Murnau's 1922. "Nosferatu" is still one of my all-time favourite movies - not just amongst silent movies but in movies period - so its a bit odd that after idolising that particular movie for so long (I even went on a screening with pianist playing music once and loved every moment of it) it took me forever to sit down and treat myself with "Faust". Perhaps I just had to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy it, who knows, in any case treated myself I did and was amazed how much I loved it. Hey, I watched it twice just so I could enjoy some scenes again!
What both movies have in common in a certain magical, fairy tale quality that this particular director apparently knew how to create - lot had been said and written about German expressionistic movies and how these artists went far beyond populist entertainment into genuine untested waters, where movies became work of beautiful art, still sizzling after all these years. But where "Nosferatu" was a creepy nightmare, "Faust" is not really scary nor it was director's intention - this time we have cautionary tale inspired by well-known literary (and allegedly historical) origin, however the budget was much bigger so everything was beautifully elaborate and ornate, almost every scene is a joy to watch and its hard to pinpoint particular highlight as everything feels like a highlight, from the very beginning where Mephisto surrounds the little town with his black wings and sends the plague on the citizens to the very end where true love finally saves Faust immortal soul. Stunning imagery galore - makes you wonder what would Murnau have done if he had the same weapons on his disposal just a few years earlier ("Nosferatu" survived only as a bootleg and it was supposed to have been destroyed) - there are really some darn magnificent moments, too many to count here. This is art of the highest order.
Actors are great too - Gösta Ekman and Camilla Horn are so brilliant as tormented lovers that is hard to imagine anyone else in these roles. French music star Yvette Guilbert has excellent turn as a shrewd, greedy and silly aunt but all the eyes are on Mephisto. Now, I never understood what was the big deal about Emil Jannings until now, he is absolutely magnificent and so evil that is impossible to forget his eyes twinkling in the dark night at the crossroads when Faust first summons him, or his face when he holds the contract. Strangely enough, although the movie was silent, I was so absorbed in it that I swear that I could almost hear all the noises - the doors creaking, the windows opening, the fire burning, the gust of the wind sweeping - this is the first time that I had such experience. What a unforgettable movie, real masterpiece.