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Faust - Masters of Cinema series [DVD] [1926]


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Product details

  • Actors: Gösta Ekman, Emil Jannings, Camilla Horn, Frida Richard, William Dieterle
  • Directors: F.W. Murnau
  • Writers: Gerhart Hauptmann, Hans Kyser, Johann Wolfgang Goethe
  • Producers: Erich Pommer
  • Format: PAL
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Eureka
  • DVD Release Date: 26 Jun 2006
  • Run Time: 107 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000FISNYC
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 63,023 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Product Description

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 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 collaboration with the screenwriter Hans Kyser, Murnau fused Faust's script from German folk legend and the works of Goethe, Gounod, and Marlowe (particularly using the latter's tone). Faust's tale is a classic one of a man who sells his soul to the devil. 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.

From Amazon.co.uk

Shot in the UFA studios with a big movie star in the lead and all the special effects and production design resources any blockbuster of its time could wish for, FW Murnau's 1926 Faust represents a step up from his better-known Nosferatu. Oddly, Faust is a less familiar film than the vampire quickie and this release affords fans a chance to see what Murnau can do with an equally major fantasy story. Adapted neither from Marlowe's play Dr Faustus nor Goethe's verse drama, the script scrambles various elements of the legend and presents a Faust (Gosta Ekman) driven to summon the Devil by despair as a plague rages through the town, desperate to gain enough learning to help his neighbours. When this deal doesn't quite work out, because he is stoned by townsfolk who notice his sudden fear of the cross, Mephisto (Emil Jannings) offers Faust instead renewed youth and an opportunity to seduce a famously beautiful Italian noblewoman and then to return to his home village and get involved with the pure Gretchen (Camilla Horn). Like most versions of the story, it's episodic and some sections are stronger than others: the great stuff comes in the plague and initial deal sequences, though it picks up again for the tragic climax as Gretchen becomes the central figure and suffers horribly, freezing in the snows and burning at the stake. Jannings' devil, a gruesomely humorous slice of ham, is one of the great silent monster performances, reducing everyone else to a stick figure, and Murnau faces the challenge of topping his Nosferatu imagery by deploying a battalion of effects techniques to depict the many magical journeys, sudden appearances and transformations.

On the DVD: Often seen in ragged, incomplete prints projected at the wrong speed, this is a decently restored version, running a full 115 minutes with a complete orchestral score. The original materials show some of the damage to be expected in a film of its vintage, but the transfer is excellent, displaying the imaginative art direction and camerawork to superb advantage. Aside from a nicely eerie menu, the sole extra is a full-length commentary originating in Australia: written by historian Peter Spooner but read by narrator Russell Cawthorne (who mispronounces the odd name). This provides an interesting wealth of background detail, such as Murnau's attempt to cast Hollywood's Lillian Gish as Gretchen, and delivers a balanced assessment of the film itself. --Kim Newman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Lee R on 11 Aug 2014
Format: Blu-ray
WARNING: Light spoilers ahead.

I'm almost ashamed to admit I was never really wowed by the film the only time I'd seen it previously on the first Eureka DVD. This year though I've been plowing my way through all of Murnau's surviving works and finding much of interest, so this Blu-ray of Faust was timed perfectly for me. This time I found it one of the most visually stunning films I've seen, and the Blu-ray is fabulous for that. The first 40 minutes is an endless visual assault, after which the film changes tactic somewhat and throws in melodrama and comedy. I found this dragged a little but Jannings keeps it afloat with a deliciously wicked performance. It changes again in the final third, and I was witness to raw emotion and the wickedness so-called good men can inflict upon the suffering. In fact, a devilish Mephisto seems to possess far more humanity than many of the God-fearing villagers. Very much a film of 3 distinct acts (along with it's prologue and epilogue).

