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Faust in Hell (1903)

Faust aux enfers (original title)
Scenes. 1. The Route to the Depths of Perdition (a Dazzingly Sensational New Effect.) 2. The Fantastical Ride. 3. The Gloomy Pass. 4. The Stream. 5. The Entrance to the Lower Regions. 6. ... See full summary »

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Scenes. 1. The Route to the Depths of Perdition (a Dazzingly Sensational New Effect.) 2. The Fantastical Ride. 3. The Gloomy Pass. 4. The Stream. 5. The Entrance to the Lower Regions. 6. The Marvelous Grottoes (tableau with six dissolving Scenes.) 7. The Crystal Stalactites 8. The Devil's Hole 9. The Ice Cavern. 10. The Goddesses of Antiquity (a Superb Fantastical Ballet in a Snowstorm.) 11. The Subterranean Cascade (a New Trick with Apparition in a Waterfall.) 12. The Nymphs of the Underworld.--The Seven Headed Hydra--The Demons--The Struggle of Water with Fire (a big Novelty.) 13. The Descent to Satan's Domain (a clever trick now first shown.) 14. The Furnace. 15. The Triumph of Mephistopheles. Written by Lubin Catalog

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12 December 1903 (USA)  »

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Faust in Hell  »

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Falling through Hell
16 August 2013 | by See all my reviews

"The Damnation of Faust" is a relatively weak entry among the story films of Georges Méliès, whose oeuvre includes such early cinema classics as "Bluebeard" (1901), "A Trip to the Moon" (1902), "The Kingdom of the Fairies" (1903) and "The Impossible Voyage" (1904). It does contain one original "trick"—that is, I haven't seen it in any earlier films—but it's a theatrical effect. John Frazer ("Artificially Arranged Scenes") says this was the third of four films Méliès made from the Faust legend. It was also one of many films that Méliès made involving Mephistopheles or another version of the Devil.

There are six scenes, or tableaux, with dissolves transitioning between every scene (per usual of Méliès). Scene three involves removing layers of scenery to reveal the main set, which was a theatrical means to simulate movement that Méliès had become increasingly fond of and used in several of his story films from around this time. The new trick, at least to me, is in scene five when Faust and Mephistopheles fall through a tunnel into the depths of Hell. This tableau was achieved by lowering the hanging actors and raising the wall scenery that occupies the sides of the frame. There's no camera movement or cinematic trickery to it. It's something that can and has been done in live theatre, as well, as opposed to the filmic tricks of substitution splices and multiple exposures that Méliès also relied on throughout his career. As anyone who has seen a few of the cinema magician's other pictures could guess, you should also expect to see a posed theatrical tableau finale and seemingly irrelevant episodes of dancing girls. Yet, "The Damnation of Faust" lacks the comicality of much of Méliès's earlier oeuvre and sets the stage for his even more serious effort, "Faust and Marguerite" (1904).


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