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Lesson Faust (1994)
"Faust" (original title)

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A very free adaptation of Marlowe's 'Doctor Faustus', Goethe's 'Faust' and various other treatments of the old legend of the man who sold his soul to the devil. Svankmajer's Faust is a ... See full summary »


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Title: Lesson Faust (1994)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jan Kraus
Vladimír Kudla
Antonin Zacpal
Jirí Suchý
Viktorie Knotková
Jana Mézlová
Miluse Straková
Josef Fiala
Martin Radimecký
Ervín Tomendál
Frantisek Polata
Josef Chodora
Karel Vidimský
Petr Meissel


A very free adaptation of Marlowe's 'Doctor Faustus', Goethe's 'Faust' and various other treatments of the old legend of the man who sold his soul to the devil. Svankmajer's Faust is a nondescript man who, after being lured by a strange map into a sinister puppet theatre, finds himself immersed in an indescribably weird version of the play, blending live actors, clay model animation and giant puppets. Written by Michael Brooke <>

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Release Date:

7 April 1995 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Fausto  »

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Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Czech Republic's official submission to 67th Academy Award's Foreign Language in 1995. See more »


Faust: How comes it then that thou art now out of hell with me?
Mefistofele: Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it. Thinks thou that I, who saw the face of God and tasted the eternal joys of heaven, am not tormented with ten thousand hells in being deprived of everlasting bliss?
See more »


Version of Faust (1960) See more »

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User Reviews

the nightmare and ecstasy of selling your soul to you-know-who
25 April 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Jan Svankmajer probably has visions and dreams that few of us would want to have, but luckily for us he's so creative and talented and all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips with a mound of clay and (in this case) marionettes that he can put them all on display on film. His version of Faust is sometimes confusing, bewildering, and, as I gathered from not reading the original play or (sadly) not yet seeing the Murnau silent feature, not altogether makes a lot of sense. This isn't to say the central premise is lost on me, which is of a man who conjures up the force that is Mephistopheles and sells his soul. This is of course shown at one pivotal moment in the film, but if you think you know what to expect from this outcome or how it's presented you might have to rethink things.

If you've seen Svankmajer's other films, however, like Alice, then some of his approach shouldn't seem too far out... Actually, it is always very far out, but in an approachable manner, told often in a classical style of cinema that relies often on the unspoken. In this case it's not as non-dialog laden as Alice, as there are often scenes with the marionettes going on and on with their dialogs, and then with the man and the Satan figure him/itself (whether it's a man or an 'it' I can't say for sure, as Svankmajer makes it a being who materializes first as some skull, then into a near reflection of the man himself as some crazy theologian). What draws one in is the lack of abandon for narrative, and the chances he takes in making it self-conscious. It would be one thing to present the puppets themselves, but the editing is feverish; cuts go between the puppets, their movements, and then those of the puppeteer's hands. We never see their faces, but we always know someone is pulling the strings. This is key.

But beyond simply that, it's just a pure pleasure to take in how the filmmaker mixes the elements, tricks it up on the audience (i.e. after the marionettes inside for so long, they bust out into the streets without puppeteer's hands), and with the stop motion, and the moments of Bunuelian surrealism with the man going between puppet form and reality, and then out in the middle of some field. I can hardly explain more, and it would be better, after all, if he was allowed to introduce himself. Staggering, near masterpiece work.

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