Doktor Faustus (1982)

Article 4549 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-31-2014
Directed by Franz Seitz
Featuring Jon Finch, Andre Heller, Hanns Zischler
Country: West Germany
What it is: Literary adaptation

A composer makes a pact with the devil so that he can find inspiration to develop new forms of music that are not an imitation of what has already been produced. However, his agreement requires him to forgo love, and this price may be too high to pay…

One theme for which I’ve had no shortage in my foray through fantastic cinema is that of the Faust variation, so the idea of sitting through another one that ran nearly three hours hardly filled me with excitement. This one is definitely more of interest to fans of literary drama than to lovers of the fantastic; it plays out primarily as a drama, and there’s not much in the way of special effects. For a while, it looks like there may be no fantastic content at all and that the deal with the devil will be purely metaphorical; however, the devil finally shows up in a more explicit sense, and a definite deal is made. The movie is based on a novel by Thomas Mann, and though I haven’t read it, I’ve read THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN by him, so I have a bit of a feeling for his work. One thing I remembered about him was discussed in Clifton Fadiman’s “The Lifetime Reading Plan”, which talks about the exhaustive detail of his work and how it makes him such an interesting writer. It’s his willingness to fill in the background detail that may explain why it takes so long for the movie to get around to the actual deal with the devil; the movie is close to the halfway point before this happens, and that puts it well past an hour into the movie. Furthermore, it’s not until certain events occur in the final third of the movie that things really start taking form. In the end I really liked the movie and found it quite thoughtful, but I do think it’s more for those with a literary bent, and I suspect that it doesn’t quite do full justice to the novel.


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