Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Murnau's Faust 1926

German expressionist silent film by the director of Nosferatu.

"The demon Mephisto has a bet with an Archangel that he can corrupt a righteous man's soul and destroy in him what is divine. If he succeeds, the Devil will win dominion over earth. 

The Devil delivers a plague to the village where Faust, an elderly alchemist, lives. Though he prays to stop the death and starvation, nothing happens. Faust then makes a trial, 24-hour bargain with the Devil. Faust will have Mephisto's service till the sand runs out in an hourglass, at which time the Devil will rescind the pact. At first, Faust uses his new power to help the people of the village, but they shun him when they find out that he cannot face a cross.

Later, Faust makes a further deal with Satan, who gives Faust back his youth and offers him earthly pleasures and a kingdom, in return for his immortal soul. Mephisto then takes him to the Walpurgisnacht celebration on "Bald Mountain", to finish his tryst with an Italian Duchess. Faust seals the deal permanently; he is Mephisto's forever. Faust soon grows weary of debauchery and yearns for "Home". Here Faust falls in love with an innocent girl, Gretchen, but he is later framed for the murder of her brother by Satan and must flee (with Satan's encouragement). The girl has a child (by Faust) but is cast out into a blizzard where the child dies, and she is sent to the stake as a murderess. Faust sees what is happening and demands Satan take him there. Faust arrives just as the fire has been started to burn his lover. Faust wishes he had never asked to have his youth back and runs through the assembled mob towards Gretchen; Mephisto gleefully grants Faust his wish and it is as an old man that Faust throws himself onto the fire to be with his beloved.

Gretchen recognizes Faust and sees him in her heart as a young man again as the fire consumes them together. The angel reveals to Mephisto that he has lost the bet because love has triumphed over all."

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