The Student of Prague (1913)


The movie The Student of Prague (1913) is a German silent horror film. It is sometimes considered the very first horror film. It is loosely based on “William Wilson”, a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, the poem The December Night by Alfred de Musset, and Faust. [1] The movie The Student of Prague (1913) was remade in 1926, under the same title The Student of Prague. Other remakes were produced in 1935 and 2004 [1] .

The film stars Paul Wegener in his film debut. It is generally deemed to be the first German art film. It was shot at the Babelsberg Studios and on location around Prague. The film’s sets were designed by the art director Robert A. Dietrich. [1]

In Prague in 1820, a poor university student named Balduin is the city’s wildest carouser and greatest swordsman. Despondent over his lack of funds, he is approached by a diabolical old gentleman dressed in black named Scapinelli. A local young woman named Lyduschka is infatuated with Balduin and begins to follow most of the action from a distance. Balduin becomes smitten with Countess Margit Schwarzenberg after rescuing her from drowning, but – despite receiving a locket from her – knows he cannot pursue this love because of his poverty. [1]

Scapinelli, who is always in a gleeful mood, offers Balduin 100,000 pieces of gold in exchange for any item to be found in his student lodgings. Balduin agrees and signs a contract thinking he owns nothing, but is astonished when Scapinelli calls forth Balduin’s reflection from the mirror and absconds with it. The baffled student realizes that he now produces no mirror image. Recovering, Balduin – now flush with cash – attempts to woo Countess Margit. [1]

At the Hofburg Palace, the resplendently attired Balduin renews his acquaintanceship with the Countess, but both Lyduschka and his mirror double put in appearances before the Countess covertly gifts Balduin with her handkerchief. Balduin and the Countess meet secretly at an old Jewish graveyard, but the double appears again and terrorizes both lovers. Lyduschka tips off Baron Waldis-Schwarzenberg, the Countess’s fiancé and cousin, about Balduin’s amorous efforts (she has stolen the handkerchief as evidence). Incensed, the Baron challenges Balduin to a duel with sabres. [1]

Privately, Count Schwarzenberg – the Countess’s father and the Baron’s uncle – begs Balduin not to kill the Baron, as he is the last surviving heir to the family. Balduin agrees but is thwarted when his double again appears at the duel in his place and kills the rival suitor. Distraught, Balduin sneaks into Margit’s room and continues to petition for her affections. [1]


  • Paul Wegener as Balduin
  • Grete Berger as Countess Margit
  • Lyda Salmonova as Lyduschka
  • John Gottowt as Scapinelli
  • Lothar Körner as Count von Schwarzenberg
  • Fritz Weidemann as Baron Waldis-Schwarzenberg


The Student of Prague was made in early summer 1913 on original locations in that city, as well as in the Potsdam-Babelsberg studios, which had been constructed in 1912⁷.

Piano virtuoso Josef Weiss, a student of Liszt, wrote the first specially-composed film music for the premiere; it has been passed down to us in the form of a piano score⁷.


“Not only does 1913’s The Student of Prague offer an entertaining example of independent film from an era before even Hollywood had become Hollywood, it has a place in history as the first independent film ever released. German writer Hanns Heinz Ewers and Danish director Stellan Rye (not to mention star Paul Wegener, he of the Golem trilogy) collaborated to bring to early cinematic life this 19th-century horror story of the titular student, a down-at-the-heels bon vivant who, besotted with a countess and determined to win her by any means necessary, makes a deal with a devilish sorcerer that will fulfill his every desire. ” [2]

“The Student of Prague is startlingly mature in its approach to storytelling, often feeling considerably more modern than some movies made a decade or more later. There are still lots of stylistic hangovers from the stage, and the majority of the intertitles are deployed in an archaic explanatory manner, but this is a much more cohesive and plot-driven picture than was common back in the teen years, with very little of the dazzle-for-its-own-sake that was the dominant filmmaking sensibility in its day.” [3]

“The Student of Prague is sometimes considered to be the first horror film ever made. It could also easily double (pun intended) as the first Twilight Zone episode never made. In The Fabulous Fantasy Films (A.S. Barnes and Co., Inc., 1977), Jeff Roven makes a similar comparison. He writes that the first screen version of Satan came in this movie, ‘a routine tale by today’s standards’ that ‘set the stage for more extravagant deals with the devil to come.'” [4]


[1] Wikipedia




Last updated byCody Meirick on November 26, 2023