The movie Faust (1926) is a silent film adaptation of the classic German legend of Faust, a scholar who makes a pact with the Devil in exchange for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. Directed by F.W. Murnau, the film is known for its innovative special effects and expressionist style. The story begins with a wager between an archangel and Mephisto, the Devil, about whether Mephisto can corrupt the soul of the righteous alchemist, Faust. Accepting the challenge, Mephisto brings a plague upon Faust’s village, prompting Faust to renounce God and summon the forces of darkness for help.
When Mephisto appears, he offers Faust a 24-hour period of youth and power, which Faust accepts, using his newfound abilities to help the villagers. However, they shun him upon discovering the dark source of his power. Desperate, Faust makes another deal with Mephisto, trading his soul for eternal youth and the love of a beautiful woman, Duchess of Parma. The movie Faust (1926) then follows Faust’s tragic journey as he falls in love with a young woman named Gretchen, whose life is destroyed by their association.
As Faust becomes disillusioned with the hollow pleasures provided by Mephisto, he seeks redemption and a return to his former life. The film culminates in a dramatic struggle for Faust’s soul, with celestial forces intervening. The movie concludes with the triumph of love and redemption over evil, as Faust and Gretchen are reunited in the afterlife, and Mephisto is defeated.
- Gösta Ekman as Faust
- Emil Jannings as Mephisto
- Camilla Horn as Gretchen
- Frida Richard as Gretchen’s mother
- William Dieterle as Valentin, Gretchen’s brother
- Yvette Guilbert as Marthe Schwerdtlein, Gretchen’s aunt
- Eric Barclay as Duke of Parma
- Hanna Ralph as Duchess of Parma
- Werner Fuetterer as Archangel
- Hans Brausewetter as Farmboy
Faust was Murnau’s last German film before moving to the US.
The film was the most expensive German film until Metropolis (1927).
Murnau used his experience as a combat pilot to create the flying scenes.
Salt was used to simulate snow, and the film includes multiple versions due to different cuts for various countries .
“Faust, with its supernatural vistas of heaven and hell, is particularly distinctive in the way it uses the whole canvas. Consider the startling early shot of Mephisto, his dark wings obscuring the sky as he hovers above a little village that huddles in the lower right corner. Murnau treated the screen as if it offered a larger space than his contemporaries imagined; long before deep focus, he was creating double-exposures like shots in “Faust” where a crowd of villagers in the foreground is echoed by faraway crowds in the upper corners.”