By: Vickie J. Rubinson
Faust is a silent film directed by German filmmaker F.W. Murnau and starring Emil Jannings as the Devil (Mephisto). Faust was Murnau's last German movie and directly afterward he moved to the United States under contract to William Fox to direct Sunrise in 1927.
The story centers around the demon Mephisto who has a bet with an Archangel that he can corrupt a righteous man's soul and destroy in him what is divine. If he succeeds, the Devil will win dominion over earth. The Devil delivers a plague to the village where Faust, an elderly alchemist lives.
Though he prays to stop the death and starvation, nothing happens. Fast then makes a trial 24-hour bargain with the Devil. Faust will have Mephisto's service till the sand runs out in an hourglass, at which time the Devil will rescind the pact. At first, Faust uses his new power to help the people of the village but they shun him when they find out that he cannot face a cross.
Later, Faust makes a further deal with Stan, who gives Faust back his youth and offers him earthly pleasures and a kingdom in return for his immortal soul. Mephisto then takes him to a celebration to finish his tryst with an Italian Duchess.
Faust seals the deal permanently, he is Mephisto's forever.
Faust soon grows weary of debauchery and years for "home." Here Faust falls in love with an innocent girl, Gretchen, but he is later framed for the murder of her brother by Satana dn must flee with Satan's encouragement. The girl has a child by Faust but is cast out into a blizzard where the child dies and she is sent to the stake as a murderess. Faust sees what is happening and demands Satan take him there. Faust arrives just as the fire has been started to burn his lover. Faust wishes he had never asked to have his youth back and runs through the assembled mob himself onto the fire to be with his beloved.
Gretchen recognizes Faust and sees him in her heart as a young man again as the fire consumes them together. The angel reveals to Mephisto that he has lost the bet because love has triumphed over all.
Murnau's Faust was the most complex and expensive production undertaken by UFA until it was surpassed by Metropolis the following year. Filming took six months and a cost of 2 million marks. According to film historians, Faust seriously impacted studio shooting and special effects techniques.