The Film (4/5)
F.W. Murnau was one of the foremost visual stylist of the silent era, with only possibly Fritz Lang as his only competition. He was also one of the most successful with his films Nosferatu and the Last Laugh garnering great success the world over. This gave Marnau great carte blanche in the choice of his projects, and for his final German film he would choose to undertake a huge adaptation of Goethe's(or Marlow's )Faust.
Faust opens with with the demonic Mephisto making a bet with an angel that he could corrupt a good person. If Mephisto wins the bet the demon will be allowed to rule the world from his dark perspective. The subject of their bet is an elderly scholar and doctor named Faust. A great plague is unleashed by Mephisto in Faust’s city, as a studied man he tries to find a cure, but is overwhelmed by the overabundance of death, and can find no way to stop it. That is until he sees a page in a book that offers him "power and glory" to stop it for the price of a deal with Mephisto. Faust, is a pure soul, and is reluctant to make a deal with evil, so Mephisto grants him power to do everything that he wishes for 24 hours, and if he doesn't like the power, at that time the deal is off. Faust, as expected enjoys that power, but will learn through experience that “power and glory” are not everything.
Murnau's adaptation of Faust is a powerful version of the work. It begins with such visual splendor, and dramatic strength and manages to maintain that momentum for quite some time. However, at nearly 2 hours long the film does begin to drag around the middle portion and nothing, not the great performances, nor Murnau's visual style can help with that. The film does pick up some wonderful dramatic heft heading into it's conclusion, but it just feels a tad lengthy for the story it's telling.
Most viewers and critics will cite the performances of Emil Jannings as Mephisto and Gosta Ekmann when discussing the film, and they both are excellent. Jannings in particular is a true scene stealer. However, when watching the film I was drawn into the performance Camilla Horn as Gretchen who has a more subtle, but no less powerfully dramatic arc during the latter portion of the film.
This was, as stated earlier Murnau's last film before leaving his native Germany, and as such he went out with a wonderful adaptation of an iconic tale, and filled it to the brim with such visual majesty that it holds up well nearly 100 years later.
Kino Lorber's 1:26:1 1080p AVC encoded image looks absolutely stunning. This is film that lives and dies by it's black, and the blacks levels here are deep and inky. There is great detail to be found here showing off Murnau's visuals, the sets, and the detail in the actors faces. There are two scores presents for the film both LPCM 2.0 tracks a piano lead score by Javier Perez de Azpeitiz and an orchestral score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. Both tracks are quite nice, and sound excellent.
Kino has included a 53 minute documentary on the career of Murnau, some test footage on a potential footage from a 1923 that was never made by Ernst Lubitsch, and in standard definition on DVD an extended version of the film running about 10 minutes longer than the one presented on the Blu.
Kino has done a splendid job releasing Faust to Blu-ray. The film is nice stylish take on the tale, and the Blu-ray looks and founds fantastic. The extras are slim, but offer some insight to the director. RECOMMENDED.