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A dizzying blend of German Romanticism, Orientalism, and Expressionism, Fritz Lang s DESTINY (Der made Tod) marked a bold step for Lang, away from the conventional melodrama and into the kind of high-concept filmmaking that would culminate in such über-stylized works as Die Nibelungen and Metropolis. DESTINY is a visually ambitious, cinematic allegory in which a young woman (Lil Dagover) confronts the personification of Death (Bernhard Goetzke), in an effort to save the life of her fiancé (Walter Janssen). She is transported to a Gothic cathedral, where lives are represented as burning candles of varying length. Death weaves three romantic tragedies, and offers to unite the girl with her lover, if she can prevent the death of the lovers in at least one of the episodes. Thus begin three exotic scenarios of ill-fated love, in which the woman must somehow reverse the course of destiny: Persia, Quattrocento Venice, and a fancifully-rendered ancient China. Restored by Anke Wilkening on behalf of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, this definitive presentation of Destiny preserves the original German intertitles and simulates the historic color tinting and toning of its initial release. Accompanying the film is a newly-composed score by Cornelius Schwehr as a commissioned composition by ZDF / ARTE performed by the 70-member Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Frank Strobel.
Bonus Features: German Intertitles with Optional English Subtitles, Audio Commentary by film historian Tim Lucas, 2016 Re-release trailer, Comparison of B&W / Color Footage
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Along with visually enthralling scenes and haunting images, perhaps the most poignant part of this special film is the young woman's deep love for her fiance, whose life was taken much too soon. Determined to reclaim his life somehow, she firmly believes that "love is stronger than death" and sets about making a deal with the mysterious dark stranger who represents Death who dwells in another dimension, in a dark room full of many burning candles, each one representing a human life. It is his unenviable job to extinguish a candle's flame when God has decided someone's time to die has arrived, but the man called Death has grown tired of this chore and the suffering it causes people. In the course of making this deal with Death and Destiny, the desperate young woman is transported to three separate realities: old-world Persia with the charm of the Arabian Nights; Renaissance Venice and ancient China with all its rich traditions, but each setting contains the same tragic fate of lovers separated too soon by death which she cannot prevent, no matter how hard she tries. Fine attention to detail, costumes and exquisitely designed sets give these three other worlds extra vibrant beauty, and the superb musical score by Rodney Sauer and the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra heightens the beautiful, poetic and mesmerizing atmosphere of the film.
Destiny is far more than a ghost or horror story, or a fantasy with supernatural themes; it is a beautiful work of art, crafted by a master of cinema, whose work continued to excel in later decades in the United States in the Film Noir genre, but reached its creative zenith already in the silent era of Germany in the 1920s.
The stranger, of course, is Death, and within the walls of his `garden' reside the souls of the newly dead and the innumerable candles whose flames melt the tallow of all human life. Death attends the young man he is about to claim. The woman leaves the room for a moment, and when she returns the stranger and her beloved are gone. The woman gives chases, sees the shade of her beloved pass through the impassable wall to Death's garden. An old apothecary finds the distraught woman and shelters her in his pharmacy. The woman drinks a potion from an ancient bottle and is again in front of the walled garden - although now there is a door opening to a steep staircase. The woman enters and meets Death of the staircases. I want to go where my beloved is, the woman tells him.
Death strikes a bargain - if the woman can save the life of just one of three whose candle has grown short, he will return her fiancé to her.
I liked Fritz Lang's DESTINY (Der Müde Tod) a lot. Death's bargain plunges the movie into three episodes, as the actors playing the loving couple and Death reenact endangered love stories in Arab, Italian and Chinese settings. Lang employs primitive, and effective, tricks - camera angles, double exposures, etc. - to show the dead filing past the living, to make carpets fly and to transform pagoda into elephants. Underpinning it all is the fascinating struggle between Death and Love. It's Lang's meditation on this struggle that I enjoyed the most. After that poignant scene on the staircase I was hooked on the woman's quest for reunion.
The musical underscore is appropriate, tasteful and unobtrusive. The print is in good condition, watchable with flares and scratches. Although this disk is a little pricey, it contains no extras of any kind.
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. I'mnot really a film buff' I like silent movies they involve me more. The quality seems excellent. I enjoyed this.