F.W. Murnau's classic silent version of the German folk story. Faust (Gosta Ekman) is an alchemist and scholar who becomes an unwitting pawn in a wager made between the demon Mephisto (Emil Jannings) and the Archangel Michael (Werner Fuetterer). Mephisto sends a plague upon Faust's village, and Faust manages to find a cure, but only after entering into a terrrible bargain which could see his soul damned forever. Mephisto then tempts Faust with eternal youth and the love of the beautiful Gretchen (Camilla Horn), but the scholar continues to struggle with his fate.
I have to say that the more I delve deeper into these silent movies, the more I am impressed by the art direction, attention to detail and the over all quality of these movies. I bought Faust on the strength of Nosferatu and I have to say that I was most certainly not disappointed.
The first thing I will say about this film is how nicely simple the story is. The plot is pretty basic with some nice religious themes, love, betrayal and some more dark elements thrown into one big mixed bag. But the director has done a great job of taking these qualities and making it so easy to follow that the pacing was absolutely perfect.
My favourite thing about this movie is the visual element. There are a lot of heavy religious themes, most of which are fairly stereo typical old time Christianity. On top of that you have a fantastic intro sequence featuring the Devil and an Angel, this sequence alone is absolutely beautiful and had me taken back. The rest of the film features some beautiful set work all of which had a magnificent use of lighting. It didn't matter whether the set was made to look heavenly, devilish or to emphasise the look of death and decay, it looked absolutely gorgeous without, and all this is without mentioned some of the incredible visual effects sequences. Those are a sight to behold. Extremely impressive for the technical limitations of the day.
Those looking for a stunning fantasy movie about selling your soul to the devil, falling in love and reaping the consequences will absolutely adore this film. The bluray transfer whilst scratchy in places (it is 90 years old after all) still looks very sharp and is well suited to modern high definition television sets. I had an absolute blast with this movie and I couldn't recommend it more.
ByVictorHALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 August 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.
This release from Eureka once again pushes the limit of excellence. The film has been painstakingly restored, and the image is both sharp and full of depth. There are two versions presented, the domestic and export versions. There is an interesting note in the booklet as to why there are two versions. There are also two soundtracks, a full orchestral and a solo harp score. Each lends a different feel to the film. The harp score is gentle and soothing, gently understating the drama of the film. The orchestral score is big, dramatic, full of sturm and drang, adding a stirring backdrop to the film. Both are excellent, and I choose which one to watch depending on my mood. The two discs are stuffed full of extras, and there is an informative booklet with much useful information and interesting essays.
An excellent release of this cinematic masterpiece. A that everyone should watch, and this release is definitely the version to watch.
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. Because of FAUST Murnau was brought to America where his next film would be SUNRISE. I have one minor quibble with this otherwise outstanding offering from Eureka. The new harp score for the domestic version lacks the power of Timothy Brock's orchestral score for the export version and although you have the option of using the Brock with the domestic version, it doesn't always match up because of the differences between the two films. Nevertheless if you love German silent cinema in general, Murnau's films in particular or romantic fantasy overall then this edition of FAUST is a must.