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The Student of Prague (1913)

Der Student von Prag (original title)
Balduin, a student of Prague, leaves his roystering companions in the beer garden, when he finds he has reached the end of his resources. He is scarcely seated in a quiet corner when a ... See full summary »

Directors:

Paul Wegener, Stellan Rye (co-director)

Writers:

Hanns Heinz Ewers (story), Hanns Heinz Ewers (adaptation) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview:
Paul Wegener ... Balduin, a Student
Grete Berger Grete Berger ... Countess Margit von Schwarzenberg
Lyda Salmonova ... Lyduschka, a Gypsy Girl (as L. Salmonowa)
John Gottowt John Gottowt ... Scapinelli, an Old Sorcerer
Lothar Körner Lothar Körner ... Count von Schwarzenberg, Margit's Father
Fritz Weidemann Fritz Weidemann ... Baron Waldis-Schwarzenberg, Margit's Cousin, betrothed
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Storyline

Balduin, a student of Prague, leaves his roystering companions in the beer garden, when he finds he has reached the end of his resources. He is scarcely seated in a quiet corner when a hideous, shriveled-up old man taps him upon the shoulder and whispers vaguely of a big inheritance for Prague's finest swordsman and wildest student if he will enter into a certain agreement. Balduin rebuffs him, satirically asking his weird companion to procure him "the luckiest ticket in a lottery or a doweried wife." The old man goes off chuckling and thence onward persistently shadows Balduin, exerting a sinister influence over him, while Balduin is still disconsolate under the frowns of fortune. The Countess Margit Schwarzenberg, hunting with her cousin, to whom her father has betrothed her, meets with an accident. She is thrown over her horse's head into a river, but Balduin, who has been directed to the spot by his evil genius, plunges in and rescues her. Subsequently Balduin calls to inquire as ... Written by Moving Picture World synopsis

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Certificate:

Approved
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Details

Official Sites:

Official site [Germany]

Country:

Germany

Language:

German | English

Release Date:

September 1913 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Bargain with Satan See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Deutsche Bioscop GmbH See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(Alpha Video) | (restored) | (English Language Version)

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

4:3
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This is sometimes considered to be the first horror film ever made. See more »

Connections

Remade as The Student of Prague (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The German Cinema to Come
2 August 2004 | by CineanalystSee all my reviews

"The Student of Prague" is an early feature-length horror drama or, rather, it is an "autorenfilm" (i.e. an author's film). It's a piece of a movement of many movements that tried to lend cultural respectability to cinema, or just make a profit, by adapting literature or theatre onto the screen. Fortunately, the story of this book with moving pictures is good. Using Alfred de Musset's poem and a story by Edgar Allen Poe, it centers on a doppelgänger theme.

Unfortunately, the most cinematic this film gets is the double exposure effects to make Paul Wegener appear twice within scenes. Guido Seeber was a special effects wizard for his day, but he's not very good at positioning the camera or moving it. Film scholar Leon Hunt (printed in "Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative"), however, has made an interesting analysis on this film using framing to amplify the doubles theme: characters being split by left/right, near/far and frontal/diagonal framing of characters and shots. Regardless, the film mostly consists of extended long shots from a fixed position, which is noticeably primitive. Worse is the lack of editing; there's very little scene dissection and scenes linger. None of this is unusual for 1913, but there were more advanced pictures in this respect around the same time, including the better parts of "Atlantis" (August Blom, 1913), "Twilight of a Woman's Soul" (Yevgeni Bauer, 1913) and the short films of D.W. Griffith.

An expanded universal film vocabulary by 1926 would allow for a superior remake. Furthermore, the remake has a reason for the Lyduschka character--other than being an occasional troublemaker and spectator surrogate. Here, the obtrusively acted gypsy lurks around, seemingly, with a cloak of invisibility. I know their world is silent to me, but I assume, with their lips moving and such, that their world would not be silent to them, so how can Lyduschka leer over others' shoulders and not be noticed?

Nevertheless, this is one of the most interesting early films conceptually. Wegener, who seems to have been the primary mind behind it, in addition to playing the lead, would later play the title role and co-direct "The Golem" in 1920--helping to further inaugurate a dark, supernatural thread in German silent cinema.

(Note: The first version I viewed was about an hour long (surely not quite complete) and was in poor condition, with faces bleached at times and such. I'm not sure who was the distributor. I've also since seen the Alpha DVD, which, at 41 minutes, is missing footage present in the aforementioned print and also has fewer and very different title cards, but is visually not as bad. The repetitive score is best muted, though.)


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