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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murnau Masterpiece, 16 April 2009
By 
I. M. Knight (Huddersfield, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Faust - Masters of Cinema series [DVD] [1926] (DVD)
This is Murnau at his best, using light and shadow to excellent effect in this movie. This has been described as a moral tale and a horror movie among others but this is really all of those things and a great adaptation of the many different legends on Faust. Murnau shows again how he wants to use cinema as an art form not just for story telling (although it is a great story).

The imagery is very bold and has been accomplished using some innovative techniques for the time including some brilliant special effects. I really enjoyed seeing the references in the film from other sources to this and from this to other artistic works. There is the meeting of the devil at the crossroads which goes back even to the bible but can even be seen in more recent myths (Robert Johnson?). Satan spreading his wings over the town to induce the plague made me laugh because I immediately thought of Black Sabbath's `War Pigs'. There's the lust for youth connection (Dorian Gray?) and the pact with the devil which made me think of bedazzled (Peter Cook version is the best).

On top of all this you get some well thought out, interesting and informative extras on the DVD with an excellent and quite comical commentary and both the domestic and export editions of the film. Overall this is a great DVD and if you like Murnau especially then you should like this.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The domestic version, is by far the best horror film of the 1920s, 28 Aug 2007
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This review is from: Faust - Masters of Cinema series [DVD] [1926] (DVD)
This is a 1926 classic of silent cinema. This new life that has been given to the film comes from the fact that the domestic (German) version has been restored and we can compare it with the export version that had survived. It is absolutely striking how the domestic version is tighter in the shooting, the taking and the cutting. The angle is slightly different and better, the contrast is a lot finer and more pronounced, which is very important for a black and white film. The cutting packs up many sequences and this increases the dramatic dimension and effect of the film. Apart from that you will not recognize any running version of the myth. The film is essentially centered on the love affair with Gretchen, but a long first part concentrates on the fight between God and Satan to conquer the world. Faust is nothing but a wager thrown by God at Satan's face. This prologue in the sky and this mystic dimension is partly, but only partly, borrowed from Goethe's Second part of his play. But that is all. This first part of the film also makes Faust travel in time but we are very far from the farce Marlowe set up in this voyage to various courts, including those of Troy's Helen, the Germanic Emperor and the Pope in Rome. It is shorter and more centered on the Emperor, on Germany. Most of the second part of Goethe's play is totally absent since this second part is entirely centered on Faust's voyage in time first, to the past, and then in time as well as in space towards some future, this time building dams in Holland. The film then centers on the affair and on the manipulation of everyone by Mephistopheles. He cheats all the time. He asserts his desire to protect Faust but he is the one who goes and tells Valentin, the brother, and then spread the news of Valentin's murder in the city, a murder he has done himself. But so far so good. We can live with this lying Mephistopheles. But then the film becomes melodramatic in an extreme proportion. Gtechen is only put in the blocks for her fornication and then abandoned in the street with her baby in the winter and that is a major difference with all other versions. The baby finally dies of cold. She is discovered with the dead baby and at once accused of having killed him and brought to the stake where she is burnt in spite of Faust's intermission. She accepts her fate since her baby is dead. But the ending is not without some resemblance with Gounod's Faust. In Gounod she kills her baby out of cold blood, and she is saved by the intervention of Jesus Christ himself. A deus ex machina to save her. Artificial and in Gounod practically farcical. Here it is more serious, very visual but Faust regains his youth again on the pyre and they kiss in the flames and both are saved together at this very moment by the intervention of some angel brandishing the fire of God. This is a moment when the film winks at Goethe who also saved Faust but after a long second part and for quite different reasons. The film finally concludes with a moral about one human dimension that will never be conquered by Satan, and this is LOVE. Here we find again both Berlioz and Gounod for whom love is the explanation of everything and love is also the excuse of everything. Then this very melodramatic action leaves us slightly lost in front of the film because the general atmosphere and impression we get here is that of horror, with the plague at the beginning and a pyre at the end, and several people being killed along the way. What made the Germans visit over and over again in these late 20s that theme of horror, either old and great myths like Nosferatu and Faust, or dystopias like Metropolis? Some leaning coming from history and everyday life after the defeat of 1918 and before the victory of 1933? These fifteen years are the melting pot of all frustrations and dissatisfactions, discontentments. But in this film shot before Murnau's moving to Hollywood we have a darker atmosphere than in Nosferatu, though less intensely tragic, or even Metropolis, though without any human or social hope at all, and the special effects are better used to create the scenes in heaven for example.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the ultimate fantasy film, 2 Jun 2013
By 
schumann_bg - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Faust - Masters of Cinema series [DVD] [1926] (DVD)
Murnau's Faust stands alongside his other works from the twenties and takes us on the greatest flights of fantasy, perhaps, as befits the subject. His visual imagination was such that the subject seems ideally suited to him, and there is something utterly captivating about the way he takes us through these episodes. The actors are all amazing - the mother and Aunt Martha so characterful that you do not feel the fact you can't hear them detracts at all from the communication. The faces have something quite Germanic in an interesting way - the mother has a kind of harmony that makes her the mother of all the Schone Mullerins, of all the beautiful maidens addressed in German poetry, while Gretchen herself is just such a maiden, with a really stunning beauty and purity. Every scene could be frozen and regarded like a painting from the early Renaissance - for instance the windows often have beautiful, intricate glass. A palace where a wedding feast is taking place looks just like one in the National Gallery by Altdorfer ... coming at the end of a magnificent flight through the night sky made by Faust on Mephisto's coattails. Mephisto himself is the most incredible creation by Emil Jannings, both comical and menacing. His black garb is quite something in itself, while his rubbery face and gestures hold you captivated, as befits a devil. The scene where he first strikes a deal with Faust has an extraordinary expression. The music (orchestral version) is also fantastic in a sub-Wagnerian mode, yet a feeling of intimacy is very much to the fore, right to the final ascent to heaven ... CGI simply cannot equal this in its power to enthral. This Eureka edition is exemplary in every way, complete with a thick booklet, alternative harp score and explanatory film by Tony Rayns, as well as a full-length commentary by two other critics and another video comparison - it could hardly be more complete.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Film, 20 April 2009
By 
Richard Johnston (Limerick, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Faust - Masters of Cinema series [DVD] [1926] (DVD)
This is a wonderful domestic European cut of Faust presented as Murnau wished it to be seen. The Kino export version is also included and the extra material makes some scene-by-scene comparisons and contrasts between the two versions. The great clarity of detail and sharper focus in the individual scenes {both in camera work and direction} in the domestic version become quite obvious. The domestic version also contains a vital scene at the end missing in the export copy which emphasises the themes of sacrifice and redemption.

