Sunday, October 06, 2019

Faust (1926) (2018 Munich reconstruction with Gerhart Hauptmann titles)

Faust (DE 1926) by F. W. Murnau. Image: © Filmmuseum München.

Faust (1926). At the crossroads Faust (Gösta Ekman) invokes the Devil. Photo: Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, program schedule. Paul Joyce's caption: "I went down to the crossroads... RIP Ginger Baker" (ithankyou, 7 Oct 2019).

Faust: the wedding interrupted. Hanna Ralph as the Duchess of Parma, Emil Jannings as Mephisto, Gösta Ekman kneeling as Faust. Faust (DE 1926) by F. W. Murnau. Image: © Filmmuseum München.

Faust. Eine deutsche Volkssage.
Faust / Faust.
DE 1926
regia/dir: F. W. Murnau.
scen: Hans Kyser, dalla sceneggiatura/based on the script “Das verlorene Paradies” [Paradiso perduto] di/by Ludwig Berger, basata su fonti di/based on sources by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Christopher Marlowe, et al.
photog: Carl Hoffmann.
scg/des, cost: Robert Herlth, Walter Röhrig.
cast: Gösta Ekman (Faust), Emil Jannings (Mephisto), Camilla Horn (Gretchen), Frida Richard (la madre di Gretchen/Gretchen’s mother), Wilhelm Dieterle (Valentin), Yvette Guilbert (Marthe Schwerdtlein), Eric Barclay (Duca di Parma/Duke of Parma), Hanna Ralph (Duchessa di Parma/Duchess of Parma), Werner Fuetterer (Arcangelo/Archangel).
prod: Universum Film-AG (Ufa), Berlin.
dist: Parufamet.
uscita/rel: 14.10.1926 (Ufa-Palast am Zoo, Berlin).
Helsinki premiere: 19 Nov 1926 Capitol, released by O.Y. Ufanamet A/B.
copia/copy: DCP, 109′; did./titles: GER, subt. ENG.
fonte/source: Filmmuseum München.
Obeying the speed of 22 fps (Murnau's orders, reported by Stefan Drössler 6 Oct 2019).
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM), Pordenone.
Grand piano: Donald Sosin.
Viewed at Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in Italian by Underlight, 6 Oct 2019.

Stefan Drössler (GCM): "When Murnau left Berlin for America in June 1926, he reportedly took a print of Faust with him, which he was to hand over to Ufa’s U.S. representative Frederick Wynn-Jones upon his arrival in New York. Fox’s press spokeswoman Vivian Moses vehemently denied the announcement made by the Los Angeles Times on June 19, which stated that Murnau was completing his final cut of Faust at M-G-M’s studio in Culver City. Murnau was under exclusive contract to William Fox and would be devoting his full attention to a film adaptation of Hermann Sudermann’s 1917 short story “Die Reise nach Tilsit” (“The Journey to Tilsit”). Back in Germany, Ufa manager Hans Neumann had contacted celebrated author Gerhart Hauptmann with a plea to revise the sloppy intertitles that had been featured in the work print of Faust. Hauptmann refused at first, only to later change his mind after seeing the film at a special screening in Stralsund and after Ufa had doubled its initial offer. Hauptmann postponed work on his play Dorothea Angermann in order to bring the “precious film work” to a fitting conclusion; its commercial viability, so he thought, seriously at risk if he didn’t."

"On August 23, the daily newspaper B.Z. am Mittag published extracts from Hauptmann’s rhyming intertitles. For the preview screenings simultaneously scheduled in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Leipzig, Breslau, and Munich two days later, it was already too late for the new titles to be added to the prints. Hans Kyser, the author behind the film’s screenplay, subsequently wrote a polemic against Hauptmann’s involvement on the film in the form of an open letter, subheaded “On the Disagreement Surrounding the FAUST Titles,” which was published in B.Z. am Mittag on September 1. Although he admitted to not having seen the film with Hauptmann’s titles, Kyser was nonetheless concerned that due to the very fact they were written in rhyming verse the film would be imbued with a “literary character” that would deter from the “visionary strength of its visual composition”. Virtually every newspaper and magazine subsequently printed Kyser’s letter, offering their own responses on the subject of Hauptmann’s rhyming titles in the process. Following an internal screening of Faust with Hauptmann’s titles, Ufa manager Neumann contacted Hauptmann’s wife Margarete and urged her to talk her husband round to “revising” and “popularizing” his “deeply profound” rhyming titles for Faust: “By the time the small percentage of the audience that is even capable of thinking has finally understood the verse, the film has already progressed a further 300 ft.” Neumann bragged that for several years his closely held belief had been that “the mindset of the cinema-going audience is equivalent to an eight-year-old child’s.” Hauptmann did not accede to Neumann’s request."

