Sommerleigh Pollonais – Horror Head Writer
In the 1926 horror Faust the demon Mephisto wagers with God that he can corrupt a mortal man’s soul.
Even if you’ve never seen or read about Faust, you’ve probably heard the term, a faustian bargain. Simply put, it’s a pact where someone trades something of spiritual or moral importance for some worldly benefit. While this movie may have been one of the earliest theatrical versions of Mephisto and Faust, the story and characters made such an impact as to appear in media to this day. They’ve even made multiple appearances in Marvel and DC comics, that’s how much they resonated with audiences.
F.W. Murnau was a pioneer in German cinema with his two most famous works, Nosferatu and Faust, both being hailed as some of the greatest films ever made. Watching Faust I was instantly mesmerised by the way he would use light and shadows to add weight and tone to his scenes. From the opening introduction of Mephisto making his bet with God on his ability to corrupt a faithful man (Faust), I couldn’t believe how much the lighting alone made him seem more demonic, while also adding heavenly contrast to the actor playing God. The special effects were also praised at the time, with the standout moment for me being the demon standing with wings spread over the little German town. It’s terrifying to behold and a masterpiece moment of early cinema.
We’re still in the silent film era of course, so title cards narrate the plot, but again this doesn’t take away from the performances. Emil Jannings as Mephisto was simply diabolical and his ability to use simple facial expression to seem more devilish was genius. And while both actors who played Faust were talented, I have to give bigger props to Gosta Ekman, who played the older version of the character. Also to Camilla Horn who played the unlucky-in-love and life, Gretchen. She was my second favourite character (behind Mephisto) and her story was the most heart wrenching to watch.
I also learned a lot more about the character of Faust by watching this classic of the silver screen. The stories I’ve seen always depicted him as a power hungry, evil man who cares for no one. This film, based on the original German folktale, is much more nuanced, as Faust is a man of deep faith in God, who in his frustration of feeling powerless to help his fellow man during a plague (I’ll give you three guesses as to who caused it) makes a deal one should never make.
It’s a tale of Faith lost, the emotional emptiness of power and riches, and of course, the power of true love. And you don’t even have to make a deal with any devils to see it, as its been beautifully restored and is one YouTube click away.
This one easily goes in the win column.
Sommer’s Score: 8 out of 10
You can watch Faust for yourself below:
For part 3 of 31 Days of Horror and my review of The Queen of Spades (1916) you can click here. And for more classic horror film reviews you can like and follow Redmangoreviews on Facebook here.
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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