I can now understand why this is hailed as a masterpiece, and it's a genuinely superb Blu-ray presentation. I had planned to leave the extras until another time, but ended up ploughing through the visual pieces (except the export version, the comparison featurette tells me all I need to know) all in one sitting. My highest recommendation.
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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Chip Kaufmann on 30 Sep 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
For many years F.W. Murnau's FAUST was known to me only through a few stills and a poster. About 15 years ago I came across a public domain video copy which had poor picture quality and Vivaldi's FOUR SEASONS as its soundtrack. Even with these handicaps I could tell that it was something very special and I longed for the day when I might see a better print of the film. A few years ago Kino International released a high quality DVD of FAUST with a newly commissioned score and I was ecstatic as I could now see the film close to the way it must have looked in 1926. Now Eureka has come out with this double DVD set which allows us for the first time to see the film the way Murnau intended. The Kino edition was based on the export version which differs in a number of ways from the original domestic version made available here. The biggest difference is in the way a number of scenes are treated. They are more expanded in the original and have a sharper picture quality than the export version. The ending of Faust and Gretchen ascending to Heaven is missing which seems rather strange as that is key to the film's theme of redemption through forgiveness. Thanks to this set you can view both versions and see the differences for yourself.

The performances especially by Emil Jannings as Mephistopheles and Camilla Horn as Gretchen are remarkable and the various special effects used are outstanding for the time and still have the power to astonish. As I said in an earlier review most silent film buffs think PANDORA'S BOX with Louise Brooks to be the apex of German silent cinema and maybe it is but I cast my vote for FAUST. Murnau was a true cinematic poet, a German Cocteau if you will, and all of his considerable skill as a cinematic storyteller went into the making of this film.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Victor HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 18 Aug 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Some years ago a good friend introduced me to Nosferatu, which I thoroughly enjoyed and consider to be a cinematic masterpiece. I determined to see more work from the same director, but have never got around to it now. I am glad I waited, as the Masters of Cinema series from Eureka is now allowing me to see these films in superb quality.

Faust is a dark tale of man's desires and the depths he can be driven to, tempered, ultimately with his capacity for self sacrifice and redemption.

The film opens with visually arresting images as the Devil Mephisto and an Angel lay a wager - if Mephisto can capture the soul of Faust, and turn the good Doctor to evil then he can lay claim to all the earth for his dominion. Mephisto starts a savage plague which Faust's science and faith cannot cure. In desperation he summons the Devil and seals a pact in his own blood, initially for the power to help the victims for a day. Cunningly Mephisto draws Faust ever deeper into his clutches, until, for the love of good woman he finds redemption.

The narrative is well known, but it is told in a fantastic and visually arresting fashion by Murneau, a master of his art. There are several big set pieces, especially at the beginning of the film, with some amazing special effects. Mephisto rising from a pit of fire, looking over the town spreading plague, the whole summoning sequence at the crossroads. These scenes are quite iconic, and leave one breathless with excitement and wonder.

Every scene is shot with meticulous attention to detail. The lighting for each is finely judged, and brings out the maximum impact and depth. The famous scene where the original Faustian pact is signed is a particular example; it is packed with immense emotion.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By spotty on 30 Aug 2014
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Not very much to add to the comprehensive and effusive reviews already here.

I would like to praise the sets and lighting. How is it that these old film can be so perfect in this respect? And I can't tell how much is genuine ancient Germany and how much built sets. No matter: the balance and composition and atmosphere generated by them is wonderful and so evocative! I recall the 'Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' had the same ability to grab and drag you into the period and into the story.
I'm not sure about Faust as a young man: not helped by his age or looks or hat and make-up, however authentic. But Gretchen is the very embodiment of the beautiful and innocent virgin.
I would make one further remark about the choice of background music of which we have three choices. I chose the harp for my first viewing, feeling that it would be less intrusive than full orchestra. However I found it to be too lightweight for the drama of the piece, too colourless, and sometimes an irritation. Auditioning the full score I would make this my first choice - though I haven't heard the piano as yet - being good music, appropriate to and enhancing of the actions.
It's great when cinema becomes an art-form: so rare in modern films which mostly care only about making mega-bucks.
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