Early Murnau Five Films 1921-1925
One of the most influential and revered figures in all of cinema, Friedrich Wilheim Murnau came to prominence in the first half of the 1920's with a diverse string of productions ranging from buoyant satire to swirling psychological drama. Five key works are presented here: Schloss Vogelod, Phantom, Die Finanzen des Grossherzogs (the Grand Duke's Finances), Der Letzte Mann (The Last Laugh) and Tartuffe. The five films included vary in quality, style, and content, but taken as a whole they offer a portrait of Murnau’s gradual development as a filmmaker.

Disc one of this box set includes Der Schloss Vogelod (1921) and Phantom (1922), two early films atypical of the style the director is most famous for. In contrast to the highly stylised expressionism of the earlier The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Murnau employs a more naturalistic style for both of these films. Der Schloss Vogelod is an intimate and claustrophobic chamber drama, where terrible secrets from the past return, and Phantom is the tragic tale of a man possessed by a destructive and all-consuming love. Although Murnau was compulsively drawn to magic and the occult, both of these films are notable for their human focus.

Despite their age, there is a great amount of modern relevance in the thematic content of these films, ensuring they are more than just interesting historical artefacts. On disc two there is Die Finanzen des Grossherzogs (1924), a farcical comedy set in the Mediterranean, and Tartuffe (1925), Murnau's subtly satirical adaptation of Moliere's classic play. Compelled towards the source text because of his dislike for the church and his rejection by it (he was openly gay), the film is an open criticism of the sexual hypocrisy of societal institutions.

On disc three there is Der Letzte Mann. This is a poignant social-realist parable about the mental deterioration of an elderly hotel porter, played by Murnau regular Emil Jannings. Always as interested in special effects as he was in characterisation and plot, the film contains some interesting surrealist flourishes and groundbreaking camera work. The eerie and dizzying dream sequence is a notable highlight.


3 x BD50 | 1080p AVC | 435 min | 111 Gb + 3% rec
Language: German intertitles
Subtitles: English
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Crime, Horror, Mystery, Fantasy, Romance, Silent

Extras:
• New high-definition presentations of all five films, created by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung
• Uncompressed PCM audio on all five scores
• The Language of the Shadows: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and His Films, a 31-minute video piece by Luciano Berriatua on the early works of Murnau (30:54)
• What Will You Be Tomorrow? A new video essay by filmmaker and critic David Cairns (16:37)
• Audio commentary by film scholar David Kalat on The Grand Duke's Finances
• The Making of The Last Laugh, a 41-minute documentary by Murnau expert Luciano Berriatua (40:34)
• Tartuffe: The Lost Film, a documentary by Berriatua (41:20)

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