Faust: Eine deutsche Volkssage (1926)
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I liked it a lot, but the love-dovey chasing-around stuff in the middle drags on too much.
Nosferatu be damned, every other Murnau film I've seen, like Sunrise, and now Faust, I've liked better! His adaptation of Goethe's master work (which did exist as a folk tale before then) is nothing short of epic, and from the start, the visuals are spectacular and don't let up. Using double exposure, vast miniature sets, and all sorts of other camera trickery (I can't figure it all out, like the contract writing itself, wow), Murnau creates the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a giant Mephisto sending a plague down to Faust's town, unseasonable snow storms, heaven and hell... there's no stopping him from bringing his vision to life. There's a slight dip in the middle when the Devil seems to fall for a witch (that tracks) and he has to arrange for Faust to get the girl as per their deal for his soul, but perhaps the levity helps make the bleak climax more shocking, though the story is really about forgiveness in the end and not so bleak after all. Emil Jannings makes a fearsome, monstrous devil, so it's perhaps prophetic that he would go on to be a high-profile Nazi. If that gives you an extra chill watching Faust, it may be for the good.
It's beautiful. Like a painting. Every shot is amazing. The part in the middle might drag a bit, but it's so worth it and so good regardless.
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In 15 official lists
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This movie ranks #8 in IMDb's Horror Top 50
This movie ranks #10 in IMDb's 1920s Top 50
This movie ranks #15 in iCheckMovies's 1920s Top 100
This movie ranks #24 in Eureka!'s The Masters of Cinema Series
This movie ranks #27 in Kinemathekverbund's The 100 Most Important German Films
This movie ranks #32 in Silent Era's The Top 300 Silent Era Films
This movie ranks #37 in IMDb's Fantasy Top 50
This movie ranks #39 in BFI's 360 Classic Feature Films Project
This movie ranks #47 in Paul Rotha's Silent but Not Forgotten
This movie ranks #53 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #63 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #123 in TSZDT's The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films
This movie ranks #271 in Roger Ebert's Great Movies
This movie ranks #518 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films
This movie ranks #733 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time