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F.W. MURNAU S MASTERPIECE OF GERMAN SILENT CINEMA
Mobilizing the full resources of the Ufa Studios, F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu, Sunrise) orchestrated a colossal adaptation of Goethe s FAUST that ranks alongside Fritz Lang s Metropolis as the greatest achievement of the German silent cinema. Gösta Ekman stars as the titular alchemist who, struggling with his faith amidst a devastating plague, is offered the power to cure and the gift of youth... in exchange for his soul. As the diabolical Mephisto, Emil Jannings (The Last Laugh) delivers a performance of operatic scale and intensity, by turns charming, comical, and horrific. This special Kino edition contains the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation s meticulous restoration of the original German version of the film (with unique hand-painted intertitles), as well as a lengthier alternate cut prepared by the Ufa Studios in 1930.
- Two-DVD edition featuring the restored German version (with optional English subtitles) and the previous U.S. release version
- (The Language of Shadows: Faust) a 53-minute documentary on the making of Murnau s film
- New musical score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra in 5.1 Stereo Surround or 2.0 Stereo
- The lost screen test footage of Ernst Lubitsch s abandoned 1923 production Marguerite and Faust.
- Image Gallery
- Essay by film historian Jan Christopher Horak
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In a world struggling against pestilence, famine, and disease Mephisto decides he can attempt a hostile take-over through a real estate deal. The Archangel Michael agrees, that if Mephisto can win Faust over to his side, he gets the kit and kaboodle. Faust is a tired old doctor/alchemist who is disappointed at his inability to offer healing to those with the rampant-running plague. Soon, he calls on Mephisto and strikes up a deal with him. Mephisto gives him youth and pleasures of the world, until Faust falls for a simple girl.
This film is brilliantly done, with fantastic effects and brilliant storytelling. Some scenes are downright eerie, like Mephisto standing over the town with ravens wings. Emil Jennings plays a brilliant Mephisto, somewhere between the brilliant humor of mythical Loki and the dark evil vision of Zarathrustra's Angra Mainyu. Gösta Ekman is brilliant as Faust as well, from withered old man to young libertine, he shows talent rarely seen on the screen in recent time.
Though there aren't a lot of features on this disc, (including a nice photo gallery, a link to Kino's website, and scene selection), the print is beautiful for its age, and the music recently recorded and very appropriate. The price is a little high, but your not purchasing a sad copy for a few bucks, but a masterpiece both in original content and painstaking preservation. This film is worthy of being in any collection interest in great filmmaking.
"Faust" begins as a stylized satanic horror film, rife with the most absolutely jaw-dropping special effects that would not be outdone for decades to come. At the heart of this first act is (unsurprisingly) Faust, a spiritual, saintly man who is forced to play Job to a quarreling Angel and Devil. Unfortunately, Faust has his breaking point and descends, brilliantly, into the world of the damned. For the first hour of the film, we are subjected to cinematic wonder after cinematic wonder as Murnau and crew constantly manage to top each and every visual that they throw at you. Even when Faust signs away his soul and seems to lose all of his dramatic potential, the visuals keep you glued to your seat.
About an hour into the film, though, the film takes an abrupt turn. Just as Faust becomes bored and indecisive with his newfound powers, Murnau seems to become bored and indecisive with the direction of his powerful film. It descends into a black comedy which, although humorous at points, feels highly tedious and out of place. Fortunately, as this chapter wraps up after approximately 30 minutes, it's purpose becomes clear.
The film then transitions into a gritty tragedy about Gretchen, Faust's love interest introduced in the previous act. Like the previous one, this dark and depressing act seems to come out of nowhere, not even featuring Faust and seemingly having little to do with the story begun in the first act.
However, just as Gretchen's fortunes take an even greater turn for the worse, the film makes a stunning transition, leaping to life with brilliant action, drama, effects, camera work, and acting. For the rest of my life, I doubt that I will ever forget Gretchen's primal cry for Faust, visually transcending distance and the boundaries of Hell itself. The film ends soon after, but not before delivering gorgeous, dramatically saturated moment after moment. The end leaves you with a feeling of elated sorrow -- something I never would have expected from what began as an expressionist horror film.
In the end, Faust is a wonderfully cruel love tragedy, soaring with emotion even higher than it ever soared with the best cinematic imagery of its day. "Faust" is a must see for anyone that shares an equal love for satanic horror and divine tragedy. You'll get both in equal measure, here.
Regarding the transfer itself, Kino does an adequate job, but there's certainly room for improvement. The transfer has its share of jumps, scratches, imperfections, and minor over-all graininess, all while suffering from seemingly poor contrast. It's absolutely watchable, but I'd love to see the Murnau Foundation take this film to the next level, making it shine in the way that it deserves to. I do have to say that the score on Kino's release is incredible, though, absolutely complimenting and nurturing every aspect of Murnau's masterpiece with a Wagner-inspired energy. I'd hate to watch this film without it.
**Note: This review pertains to the 2001 Kino release. Kino has since released a newly remastered edition with a different score.
Most recent customer reviews
The Archangel (Werner Fuetterer) and the evil one are in a struggle for the world.Read more
Every shot is an incredible work of art.