Since both versions are there, complete, you can choose which one you wish to see.

There are two complete sound backings; the full orchestral score of the Kino restoration and also a new and beautiful harp accompaniment. No one who loves this film should be without this issue.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Cinema history., 9 July 2014
This review is from: Faust - Masters of Cinema series [DVD] [1926] (DVD)
This is one of my new favourite films. I may be a sucker for look and feel over purpose on this occassion, but it's so well done, and such an influential film that I'm happy to follow the crowd on this one. Could watch this over and over again. DVD itself is interesting, showing version differences and a pretty insightful interview, so lots to contemplate and appreciate.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great product. this edition is awsome and finally e can see Murnau's original version of this movie. A piece of cinema's history, 22 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Faust - Masters of Cinema series [DVD] [1926] (DVD)
Great product. this edition is awsome and finally e can see Murnau's original version of this movie. A piece of cinema's history has re-birth.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Top service, fine film, 18 May 2013
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This review is from: Faust - Masters of Cinema series [DVD] [1926] (DVD)
Arrived on time and at a fair price... Murnau no auteur, but a fine film maker, and parts of Faust are excellent; none of it bad.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Love breaks all bonds, 14 Mar 2006
By 
bernie "xyzzy" (Arlington, Texas) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Faust [DVD] (DVD)
The story is Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe's; the film is unmistakably F.W. Murnau.

The Archangel (Werner Fuetterer) and the evil one are in a struggle for the world. Both are sure they know best. A bet is stuck for the sole of a religious alchemist named Faust as we can see he has knowledge of the elements yet maintains a moral attitude.

