Faust (1926) – F.W. Murnau

DK Canada’s The Movie Book brings me some more F.W. Murnau. The film highlighted in the book is Sunrise, which I’d previously reviewed, and I’ve viewed his Key Movies, so I moved on to What Else to Watch and dug into his adaptation of the classic tale of Faust.

Taking into account the time in which the film was made, the special effects (the flying sequence and model work for it, is pretty impressive), and practical makeup and costume design at work is pretty amazing.

The classic tale follows the demon Mephisto (Emil Jannings) who wagers with the Heavenly Host that he can corrupt a man’s mortal soul. Enter Faust (Gosta Ekman).

The man is a doctor, of sorts, and a religious man, who is aggrieved when the plague strikes his town, spreading across the countryside (caused by Mephisto). He prays on what to do, and tries to seek an answer to the disease.

He is willing to do anything he can to save his city, and when he comes across an ancient tome that tells him the devil will grant him all his wishes for might and glory on Earth, he risks everything, including his immortal soul, to do it.

Although, knowing Mephisto, will he abide by his own rules, and will Faust truly be damning himself to save the rest of the city?

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This is a theme I’ve always found fascinating, and enjoyed. A good man, damning himself for the benefit and good of everyone else. But that won’t stop Mephisto from trying to corrupt the man completely, to use the powers he has been given by the devil for evil.

He is tempted with youth, sex, and seems to tumble further and further under Mephisto’s powers. But when he is the cause of a dishonour for a young innocent woman, Gretchen (Camilla Horn) he realises what he has done, and how far he has fallen.

But is it too late? Has Mephisto won his wager?

Murnau created some stunning, and some unnerving images, in a tale that still resonates through the decades. I’ve always known the bare bones of the story, but had never seen an adaptation of it, and this one was definitely a great one to be first.

Murnau, his cast and crew created something powerful and incredible with his version of the film, and those special effects – simply stunning.

In the end though it is the story that makes this film, and it is powerful, engaging, and as all good tales should, makes you think.

What a fantastic film, and we’re still only in the early pages of DK Canada’s The Movie Book – you should really pick one up and explore some of the amazing titles that you may have never seen, or perhaps even heard of!

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