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  • Writer's pictureAllan Major

Faust 1926 Reviewed


Featured Image For Faust 1926 Reviewed.  Vintage movie poster for Goethe's 'Faust' with a large, menacing illustration of Mephistopheles looming over a drawing of a woman holding jewels, against a distressed beige background.
Where a deal with the devil stirs, 'Faust' unfolds a tale of greed and desire, with Mephistopheles casting a shadow too tempting to resist.

Imagine the flickering silence of an old movie theater, the smell of celluloid and possibility swirling in the shadows. The light from the projector cuts through the dust, and there, looming large on the screen, is a world both eerily familiar and utterly grotesque. This is the world of F.W. Murnau’s “Faust.”


Faust 1926 Key Takeaways

  • The seductive power of temptation: Faust's ambition and relentless pursuit of knowledge ultimately lead him down a dark path. The film explores how easily desire can warp into obsession and ruin.

  • The destructive nature of unchecked power: Faust's pact with Mephisto grants him great power, but it comes at the cost of his soul and destroys those around him. It's a reminder that power without control or conscience is a dangerous thing.

  • The fragility of innocence: Gretchen, with her pure heart and unwavering faith, stands in stark contrast to the moral decay around her. Her tragic fate highlights the vulnerability of innocence in a world corrupted by darkness.

  • The enduring struggle between good and evil: The film depicts the timeless battle between light and darkness, embodied in the figures of the Archangel and Mephisto. Faust's story becomes a microcosm of the eternal struggle within human nature.

  • No easy answers: Murnau's "Faust" doesn't provide simple moral solutions. The film raises complex questions about morality, choice, and the consequences of actions, inviting viewers to contemplate the grey areas.

  • The visual language of Expressionism: The film's distorted sets, stark lighting, and dramatic camera angles visually convey the characters' internal turmoil and the heightened anxieties of the narrative. It's a powerful example of how visual storytelling can enhance a film's thematic impact.

  • The potential for redemption... maybe: The film's ending offers a glimmer of hope for Faust's redemption but leaves the final verdict to the viewer's interpretation. This ambiguity lingers and prompts self-reflection.


A woman watches the silent film Faust (1926), her face etched with a mixture of fear and fascination.
The haunting imagery of Faust seeped into her soul, leaving her with a lingering chill.

Murnau was a poet of the grotesque. His films slither into your mind like a fever dream, their images clinging to your subconscious long after the last reel has spun to its end. "Faust” is a masterpiece of this twisted beauty, a symphony of light and shadow that sinks its teeth into the age-old tale of a man who sells his soul to the devil.


The story itself is as familiar as a nursery rhyme. Faust, the aged alchemist, despairs after failing to save his village from a ruinous plague. He is a man of science and intellect, but it is his hubris, his insatiable hunger for power, that ultimately leads him to the brink. Enter Mephisto, played by Emil Jannings with the demonic glee of a carnival huckster. He's less a cloven-hoofed devil and more a force of sly, insinuating temptation. He offers Faust youth, limitless knowledge, and the power to bend the world to his will. The price? Just a trifle, some minor matter involving his immortal soul...


Murnau turns Goethe’s classic tale into a dark spectacle. The film is dripping with

Expressionist dread, populated with figures that seem both real and monstrous. Mephisto, with his towering stature and wild grin, is a creature that haunts your waking hours. The special effects, primitive as they are by modern standards, are a marvel. Mephisto draws a circle of fire in the air, his silhouette a monstrous bird of ill omen. He conjures storms with the flick of an elegant hand, his power both mesmerizing and terrifying. But perhaps the most impressive effect of all is the transformation of Faust from an ancient scholar, played with heartbreaking sincerity by Gösta Ekman, to a dashing young man. It’s a moment of pure movie magic, both a testament to Murnau's skill and a chilling reminder of temptation's glossy sheen.


A man watches Faust (1926), his eyes wide with a mix of awe and unease.
He felt the weight of ancient evil in every frame of Faust, a terror that lingered long after the film ended.

A Classic Horror From The Silent Era

The centerpiece of the film, after the bargain is struck and Faust plummets into his newfound youth, is his budding romance with Gretchen (Camilla Horn). Young, pure, and utterly beguiling, Gretchen becomes a symbol of all that Faust had turned away from before his pact with Mephisto. But their love story is a twisted fairy tale. Faust, despite his renewed youth, can feel his bargain with the devil gnawing away at him. His passion for Gretchen is tainted by a lurking despair, and the viewer knows, even if they don't, that their romance is doomed from the start.


And perhaps this is where "Faust" reveals its true brilliance. Murnau isn't interested in simple morality tales or neat endings. "Faust" is a film about the seductive pull of darkness, about the gnawing fear within all of us that whispers promises of greatness while holding the threat of ruin. It's about how even the best intentions can be twisted and corrupted. The love story is the heart of the film, but it's a heart beating with a fatal arrhythmia.