A grate plague appears and with all of his books and learning Foust can not save anyone. He turns to prayer and seems to get nowhere. So in a fit he burns his books; in the embers he spots a book that suggests he call on Mephisto (Emil Jannings.) He does so and is repelled at what he did. However after some dickering he accepts a one day contract to at least be able to help some of the plague victims. Naturally he is to reject God and sign in blood. And you guessed it things go wrong. He is tempted by youth, "Your Life was only the dust and mold of books.", and distracted with an Italian cutie Duchess of Parma (Hanna Ralph) just long enough for the sands to run out on him. From there things go down hill but the story heats up.

With the overwhelming visuals and great acting one tends to not notice the elements or threads that tie this film today to our society. Notice the standard circle and the calling upon the four corners as Faust calls three times the name Mephisto. Also notice the garlands that Gretchen made for the children. More interesting is the use of the flower with "She loves me...she loves me not."

Emil Jannings does such a good job that you almost find your self rooting for the bad guy.

The Ufa Story: A History of Germany's Greatest Film Company 1918-1945
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read the other reviews then buy this for the 'alternative' harp score alone!, 31 Oct 2009
This review is from: Faust - Masters of Cinema series [DVD] [1926] (DVD)
There are already sufficient lengthy, knowledgeable reviews of this film on Amazon so I thought I would just put in a good word for one of the special features on this dvd: the alternative soundtrack to the film, improvised on the harp in the silent movie fashion by a guy called Stan Ambrose. Unlike the orchestral score, Stan doesn't seem too concerned to match what he's playing to the drama on screen. The film is indeed brilliant and the orchestral score is excellent but if you want a relaxing and absorbing listening experience that can stand alone, and you can overcome the impression of having just stepped into a crystal shop in Glastonbury (hardly Stan's fault), give the harp score a spin. You may even start listening to it without paying any attention to the visuals!
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Visually stunning but flawed, 6 Aug 2003
This review is from: Faust [DVD] (DVD)
Having watched Nosferatu recently, I've developed a bit of a Murnau "thing", and Faust has done nothing to dampen this. In some ways it's a similar film - figuratively, Mephisto is not unlike Dracula, and the use of the plague metaphor for societal decay is used in both films. Over 115 minutes Faust is neither even nor coherent enough to be in the same league as Nosferatu, though. The individual set pieces, however, thoroughly outdo anything in Murnau's Stoker adaptation.

The special effects are rudimentary, but boy do they pack some bang for their buck. The camerawork and heavily shadowed lighting lends a sombre and dreamy air to proceedings, and there are certain images, particularly at the beginning of the picture, which are astounding: Murnau's representation of the plague and Faust's invocation of the Devil (it reminded me of the strikingly similar Robert Johnson legend) are especially memorable scenes.
For all that, the middle of the film loses momentum badly. This is mostly not Murnau's fault: the Faust legend doesn't, when you analyse it, make for awfully good cinema. The dramatic impetus is done at the end of the first act. Once Faust has made his pact, it's game over; the rest of the story is just the slow revelation of the enormity of what Faust has done.
Murnau has a go at modifying this to make for a better screenplay, but it doesn't work. The Faust/Gretchen love interest isn't enough to hold up the last hour of the film, and bizarrely (given the decidedly unsettling opening scenes) Emil Jannings plays Mephisto not for dread but for laughs. I suppose that's the only way the Faust story has any credibility - we can believe that a beguiling trickster might pull a fast one on the fundamentally decent Faust, but not a horrible Satanic Majesty. But I don't think that is an excuse to turn the Devil into Oliver Hardy.
In his attempt to pull a happy ending out of the Hat (Goethe and Marlow don't have a happy ending, Faust scholars will note), Murnau eschews his slapstick for good old fashioned incoherence: Mephisto and Faust take leave of the screen altogether and Gretchen goes postal, things get very maudlin - to what point, your guess is as good as mine - and, rather abruptly (given how the last 30 minutes dragged) it's all over.
Just as there is for the new edition of Nosferatu, there is a commentary track prepared by an Australian actor with a comedy baritone voice. It isn't quite so insightful, however.
Well worth a watch, but you are left wondering what might have been.
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