(1926), directed by F.W. Murnau, epitomises the German Cinema's horror movie output from
Faust: Eine Deutsche
(1926/UFA.) 107mins. BW. Silent. Germany.
Credits: Dir: F.W. Murnau & Karl Freund; Prod: Erich Pommer; Sc: Hans Kyser, F.W. Murnau & Thea von Harbou; Ph:
Carl Hoffman; Sets & Costumes: Robert Herlth, Walter
Rohrig & Arno Richter; Mus: Erno Rapee, Werner Richard Heymann & Paul A.
Hensel. Based on the story by Goethe.
Cast: Gosta Ekman, Emil Jannings, Camilla Horn, Yvette Guilbert, Frieda Richard, William
Dieterle, Eric Barclay, Hanna Ralph, Werner Futterer, Hans Brausewetter, Lothar Mothel,
Hans Rameau, Hertha von Walther, Emmy Wyda.
If one film epitomises the chiaroscuro from the golden-age of the German cinema, it is
surely Murnau's FAUST available in this country on video with a clean, crisp print and a
full-bodied music score by Andrew Youdell. (article written in 1994)
More artistically resplendent than Murnau's most notorious contribution Nosferatu, FAUST represents Murnau's maturity in all
aspects of his talent.
The film opens with the Devil,
(Emil Jannings), boasting to the Archangel St. Michael, (Werner Futterer, a part
originally offered to Nils Asther), that he can corrupt anyone on Earth and chooses an
elderly alchemist named Faust, (Gosta Ekman), bargaining that if he can be influenced to
commit only evil then Satan shall be given dominion over the Earth.
While Faust persists frantically to find a cure for a plague that has descended on the
village caused by none other than the Devil himself, Faust invokes the Devil and signs a
pact with tall hatted Mephistopheles that will help him eradicate the disease. However,
the townspeople refuse the Devil's medicine and Faust attempts suicide, but Mephisto
tempts him with an offer of eternal youth, and the love of a young girl named Gretchen,
(Camilla Horn), in exchange for his soul . Faust flees from the town when he kills
Gretchen's brother Valentine in a duel, leaving her to be accused of the murder and
sentenced to burn at the stake. When Faust hears Gretchen's call for help he renounces his
youth and his life for her, demanding that the Devil takes him through the air to the
place of Gretchen's execution. Both burn at the stake and ascend into Heaven, proving that
love is stronger than evil.
Abound with memorable images and visual beauty, the film is a
triumph for those in front of, and behind the camera. Carl Hoffman, in close collaboration
with set designers Robert Herlth and Walter Rohrig, helps bring out the best of Murnau's
most grandiose production, his last before relocating to America.
One sequence that stands out depicts the descent of the plague over the little village as
Mesiphtopheles throws the shadow of his cape across the community. For this shot Emil
Jannings had to be suspended on wires for three hours, his black cape billowing in the
wind created by three electric fans as black soot was blown onto the miniature village.
Some critics have expressed that the story becomes too cluttered with comic subplots, but
amidst the atmosphere and imagery that can only be considered pure cinema, this becomes an
The role of Gretchen was initially offered to Lillian
Gish, but she declined when her insistence to use Charles Rosher as chief cameraman was
The full reconstruction of the film by Luciano Berriata of the Filmoteca Espanola was
made using footage from several available prints.
Actor Wilhelm Dieterle later became William Dieterle who directed The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) and the Faustian tale transferred
to New England in All That Money Can Buy (1940).
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