"Faust" (1926)

Produced by UFA (Universum Film A. G.) Germany,
Directed by F. W.Murnau
Script by Hans Kyser who exploted Marlowe, Goethe and German folk song sagas
Titles written by Gerhart Hauptmann, Germany's foremost poet
Length: 7, 934 feet when released in 1926

Cast: Gosta Ekman, Emil Jannings, Camila Horn, Wilhelm Dieterle, Frieda Richard, Yvette Guilbert, Hanna Ralph, Werner Futterer, Eric Barclay, Hans Rameau, Herthavon Walther, and Emmy Wyda.

Innovative, Distinguished

During the 1920's, F. W. Murnau was one of the international cinema's most influential, innovative and distinguished directors, and his films were visual feasts, with light, shadow and camera movement the key elements to his genius. "Faust," which was the final film Murnau directed in Germany before coming to Hollywood in 1927, is as stunning a work as he ever created. The scenario was loosely adapted from the Goethe version of the Faust legend, and it chronicles what occurs when an elderly man sells his soul for youth.

A Stellar Cast

"Faust" features a stellar cast: famed Swedish stage and screen star Gosta Ekman as Faust; Emil Jannings, who was soon to earn the first "Best Actor " Academy Award, as the Evil Spirit; the beautiful German actress Camilla Horn in her screen debut as Gretchen; and Wilhelm (William ) Dieterle, who was later to become a solidly dependable Hollywood director, as Valentine.

Despite the fine performances given by these actors, "Faust" remains a director's film with Murnau and cinematographer Carl Hoffmann the stars. Scene after scene is starkly, dazzlingly conceived and brilliantly lit. "Light and movement; all Murnau's experiments and discoveries (in his previous films) came to fruition in 'Faust,'" wrote film critic-historian Lotte Eisner in her book on Murnau. "The beginning and the ending are fugues of light, orchestrated with incomparable mastery.

Camilla Horn, a former dancer, was discovered by Murnau and made her screen debut in "Faust." She was a popular German star of the silent and sound era and starred in several Hollywood films of the late 20's and in a few British and Italian productions. She made her last film in 1968.

William Dieterie began his acting career at an early age in Germany and appeared in various theatrical groups in Germany and Switzerland. He appeared in various German silent films and can be seen in "Lukrezia Borgia" and "Waxworks." He directed numerous German films, and in 1930 he emigrated to Hollywood and became a noted sound film director.

The National Board Of Review Magazine disliked the long drawn out love story between Faust and Margarete and remarked, "We find ourselves descending from the masculine version of Marlowe and the philosophical concept of Goethe to the level of the liberett which inspired Gounod to write his opera."

UFA, the Major Producer of German Films

UFA, which was the major producer of German films during the silent era, came about during WWI when the German government became aware of the power of the motion picture when the United States flooded the world markets with anti-German films. In 1916 the government, with support from various organizations, founded Deulig (Deutsche Lichtspiel-Gesellschaft), a film company to produce documentary films to promote the fatherland. In 1917, there followed the establishment of Bufa (Bild-und Filmamt) set up primarily as a government agency to supply films for the troops at the front. With the entrance of the United States into the war, the German government merged the two film organizations into UFA. The official mission of UFA was to produce propaganda films according to government directatives. With the defeat of Germany, the government renounced its partnership, and the Deutsche Bank acquired most of its shares.

Author Georges Sadoul, in Dictionary Of Films, said, "The film regains a sense of style and grandeur in the climax, as Gretchen's face takes on the appearance of a medieval madonna and Faust mounts the stake because he feels responsible for her being condemned. "

Sources: The Film Encyclopedia by Ephraim Katz
From Caligari To Hitler by Siegfried Kracauer
The Haunted Screen by Lotte Eisner.

copyright 2001 by John DeBartolo. All rights reserved.

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