker. Heck, it was 1926, before make up fx, before stan winston, before blue screens and CGI, before anything! Yet, he managed to create an incredibly rich film. Heck this guy even managed to do a crane shot in the movie! In a scene where Faust and Mephisto are flying through the sky's...the camera swoops over a landscape filled with waterfalls, mountains and cliffs...all in one shot! I was actually amazed how with their limited technological resources Murnau managed to do this type of shot back in those days.
The imagery is amazing...starting with Mephisto spreading his gigantic black wings over Fausts small town. I kid you not when I say that, that image is one of the coolest images I have ever seen on any movie. Images of the horsemen of the apocalypse riding the sky's....angels with swords, Faust conjuring up Mephisto by reading from his book...man this movie was really something to behold. Its all wrapped around that black and white aura that gives the film that eerie feel. Kinda like the same feeling I got when I watched White Zombie. I love black and white horror visuals. And Faust was full of them.
Of special interest to me was that scene where Faust conjures up Mephisto by reading some words from a book, its truly a great movie moment with an incredible supernatural feel. The visuals of those circles of light emanating from the ground up towards the sky...that was amazing. And actually I think that scene influenced Francis Ford Copolla in Bram Stokers Dracula because he uses the exact same image of circles of light emerging from the ground.
Faust fantastical imagery truly demonstrates that Murnau had complete and total control over everything that he showed on the screen. The snow, the wind, the shadows, the lights...all perfectly handled to create the exact mood and feel that was required at them moment. Its quite obvious as well that this movies benefited from a much much bigger budget then Murnaus previous films. The sets look a lot like those on Caligari at times, the detailed miniatures are very well achieved and the extras are plentiful.
The performances are great, better then in Nosferatu. They are sometimes a bit exaggerated, but not as much as in other silent films I've seen before. On this one, the performances seemed just right to me. Of special mention is Emil Jannings as Mephisto. This guy played Beelzebub with some real relish. The character comes off as evil, treacherous, calculating...and he does it all with this smirk on his face. Great character. The make up on him is great and he kinda reminded me at times of Bela Lugosi as Dracula. But overall, hes performance was the best in the film. I also really enjoyed Camilla Horn as Gretchen, her scenes with her baby in the snow were great not only in the acting department but visually as well.
Overall, Id recommend this movie to those of you interested in German silent cinema. Its really something to see how even in those days, the imagination and creativity was there. And even the limited technological resources couldn't hold them back from creating a truly beautiful, haunting, spooky, supernatural film. For those of you who enjoyed films like Murnaus Nosferatu or Robert Wienes The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari then you will most certainly love Faust.
I would certainly say it is far superior to the films mentioned before, yet for some reason doesn't get as much recognition. Check it out schmoes for a slice of the best horror silent cinema ever. Definitely worth a look.
Rating: 5 out of 5
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