Friday, August 13, 2004

Me, Lyndon, and Az trooped to SM Megamall for the second feature in Goethe Institut's Movies Live, a series of four silent films showing every Thursday night in SM Megamall. I enjoyed Friedrich Murnau's classic movie Faust (1926) better than last week's Metropolis because of the fantastic SFX and Emil Jannings' witty portrayal of Mephisto. While the latter almost put me to sleep with its overdrawn scenes the former carries a testimony as to why Hollywood took notice of Murnau's masterful work in this movie. Set in the Middle Ages, the movie opens with an argument between an angel (Werner Fuetterer) and the devil (Emil Jannings) over one man (reminiscent of the story of Job). The devil wants to take over the world so the angel makes a wager that if Mephisto could corrupt the divine in Faust (Gösta Ekman) then the earth will be his for the taking. So the devil starts his plan by engulfing Faust's entire village with the plague. The people rushed to Faust to ask for help in coming up with a medicine that could cure the sick and the dying. But the helpless Faust couldn't do anything and enters into a 24-hour contract with the devil in exchange of some needed services. But things didn't go according to plan as the people realized that his powers were granted by the devil and they didn't want no part of it. Faust runs from the angry crowd back and seeks asylum from Mephisto who drives the people away by scaring them with some hocus-pocus. Mephisto then entices aging Faust with the promise of eternal youth, power, and making the most beautiful woman on earth his bride. When Faust agrees they fly away to a distant land where he seduces and steals the newlywed bride from her husband. But before they could consumate their lust, the 24 hour agreement has come to an end and Mephisto traps Faust into selling his soul to him forever. But after days and months of endless wants he began to feel empty and lonely. He begins to long for the home he once left so he demands that Mephisto fly him back at once. Once they have landed Faust espies the lovely and virtuous Marguerite (Camilla Horn) on her way to church. Struck with her beauty he instructs Mephisto to get her for him and this one task did things started to go the downward spiral for everyone involved, both innocent and guilty.

I was very impressed with the production quality of the whole film, the very imaginative scenes shown in the movie like the scene where the devil looms like a giant over the village unfurling his cloak to scatter a plague actually inspired that powerful images seen in Walt Disney's Fantasia's last animation short, "Night on Bald Mountain". There were also lots of unforgettable scenes like the playful romance between Mephisto and Marguerite's aunt, Marthe Schwerdtlein (Yvette Guilbert). This scene alone is worth a lot of laughs that one is tempted to do away with the courtship scenes between the young Faust and Marguerite and just concentrate on the laughs. Camilla Horn turns in some very good acting as Marguerite considering this was her first movie acting. Her scenes involving her character's downfall was very sympathetic. Emil Jannings also very impressive in this movie as he helped carry almost half of the movie with his inspired and spirited acting. The wonderful music accompanying the movie was ably provided by Tots Tolentino and Friends who helped bring the experience of watching this silent film become a delightful viewing experience to us, their appreciative audience.

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