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While this film does not have the amazing scenes with breathtaking cinematography like FAUST or SUNRISE, this Murnau film still does excel due to the camera-work and great care taken in its production. And, while not the very best silent film available, it's certainly among the better ones.
This story differs from Molière's play in that the entire play is actually part of a larger story--with a prologue and epilogue. The story begins with a rich old man living alone with his supposedly devoted housekeeper. She has convinced the man that his grandson is evil and should be disinherited because he is, oh, horrors,...an ACTOR!!! Instead, she's fooled him into making her the beneficiary. When the grandson shows up to say hello, the old man chases him away and it appears the housekeeper has won. However, given that the young man is an actor, he dresses up as a traveling showman and comes to the house to show them a film--TARTUFFE.
The film stars Emil Jannings as the evil priest, Tartuffe, who has fooled a rich nobleman into forsaking the pleasures of life and becoming an aesthetic, like him. But, the man's wife soon realizes the priest is a charlatan and much of the movie is spent trying to trap the priest in his lies. Naturally, all this is symbolic of the relationship between the housekeeper and the rich man.
The sets, direction and acting are all excellent. The acting is rather restrained compared to some silent films and the story is told in a brisk and watchable manner.
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