Faust

116 minutes 2013

The great F.W. Murnau directed only one real blockbuster in Germany, just before coming to America to make his masterpiece, Sunrise; extravagant in every sense, Faust (1926) is laden with references to Dutch, German, and Italian painting and was rivaled only by Fritz Lang's Metropolis in driving the UFA studio toward bankruptcy. Like Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, this extraordinary piece of artistry and craftsmanship integrates its dazzling special effects so seamlessly that they're indistinguishable from the film's narrative, poetry, and, above all, metaphysics. It's based mainly on the first part of Goethe's play, and though some of the performances (notably Emil Jannings's Mephisto) can be ham-fisted, particularly when the film tries its hand at low comedy, Camilla Horn makes a striking Marguerite, and Gösta Ekman is certainly a boldly sculptured presence as Faust.

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