Film German Cinema 101: Faust

Faust © Kino Lorber © Kino Lorber

Mon, 06/10/2019

Landmark's West End Cinema

2301 M Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20037

As a part of a year-long project Wunderbar: A Celebration of German Film, the Goethe-Institut Washington has selected twelve iconic films that trace the richness of German film history. Together with Landmark's West End Cinema, we present German Cinema 101, a series that guides viewers through this history, paired with expert-led discussions.

Not able to make it to the cinema? No worries! You can also stream this film and 48 films in total (see link at right).


An introduction to the film will be provided by Sky Sitney, co-director of film festival Double Exposure and Assistant Professor in the Film and Media Studies program at Georgetown University. A discussion will follow the screening.

Weimar Republic (Germany), 1926, 106 min., Director: F.W. Murnau, Screenplay: Hans Kyser.

Power and prestige can come at a great cost, as the classic tale of Faust demonstrates. Celebrated director F. W. Murnau’s take on the German legend follows a zealous intellectual elder who makes a pact with the devil in exchange for youth, knowledge, and renown. Initially, Faust is determined to utilize his abilities to save the people of his village from a plague. However, he quickly learns the corruptive properties of excessive power and gives in to the temptation to use these powers for more sinister purposes. When he falls in love with Gretchen, an innocent young women whose tenderness makes him yearn to become good again, he finds himself in conflict with Mephisto — the demon who possesses his immortal soul. Embroiled in murder and guilty of making others suffer the consequences of his own actions, Faust is intent on redeeming himself out of his love for Gretchen.

F.W. Murnau is perhaps best known for his film Nosferatu (1922): a loose adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, in which actor Max Schreck’s appearance as the vampire Count Orlok became an international image recognized everywhere in modern pop culture. However, other films of his, including The Last Laugh (Der letzte Mann) (1924) – starring Emil Jannings, who would later become a huge celebrity in Nazi Germany for his roles in numerous propaganda films - and Faust (1926), are also highlights of Murnau’s unfortunately small repertoire of films still in existence today (of the 21 films directed by Murnau throughout his relatively short career, only 12 have survived over time).

An enthusiast of silent film, the eccentric Murnau preferred to shoot in this medium even after the advent of “talkies.” After a prolific period in Germany during the first half of the 1920s, Murnau relocated to Hollywood in 1926, where he joined Fox Studio and found great success with the universally acclaimed Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927). His last film, Tabu (1931), was censored in the United States for its depictions of female nudity – Murnau died from injuries sustained in a car crash just a week before its premiere. He was interred at Stahnsdorf Southwestern Cemetery in Berlin; Fritz Lang, his friend and respected contemporary, delivered Murnau’s eulogy.
Buy Tickets Are you currently enrolled in a German course at the Goethe-Institut Washington? If so, pick up your free ticket from the front desk today!

This event is part of the German Cinema 101 film series. German Cinema 101 is part of the project Wunderbar: A Celebration of German Film. From Beloved Sisters to A Coffee in Berlin and Young Goethe in Love, from The Blue Angel to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari — we are celebrating German-American friendship with our partner Kanopy by bringing 48 German films to your screens. Goethe-Instituts and Goethe Pop-Ups across the U.S. will take part in the celebration by showing films, organizing film festivals, and inviting German filmmakers to speak.