Article 3129 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-21-2009
Posting Date: 3-9-2010
Directed by Peter Gorski and Gustaf Grundgens
Featuring Will Quadflieg, Gustaf Grundgens, Ella Buchi
Country: West Germany
What it is: Classic sell-your-soul-to-the-devil drama
Faust sells his soul to the devil.
This movie is for all practical reasons a photographed stage play of the first part of Goethe’s classic story of Faust that runs for over two hours long and is in unsubtitled German. If that’s enough for you to throw in the towel before you’ve even gotten wet… well, I can appreciate that; if I weren’t a committed fool to this project, I’d probably do the same. Those who persist will find some incredibly good acting, especially from Gustaf Grundgens, who had been essaying the role of Mephisto for three decades; as always, I maintain that good acting can be spotted even if you don’t understand the language. It also makes some real effort to keep the “photographed stage play” approach from getting too stodgy; changes in camera angles, close-ups, and occasional cinematic special effects enliven the production. As for not understanding the movie, that can be easily solved by grabbing a translation of Goethe’s work and reading it in preparation for the viewing, as I suspect this version is quite faithful to it. I didn’t quite have the time to prepare, and though I’ve read the original play many years ago, I barely remember it and recall it being a difficult read. There’s also a mind-blowing sequence that pops in about fifteen minutes before the movie is over, and it makes some rather creative use of atomic bomb stock footage. It’s quite interesting, albeit intimidating, but I’ll make sure I’m more prepared when I watch a second time.