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Faust

Faust was the last film the great Murnau made in Germany before going to Hollywood to direct Sunrise. His version of the story of the man who sells his soul to the Devil in return for his youth was a lavish studio production. The masterly sets by leading German designers Robert Herlth and Walter Rohrig were constructed to facilitate elaborate camera set-ups and avoid any staginess. The astonishing visuals conceived by Murnau and cinematographer Carl Hoffman were derived from the old Dutch, German and Italian masters as well as the German romantics.

Stylistically, the film is a tour de force. The opening sequence between an Angel and Satan, and the temptation of Faust (after which Mephistopheles takes him on an astonishingly beautiful journey through the skies) are amazing feats of visual poetry. The central section dealing with Faust’s courtship of Marguerite is portrayed with Murnau’s characteristic attention to revealing details of gesture and expression, while the visual fireworks return for the climax. There are imposing performances too from Gosta Ekman, Emil Jannings and Camilla Horn.

Germany, 1926.
92 mins.

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