F.W. Murnau’s last German film features astonishing photography, magnificent art direction, and special effects which retain the power to amaze. Freed from the constraints of psychological narrative, Murnau’s mastery of cinematic technique places his Faust at the pinnacle of the silent era, its barrage of visceral and apocryphal imagery contrasting with the simplicity and directness of its spiritual theme.
In an attempt to gain control of the Earth, Mephisto (Emil Jannings) wagers an angel (Werner Fuetterer) that he can corrupt the soul of the elderly professor Faust (Gosta Ekman). As the Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride demonically through the sky, Mephisto towers over Faust’s hometown unleashing a plague that spreads amongst its inhabitants. Faust, unable to find a cure for the citizens who are dropping dead around him, renounces both God and science invoking the aid of Satan through a mysterious book that he chances across.
Murnau shot multiple takes of each scene with only prime takes making the final German domestic cut of Faust. Only the prints made for export outside Germany were seen until recently, indeed this version was at one time thought to be the only version (it used discarded takes, errors, less impressive special effects, and human stand-ins for real animals). Using the nitrate duplicate negatives printed by UFA in 1926 (and an array of international sources) Murnau’s favoured domestic German version of Faust has been meticulously reconstructed by Luciano Berriatúa for Filmoteca Española from which this transfer is sourced.
- Import DVD
- PAL Region 2
- Audio commentary by critics David Ehrenstein and Bill Krohn
- Tony Rayns on Faust — a 20-minute video piece
- Faust: The different versions – a 20-minute video comparison by R. Dixon Smith
- Production stills and promotional art gallery
- 28-page booklet with an essay by Peter Spooner and archive reprints