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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
Faust [DVD] [1926]
Format: DVD|Change
Price:£25.61+ £1.26 shipping

on 16 April 2009
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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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 2 June 2013
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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on 6 August 2003
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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on 23 January 2003
Your jaw will be resting on your chest for the duration of this spectacular movie. Peter Jackson and the 'Lord of the Ring' crew honest to God invented nothing of real cinematic interest, it's just the hype that makes it look as if they did.
'Faust' is a monumental work of art. Forget about Goethe and the academic aspirations of early German cinema, this is cloak and daggers and pure exhilarating fun. The imagery, inspired by Rembrandt and of consistently wonderful texture, has never been surpassed. The ending is heart-wrenching, the plague spreading all over Europe in the prologue is amazing to watch, and our introduction to Emil Jannings' little devil of a Mephisto is creepy and haunting almost three quarters of a century afterwards. The score, borrowing unashamedly from Wagner and dozens of others, is wonderful.
This edition has cleaned up Murnau's breathtaking images and simply looks like a million bucks. Enjoy Murnau's 'The Last Laugh' and this thrilling blockbuster, while we wait for the DVD premiere of 'Sunrise'.
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Most people know the director F. W. Murnau for the silent vampire film Nosferatu but few explore his other works. This is a great shame because in many ways Faust is at least the equal of the excellent Nosferatu but has been overshadowed into relative obscurity. Fast flowing and dramatic with excellent acting and superb directing this is definitely one of the greatest of all silent horrors.
The story follows that of Goethe's classic two part tragedy - an alchemist turns to the daemon Mephisto(pheles)for the power to help people. The daemon lures Faust into sin with the promise of eternal youth but true love wins out in the end and Faust ascends to heaven.
Murnau uses his skill as a director to ensure that the audience is enthralled by the storyline and that the characters are multifaceted and complex. He does this without confusing the viewer and with great subtlety, something has which earnt him much respect over time.
The special effects on this film must have been truly groundbreaking for its day. The way that Faust flies over the world on Mephisto's cloak is especially well carried off. In another great scene the giant Mephisto draws his evil wings around the town as if to block out the light of heaven.
All in all I would say that this is one of the best films I have ever seen and I feel that it only grows better with repeated watchings. The only real problem with the film is that it is exceedingly moral and a could be seen as a bit "preachy", this may put off non-christian viewers. However, to those who have read the Faust books it is clear that this is because this is essential to the understanding of the god-fearing minds of the characters.
I would reccomend this Faust to anyone who is interested in the Silent Era or horror films in general, and if you liked the film I would also reccomend the books.
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on 31 October 2009
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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on 18 September 2017
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on 8 February 2014
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on 29 March 2011
Yes, this is a great film, and yes this release of the domestic version is enormously welcome, but who was it that adapted the Timothy Brock music score to fit the domestic version? It was clearly written to fit the export version, and watching the domestic version on disc one is in many places the equivalent of watching the very worst lip-synching. That is because, unfortunately, Brock's score follows the action closely. Watch the export version and listen to the dramatic timpani strokes at the death of Valentin (Gretchen's brother). Now watch the domestic version and listen to the feeble, inappropriate, anempathetic music. Or, try watching Gretchen in her death cell as she suddenly believes her baby is alive and she is able to rock it gently in her arms. Brilliant in the export version, but completely out of rhythm with the music in the domestic version. How on earth could anyone mess up like this, given the care taken in restoring this film? I have to say the problems do not lie everywhere, but they happen too often, and detract from the wonders of this recently discovered domestic version of this film. Without a doubt this version is in sharper focus, more tightly edited, and a better film that the export version, but somebody with a donkey's ears has soured its effect. As a consequence, it is the export version on these discs that will prove the more emotional experience for anyone with musical sesitivity. So, if you want to enjoy the domestic version you'll either need to opt for the piercingly irritating harp score that is offered as an alternative, or shut off the sound completely.
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on 9 July 2014
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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