Faust (1926 film)

Faust (1926 film)

name = Faust

| caption =
amg_id = 1:16943
imdb_id = 0016847
writer = Hans Kyser
starring = Gösta Ekman
Emil Jannings
Camilla Horn
Wilhelm Dieterle
Frida Richard
Yvette Guilbert
director = F.W. Murnau
producer = Erich Pommer
distributor = UFA
released =
runtime = 106 min
language = Silent film
German intertitles
country = flagicon|Germany Weimar Germany
budget = 2 million marks

"Faust" is a classic silent film produced in 1926 by UFA, directed by F.W. Murnau, starring Gösta Ekman as Faust, Emil Jannings as Mephisto, Camilla Horn as Gretchen/Marguerite, Frida Richard as her mother, Wilhelm Dieterle as her brother and Yvette Guilbert as Marthe Schwerdtlein, her aunt. Murnau's film draws on older traditions of the legendary tale of Faust as well as on Goethe's classic version.


*This carefully composed and innovative feature contains many memorable images and special effects, with careful attention paid to contrasts of light and dark. Particularly striking is the sequence in which the giant, horned and black winged figure of Mephisto (Jannings) hovers over a town sowing the seeds of plague. The acting by Ekman (who miraculously transforms, in the course of the film, from a bearded old man to a handsome youth) and the sinister, scowling, demonic Jannings is first rate and the virtually unknown actress Camilla Horn gives a memorable performance as the tragic figure of Gretchen.

"Faust" would be Murnau's last German movie, before moving to the US under contract to William Fox to direct "Sunrise" (1927). [http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/film_review.asp?ID=2342] Also known as:
*Faust - Eine deutsche Volkssage
*Faust: A German Folk Legend (Canada: English title)

The Story

Mephisto has a bet with an angel that he can corrupt Faust's soul. The Devil delivers a plague to the village where elderly alchemist Faust lives. Though he prays to stop the death and starvation, nothing happens. Faust then makes a bargain with the Devil. Faust will have the service of Mephisto till the sands run out in an hourglass, at which time the Satan will do as he wishes. At first, Faust uses his new power to help the people of the village, but they shun him when they find out that Faust cannot face a cross.

Later, Satan gives Faust back his youth and offers him earthly pleasures and a kingdom. Faust falls in love with a girl, but he is later framed for the murder of her brother by Satan and flees to hell. The girl has a child (by Faust) but is cast out into a blizzard where the child dies, and she is sent to the stake as a murderess. Faust sees what is happening and demands Satan take him there. Faust arrives as the fire has been started to burn his lover. Satan robs Faust of his youth and with nothing left to live for, Faust plunges onto the fires to be with the woman he loves. Though an old man, she recognizes Faust and sees him as a young man again as the fires consume them together. The angel reveals to Satan that he has lost the bet because love has triumphed over all.

The five Fausts

*May 1926 - The just-finished version of "Faust" by Murnau is the most complex and expensive production done by UFA to date: 6 months of filming, 2 million marks -- "Faust" would be surpassed by "Metropolis" one year later -- thousands of metres of film and an international cast led by Emil Jannings. Film historians defend "Faust" changed the studio shooting and the special effects techniques. Murnau uses two cameras, both filming multiple shots -- plans were filmed time and again (e.g., the short kiss scene took an entire day of filming, extending the day into 10 p.m., as Murnau couldn't get a shot he considered satisfactory). The distinct copies made will be shipped across the globe.

*There were, thus, several versions created of "Faust", several of them prepared by Murnau himself. The versions are quite different from one another (scenes with different planning, different pace, actors with different costumes, different angles). For example, the scene involving a bear has been shot with both a person in costume and an actual bear. In some versions, the bear just stands there; in another, it actually strikes an actor.

*Overall, it is now considered there are five versions of "Faust", out of the over thirty copies found across the globe (these may differ among themselves for new titles): a German original version (of which the only surviving copy is in the Danish Film Institute), a French version, a late German version (existing in two copies), a bilingual version for Europe prepared by UFA, and a version prepared for the US market by Murnau himself, for MGM, in July 1926.

