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Director:F.W. Murnau
Cast:Gösta Ekman, Emil Jannings
Release Date:1926
Genre:Silent, Experimental

At the Charles Theatre Saturday April 2 at noon, April 4 at 7 p.m., and April 7 at 9 p.m., with live piano accompaniment

By Bret McCabe | Posted 3/30/2005

The American reputation of F.W. Murnau, the most little-seen (in this country) of 1920s expatriate German directors, rests predominantly on two radically different movies: 1922’s Nosferatu and 1927’s Sunrise. But his 1926 Goethe-meets-Marlowe adaptation of the Faust myth was the big-budget historical blockbuster of its era and his last German production; it’s also the most oneiric movie from the most dreamlike of German expressionists, as Murnau animates alchemist Faust (Gösta Ekman) selling his soul for knowledge and power—the usual—to the devil, Mephisto (Emil Jannings, in the most imaginative cinematic visualization of Satan this side of Taylor Hackford letting Al Pacino play the devil as Al Pacino). Murnau streamlines the good-vs.-evil metaphysics out of the tale in favor of riveting imagery: Every frame of Faust is a spellbinding choreography of chiaroscuro lighting, skewed perspectives, and opera-caliber angst, a remains a silent testament to the bottomless ingenuity required to create it onscreen before the age of special effects.

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