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Categories: Movie Reviews

There are two Faust films – the classic 1926 German production in black and white, silent film, and the 2011 in colour by Alexander Sokurov. Both of these films are amazing for their achieved styles. It is up to the viewer to decide which one is better based on the taste.

Personally, as a stylistic artist, I have a preference over the silent black and white films. Most people say that black and white is considered boring because nobody speaks and it’s not in colour, but what the talkies are missing is the production values that these silent films used to have. The film is not only treated as a business, not even as a story to tell, but as an art form taken very seriously, staged very carefully, mostly in studio environments for films such as Faust.

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Just like Metropolis and Dracula, Faust is one of the greatest achievements of German cinema in the 1920s. Germans being very serious about their interest in the Gothic styles, created a theatrical film, with very stylistic editing, paired with a dramatic soundtrack and a great cast. The story jumps right to the point, of Doctor Faust finding the Devil and asking for his help, but he is not careful about his wishes. The whole town ends up being ill at one point of the film, and funerals were becoming frequent. In the end, Doctor Faust ends his life by being burned alive from the residents due to various accusations, and Margarete, the only one who trusts him, throws herself with him.

Sokurov, on the other hand, was trying to mimic partially this production, while implementing elements of his own. He set the frames to be as large as cameras could handle back in the 1920s, while he was also shooting with lenses that were making the characters look sometimes intentionally unreal. At first, it sounded like he was making mistakes in the editing, but the shots he was shooting were very specific – the Devil was, while shown as a man, looked a little larger than the other characters. But in reality, the actor wasn’t very tall. Another interesting twist, different from the 1926 version was Doctor Faust – while in the old version he was hungry for more success, the 2011 version showed him as very depressed due to the lack of money. While being an educated man, he wasn’t very good with finances and women, and he was in search of help and happiness. He was told that where the money is where the Devil is, but had no idea what the word “evil” actually meant. His naïve attitude traps him in the pawnshop of the Devil, who, as a great salesman and takes advantage of him very easily. Aleksandr Sokurov-Faust (2011).mkv_snapshot_00.30.42_[2012.04.04_21.44.55]

The energy that Sokurov tends to create with his film is very depressing – people being very hungry, good Christians, very poor, suffering from their own misfortunes. But in a good way, he tends to control how depressing it needed to be, because this kind of energy can be overloading and the viewer won’t be able to finish watching it. This is also somewhat shown in the 1926 version, but the viewers’ emotions are not becoming involved in the film. It is more of a glorious attraction than a character driven piece, and the set style was way more important than the personality of the actor.

Faust makes a great addition to the Halloween list of films, a classic that never dies. It is however, not recommended for people with sensitive natures. The gothic genre is very diverse and creative, and the explorations and the experiments can be fruitful for both filmmakers and the audience who enjoys such films.

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Marija Makeska is a writer, poet, filmmaker and a visual artist living in Detroit, USA. She enjoys spending her time with people from different cultures while working on various projects with pagan, or gothic themes.

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