Visually, the film is a feast for the eyes. Murnau’s camera lingers on faces contorted in ecstasy or despair, zooms in on hands twisting in greedy supplication, and then pulls back to reveal vast tableaus of swirling smoke and billowing shadows. His "Faust" is not just a film; it's an immersive experience, a silent horror that will echo in your dreams.


In the end, Murnau offers a flicker of hope. Faust, after ruining the life of his beloved Gretchen and causing unimaginable loss, finds a form of redemption. Whether that redemption holds any true meaning is the lingering question that sticks with you even as the final credits roll. "Faust" is a film that lingers, a testament to the power of cinema, and a chilling reminder of the devils that always lurk within the shadows of our very own souls.


And that is Faust 1926 Reviewed. Another great classic horror movie from the silent era. 


Stay tuned for more horror movie reviews


If You Liked Faust 1926 You Might Also Like These Films

  • Nosferatu (1922): Another masterpiece of German Expressionism from F.W. Murnau. This unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" tells the chilling tale of Count Orlok, a vampire whose monstrous appearance and hypnotic powers embody ancient evil.

  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920): A landmark of German Expressionism, this film uses wildly distorted sets and unsettling makeup to delve into themes of madness, manipulation, and the unreliable nature of perception. Its visual boldness and twist ending make it a classic of early horror.

  • Häxan (1922): This Swedish-Danish silent documentary-style film explores the history of witchcraft and superstition. Mixing staged dramatic sequences with illustrations and a pseudo-academic tone, "Häxan" offers a disturbing yet fascinating look at the darker side of human belief.

  • The Phantom of the Opera (1925): Starring the brilliant Lon Chaney, this American silent horror film tells the story of a disfigured musical genius who haunts the Paris Opera House, driven by an obsessive love for a young soprano. Its gothic atmosphere, tragic romance, and iconic imagery resonate with fans of "Faust."

  • Metropolis (1927): Fritz Lang's science fiction epic may differ from "Faust" in genre, but it shares similar themes of ambition, class struggle, and the potential dangers of unchecked power. "Metropolis" also boasts stunning visual effects and Expressionist-influenced set design, making it a cinematic spectacle.


Faust 1926 Reviewed FAQs


Q: What is the film Faust about?

A: Faust is a silent film directed by F.W. Murnau, loosely based on older versions of the classic German legend of Faust, and further inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's play. It explores the timeless tale of an ambitious scholar named Faust who, desperate for knowledge and power beyond mortal reach, makes a pact with the demon Mephisto. The price is steep: his soul. Through this bargain, Faust experiences worldly pleasures and the extremes of human emotion, but at a devastating cost.


Q: Who are some of the key characters in Faust?

A: The main characters in Faust include:

  • Faust: An aged alchemist disillusioned by the limits of science and faith (played by Gösta Ekman).

  • Mephisto: A demonic tempter, offering limitless power and experience (played by Emil Jannings).

  • Gretchen: A young, pure woman who becomes the focus of Faust's desire (played by Camilla Horn). In the film, her name is changed to Gretchen to align more closely with Goethe's play.

  • Marthe: Gretchen's aunt, a somewhat comedic figure easily swayed by Mephisto's charms (played by Yvette Guilbert).

  • Valentin: Gretchen's protective brother (played by Wilhelm Dieterle, who later became a notable Hollywood director).

  • The Duchess of Parma: A captivating noblewoman with whom Faust briefly finds distraction (played by Frida Richard).


Q: When was the film Faust released?

A: Faust premiered in Germany on October 14, 1926. It's considered one of the greatest films of the silent era and a pinnacle of German Expressionist cinema.


Q: How does Faust's story differ in the film compared to Goethe's play?

A: While Murnau draws inspiration from Goethe's epic version of the Faust legend, the film focuses primarily on the core bargain between Faust and Mephisto, and its destructive consequences. It streamlines the narrative and heavily emphasizes its visual storytelling, creating a uniquely cinematic experience.


Q: What is significant about the visual style of Faust?

A: Faust is a masterpiece of German Expressionism, a movement known for its distorted sets, dramatic lighting, and exaggerated performances. Murnau uses these techniques to externalize the characters' internal struggles, creating a world that feels both nightmarish and hauntingly beautiful. The film's special effects, while primitive by today's standards, were groundbreaking at the time, adding to its otherworldly atmosphere.


Q: How is the character Mephisto portrayed in Faust?

A: Emil Jannings' performance as Mephisto is iconic. He's less a traditional devil with horns and more a cunning, almost playful force of corruption. His sly smiles and exaggerated gestures emphasize the seductive nature of the evil he represents, making him both alluring and terrifying.


Q: What is the role of music in the film Faust?

A: Since Faust is a silent film, music plays a crucial role in setting the mood and amplifying the emotional impact. Different versions of the film have been released with various scores. Some utilize classical compositions, while others feature original, more modern music. Regardless of the specific score, the music becomes an essential character within the film, guiding the viewer's emotional journey alongside the visuals.

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