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Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Directed by F.W. Murnau

Watching great silent movies is an uncommon delight that transports the willing viewer into the flickering spell of another world and the trip is especially worthwhile when a genius like Murnau is at the helm. Murnau directed four of the most respected and revered films of the silent era, "Nosferatu"(1921), "The Last Laugh"(1924), "Sunrise"(1927), and the rich visual feast known as "Faust". "Faust" was based on the play of the same name by Goethe and tells the old story of a man signing his soul away to the devil to gain access to worldly powers. This fable is a minor obsession with me. I've even made a couple disastrous attempts to pen my own artistic interpretation but I can take comfort in knowing that I am not alone in this pursuit. It's been given various literary treatments, inspired Classical composers (the Berlioz opera "Le Damnation de Faust" and the Liszt symphonic poem "Mephisto Waltz" being two famous examples) and has been committed to film in a variety of ways. I've never seen a version that comes close to this overlooked treasure from 1926. Working with a hefty budget, Murnau called forth the supernatural in real necromancer fashion. He knew how to cast a spell and he also knew how to cast a role. Employing the considerable talents of the legendary Emil Jennings to play the Devil was a stroke of genius. Although Jennings brings a fair amount of impish playfulness to the part there are some truly creepy moments, especially when he is initially summoned by Faust and shows up grinning with eyes aglow. A noteworthy bonus is the lovely Camilla Horn cast in the role of Gretchen and it always tears me up to see her tied to the stake and going up in flames. "As Thou art called by thy unholy name- Mephisto appear!"


Blogger ThePropheticNumber5 said...

Oddly enough, the image I remember the most from Faust would be the scene showing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Very surreal and damn frightening on a religious level. I kinda wish there existed a quarter-operated version of them that I could ride every now and then when the mood strikes me. I also think that Emil Jennings made the movie. He has that look about him that says "devil".

12:20 AM  

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