Wednesday, October 24, 2012
The demon Mephisto (Emil Jannings) wants dominion over the Earth. An Archangel makes a bet with him that if he can corrupt the soul of the elderly alchemist Faust (Gosta Ekman), he may rule the Earth. Not much of a downside for Mephisto.
A plague is inflicted upon Faust's village and he is powerless to stop it. After losing all hope, he learns that he can have great power by making a pact with the Devil. He does so, but the villagers distrust him when they learn of his new found Satanist leanings. So instead, he has the demon make him young, rich, and sexy. Woo hoo!
After leading the life of Hefner, he decides he wants to go back home. There he meets young Gretchen (Camilla Horn) and falls hopelessly in love. Mephisto agrees to help and everyone lives happily ever after. Promise.
This is F.W. Murnau's best remembered movie after Nosferatu, but in my estimation, this is his best. A box office flop, it was the most complex German production to date. Early on while watching it I thought it would be ripe for a sound remake (in fact there are many, plus several made prior) but soon I realized there was no need. The barrier presented by silent cinema was lifted by tremendous visual storytelling. The Kino edition was wonderfully restored and a retelling of this interpretation would be an exercise in futility.
Readers may remember Jannings from The Blue Angel. The Nazi sympathizer would continue his successful career until god struck him down with cancer. Young Gosta playing Old Faust was enthralled by the local cuisine of Germany and took home a passionate love of cocaine. Twelve years later he would be dead. Director Murnau survived being a World War I combat pilot only to die in a car accident at age 42. Ingenue Camilla lived to the ripe old age of 93.
Great visual appeal and marvelous storytelling. And there is way more to the story than I am letting on. AMRU 4.5.