"At the start of October, Ufa announced that Hauptmann’s titles would ultimately not feature in the film, but would be published in the accompanying program brochure for the premiere screening at the Ufa Palast am Zoo in Berlin on 14 October. The fact that the film was submitted to the German film censor’s office in Berlin twice, on 17 August 1926 and again on 26 October that same year, suggests that the film underwent further revisions during this period. No less than 36 at times vastly differing changes are evident if one compares the existing intertitles of the work print most likely presented in preview screenings with the so-called “Kyser titles”, as well as the wording of the titles recorded on the surviving second screening permit issued by the German censor’s office, which most likely corresponds to the version screened at the Berlin premiere."

"It is not clear whether the film was ever publicly screened with Hauptmann’s titles. In its trade advertisements, Parufamet mentioned the fact that the “debates” surrounding Gerhart Hauptmann’s titles for Faust had penetrated even the most remote areas. Newspaper advertisements for the Estonian premiere of Faust, which took place in Tallinn on 2 December 1926, made explicit reference to Hauptmann’s name. It therefore cannot be ruled out that Hauptmann’s titles may have served as the basis for translations into certain foreign languages."

"This reconstruction of Faust featuring Gerhart Hauptmann’s titles is based on a scan of a print of Luciano Berriatúa’s 1997 reconstruction of the original German version. Shots marred by “jump cuts” due to the addition of extra intertitles have been substituted from a print made from the alternative negative that was assembled in 1932 for the film’s re-release in Germany. Occasional continuity errors have also been corrected. The division of the film into two distinct parts following explicit indications in Murnau’s original shooting script has been respected with the addition of a corresponding title card, as well as in the new score by Richard Siedhoff. The sophisticated English translation of Hauptmann’s titles was done by Elizabeth Tucker." Stefan Drössler

AA: A Faustian bargain with the Devil to acquire eternal youth while the world is going under: sound familiar?

The Renaissance tale has lost none of its relevance, and Murnau's film adaptation is stunning in its visual composition, shot by Carl Hoffmann. There has never been a greater cinematographer.

One of the most expensive films of its period, Murnau mobilized the talents of the gigantic Ufa studio to brilliant use. With their burgeoning budgets Faust and Metropolis threatened the existence of the studio. Although Faust is a super-production it never seems heavy: the mobile camera is used in a breathtaking way. This time I paid attention to the theme of the wind: there is a whirlwind sense in the film as a whole.

The special reason for this screening was the recent reconstruction of the intertitles by the Nobel laureate Gerhart Hauptmann. (The standard intertitles are by Hans Kyser). Hauptmann's intertitles are written as a poem in rhyme and appear in Fraktur (Gothic) calligraphy. Thus in the film screening we get several Faust interpretations in one: Murnau's visualization, Hauptmann's poem, and the music interpretation.

For the first run of Faust, three major musical interpretations were created by Ernö Rapée, Werner Richard Heymann and Paul A. Hensel. For the Lumière Project restoration in 1996 (Luciano Berriatúa) the Hensel score was reconstructed by Berriatúa and Berndt Heller, and Armando and Carlos Pérez Mántaras. This 2018 Gerhart Hauptmann edition has been equipped with a new score by Richard Siedhoff, and in this screening Donald Sosin provided a new original, deeply felt score of his own.

The film's concept does not try to reach Goethe's philosophical depth ([Ich bin] ein Teil von jener Kraft, Die stets das Böse will und stets das Gute schafft) which remains relevant for the very idea of capitalism.

But the film is a grandiose "soul fight" to quote the term used by William S. Hart about his films.

The film returns to the original Faust chapbook which inspired Goethe and achieves grandeur in its own visual terms. Lotte H. Eisner called the prologue and the epilogue "fugues of light".

For Herman G. Weinberg Faust was the most beautiful film of all, but only in a first generation nitrate print with silky whites and velvet blacks. That remains now only to be imagined.

Stefan Drössler told after the film that Murnau himself asked the film to be screened at 22 fps: he always preferred overspeed. In Helsinki we defy Murnau and screen Faust at 20 fps.


AA Facebook capsule:

A Faustian bargain with the Devil to acquire eternal youth while the world is going under: sound familiar? The Renaissance tale has lost none of its relevance, but the screening of Murnau's Faust at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto was due to the special reconstruction (Münchner Filmmuseum / Stefan Drössler) of the original intertitles in the form of a poem by the Nobel laureate Gerhart Hauptmann. (The standard intertitles are by Hans Kyser). A novel experience of a classic film with a deeply felt music interpretation by Donald Sosin at the grand piano.

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