*Unfortunately, the copy of the original German version has a number of missing moments. Still, with the copies available, a fair reconstruction of the original edit has been possible and works out to 106 minutes, now available with English subtitles on DVD. A commentary is also an optional extra on the DVD.

*The original intertitles have also been recovered, as they've been used in the late German version.

*The US version includes titles and scenes filmed especially by Murnau, where for example the scene where aunt Marthe offers a drink to Mephisto he rejects for causing stomach burn: in the US version, Mephisto rejects the drink for having alcohol, in a joke aimed at the Prohibition era, with the Devil rejecting alcohol; again in the US version, Mephisto offers Marta a necklace, from the Great Khan of the Tartars, rather than the cousin from Lombardy, as Murnau believed the US audience would not know what Lombardy was. One scene was done with a text juxtaposition, as again Murnau believed the American audience wouldn't grasp the imagery by itself. This is also the only version having the originally conceived finale scene, of ascension of Faust and Gretchen to Heaven. In all others, the scene is rather more conceptual and sketchy. Books appearing in the film were labeled or any plans with text were shot twice: in German and in English.

*The bilingual version was prepared to be shown aboard the boats travelling from Hamburg to New York, which catered to both American and German audiences.

*The French version is generally believed to represent the poorest choice of scenes, both including the largest number of filming errors (e.g., showing assistants holding doors, actors slipping, Gretchen stepping on her dress, show the stage maquette). It does hold, however, some rather beautiful takes that do not exist in any other version.


*Lillian Gish was first offered the role of Gretchen/Marguerite. She however insisted on working with cameraman Charles Rosher, which was not allowed.
*The first person UFA designated to direct "Faust" was Ludwig Berger, as F.W. Murnau was engaged with Variety. Murnau's interest however made him pressure the producer and, backed by Emil Jannings, eventually persuaded Erich Pommer to let him direct the movie.
*When the movie opened in the Ufa-Palast am Zoo of Berlin, Murnau did not attend - he was directing in Hollywood for Fox. Emil Jannings didn't attend either.
*Of the 2 million marks of cost, only half was recovered at the box office.
*Walt Disney's 1940 animated film Fantasia includes a Night on Bald Mountain sequence which was inspired by Faust.


* In 2006, A DVD version of the film was released with a new soundtrack performed on the Harp by Stan Ambrose.

*In 2004, British musician and composer Geoff Smith composed a new soundtrack to the film for the hammered dulcimer, which he performed live as an accompaniment to the film.

*In 2003, a DVD was released in Spain, containing a detailed documentary by Filmoteca Española on the making of Faust, as well as a comparative analysis of the several copies and versions released.


*"Los cinco Faustos", documentary film by Filmoteca Española.

See also

*List of films made in Weimar Germany

External links

*" [http://www.cultcargo.net/modules/AMS/article.php?storyid=28 Interview with Stan Ambrose about his recent reworking of the soundtrack to Faust] " at [http://www.cultcargo.net Cult Cargo]
*" [http://artsandfaith.com/t100/2005/entry.php?film=294 Faust] " at the [http://artsandfaith.com/top100/ Arts & Faith Top100 Spiritually Significant Films] list
*imdb title|id=0016847|title=Faust
* [http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7688523464781787807 Faust] at Google Video
* Download [http://www.archive.org/details/Faust_1926 Faust] on the Internet Archive
*" [http://www.celtoslavica.de/chiaroscuro/films/faust/faust.html chiaroscuro] "
*" [http://www.cinemah.com/ipertesti/faust/ cinemah (12 screenshots analyzed in Italian)] "
*" [http://internettrash.com/users/murnau/faust.htm German Murnau page with screenshots at internettrash.com] "
*" [http://www.imagesjournal.com/issue10/reviews/murnau/text.htm Gary Johnson in imagesjournal.com] "

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