Monday, May 14, 2012

F.W. Murnau: Faust - Eine Deutsche Volkssage

F.W. Murnau's Faust - Eine deutsche Volkssage* (1926), released around the same time that Adolf Hitler was assuming leadership of the Nazi Party in Germany, presents a creative adaptation of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's play (1808, 1832) that is scary, eerie and imaginative in its use of black humor, shadowplay, composition and movement.

Sandwiched between the Great War and the Great Depression, between the Great Influenza and the Holocaust, Faust delivers both art and a remote but real shot at soul redemption.

Above: One of the many beautifully composed -- and creepy -- shots from Murnau's Faust. Here, Gretchen (Camilla Horn) enters into a room.

Faust mixes several elements into its strong cocktail, including some familiar ingredients. Mephisto seems to be more of an avatar of the Devil, a demon, rather than the Devil himself, although he could be both. There is a scene at the Crossroads in which Faust summons him three times. There is the Plague. A book burning. Christian iconography. More than one magic flying ride. There is Mephisto with great power and Mephisto clowning, stirring up smaller, pettier drama. The sands of time. A pact signed in blood. Elixirs. Magic totems for Good and Evil. Alcohol. The apparition of a bare-breasted woman. Madness. People burned at the stake. Face-offs on the astral plane. . . In other words, even now it's just like everyday life!

Today's Rune: Fertility.   *"Faust - A German Folktale."

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

That was certainly a bizarre time in Germany's history.