Splatter Time Fun Fest 2011 comes to an end, and for a last minute replacement this film amazes!
Titles By: Gerhart Hauptmann & Hans Kyser
Directed By: F.W. Murnau
I originally had another film slotted into the final spot in the schedule for Splatter Time Fun Fest 2011. Procurement issues reared their ugly head and I wasn’t able to get a copy of that film. I do hope to watch it someday, but currently I don’t have a copy and that left me scrambling to find a film for the final slot. I couldn’t just toss any film into the final slot, the final film in the schedule for Splatter Time Fun Fest has to be of a certain quality. It may not hold up to my viewing, but I always try to have the film in the final slot be one that on paper should be something special. I took a few days looking for one, and then I came across another horror film from F.W. Murnau, my search was over.
It’s fitting that the final film of this year’s Splatter Time Fun Fest is Faust – Eine Deutsche Volkssage. I’ve recently had more than a few discussions about what makes a horror film a horror film. There’s a good chunk of the movie going population who believe that scares are needed for a horror movie to exist. I brought this idea up earlier in the fest for another film that I felt adequately showed how misguided that way of thinking ultimately is. As I was watching Faust – Eine Deutsche Volkssage I realized I had found the ultimate film to show just how diverse the horror genre can be. There isn’t a single second of Faust – Eine Deutsche Volkssage that I would say is scary in the traditional sense, yet it is still a horror film. It’s scares come in the interpretations of the viewer and in the way truth is presented in a surreal setting. Yes, Faust – Eine Deutsche Volkssage is horrific, however I can’t help but to think that a majority of people would watch this film and not for a second find it to be scary or a horror film.
What makes Faust – Eine Deutsche Volkssage a horror film is its central idea, that heaven and hell are willing to play games with the soul of a man over a wager. Faust – Eine Deutsche Volkssage shows the many facets of humanity, but mainly it shows how self abusing humanity can be. Perhaps the most horrific moment of this entire Fest was watching the archangel and Mephistopheles barter over the fate of a man’s soul as if he was nothing more than a piece of currency. There is true horror in that assertion, and there is true horror in the way the wager plays out over the course of the movie. There aren’t any jump scares, ghouls, or vicious killers, but there is a man’s soul on the line in the sickest of all bets possible.
Faust – Eine Deutsche Volkssage is a film, as I already mentioned, by F.W. Murnau and that brings a certain cache to the picture. There are things that Herr Murnau does over the course of the film that are simply amazing to watch. He uses dissolves in innovative ways, brings words off of the screen to highlight them in a way I did not think was possible for the time. Herr Murnau uses atmosphere and a willingness to trust his actors to create a surreal environment. There is truth in the horror of Faust – Eine Deutsche Volkssage, but I would argue there is no truth to the world. Faust – Eine Deutsche Volkssage is very much a nightmare, one that envelops the viewer because of the craft that Herr Murnau possesses. There were sequences, such as the flying cape sequence with Mephisto and Faust that left me with my jaw on the floor. When it comes to the ability to meld technical brilliance with an engaging story Herr Murnau remains in another class altogether.
The trickiest aspect of Faust – Eine Deutsche Volkssage is the performance of Emil Jannings as Mephisto. He is the character we spend the most time with, and while he is is pure evil he is also our window into the nightmare dreamscape that Herr Murnau has constructed. This allows Herr Jannings the liberty to go to some interesting places with his performance. There are times when he is quite funny, and there are times when he is deadly serious and calculating. Herr Jannings sells his character based on the base level of creepiness and evil that is always present. Even when he is in the middle of making some of the funniest faces imaginable to signify his disgust with Marthe Schwerdtlein, Gretchen’s aunt, I couldn’t help but be horrified by his machinations while also laughing. Herr Jannings is delightfully over the top at times, while in other moments he is restrained and stoic. He is our window into this world, and Herr Jannings provides a fantastic view of the evil that has devoured the characters and the viewer.
It may have been a last minute addition to the Fest, but Faust – Eine Deutsche Volkssage is more than a worthy addition. Faust – Eine Deutsche Volkssage is an atmospheric nightmare that offers redemption for its human characters at the end, but never loses sight of the horror that is the wager. In the key final moment the humanity of Faust is tossed to the side while two powerful forces decide the fate of his soul as if it were the last rye in a small downtown deli. Faust – Eine Deutsche Volkssage is a rich and powerful presentation, a fully realized world of horror and technical brilliance. Yet another master work from F.W. Murnau, Faust – Eine Deutsche Volkssage is a cinematic experience that is worth undertaking.