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
Ebert says: "William Dieterle, who plays Gretchen's brother Valentin, fled Hitler, came to Hollywood and had a long career as a director, distinguished by 'The Devil and Daniel Webster' (1941), itself a version of the Faust legend." See more »
Poor Faust, why do you seek death when you have not yet lived?
I hate life!
Your life was only dust and decay! Pleasure is everything!
I am too old!
I offer you the greatest happiness: Youth! Seize it!
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F.W. Murnau's telling of the classic German legend, 'Faust' is a masterpiece to behold. From both the technical and story standpoint, the film excels and despite being nearly eighty years old, Faust still stands tall as one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time. F.W. Murnau has become best known among film fans for 'Nosferatu', but this is unfair to the man. While Nosferatu is something of an achievement; it pales in comparison to this film in every respect. Faust is far more extravagant than Murnau's vampire tale, and it shows his technical brilliance much more effectively. The story is of particular note, and it follows a German alchemist by the name of Faust. As God and Satan war over Earth, the Devil preaches that he will be able to tempt Faust into darkness and so has a wager with God to settle things. Satan sends Mephisto to Earth to offer Faust an end to the plague that is making it's way through the local population, and eternal youth, in return for Faust's soul...
The way that Murnau creates the atmosphere in the film is nothing short of amazing. The lighting and use of shadows is superb, and helps to create a strong sense of dread at the same time as making the film incredibly easy on the eyes. It's the music that's the real star of the show, however, as it's absolutely fantastic and easily ranks up with the greatest scores ever written. The scenery is expressionistic and gives the film a strong sense of beauty (which is increased by the excellent cinematography), especially in the darker scenes; all of which are an absolute delight to behold. The story is undoubtedly one of the most important ever written, and within it is themes of good, evil, religion and most importantly, love. The points are never hammered home, and instead they are allowed to emancipate from the centre of the tale, which allows the audience to see them for themselves rather than being told; and that's just the way a story should be.
It's hard to rate the acting in silent cinema as being a member of a modern audience, I'm used to actors acting with dialogue and judging a performance without that is difficult. However, on the other hand; silent acting is arguably more difficult than acting with dialogue as the only way to portray your feelings to the audience is through expressions and gestures, and in that respect; acting is just another area where this film excels. In fact, there isn't an area that this film doesn't excel in and for that reason; it easily ranks up with the greatest films ever committed to the screen.
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