Faust. Eine deutsche Volkssage

Faust. Eine deutsche Volkssage

Edition Filmmuseum 114

F.W. Murnau's Faust has a long history spanning from Berlin to Hollywood. In 1923, Ernst Lubitsch convinced Mary Pickford to let him make a film of the Faust story, but he only got as far as shooting screen tests for the role of Mephisto. When Ufa announced its own Faust film a year later, the only cast member in place was Emil Jannings as Mephisto. For the other parts, the company attempted unsuccessfully to secure American stars. Ufa succeeded in procuring Nobel Prize-winning author Gerhart Hauptmann to write the intertitles, only to discard them in the wake of protest from script writer Hans Kyser. Now, for the first time, the Munich Filmmuseum has reconstructed Faust with Hauptmann's titles, which alter the rhythm and character of the film significantly.

The films

Faust. Eine deutsche Volkssage - Germany 1926 - Directed by: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau - Written by: Hans Kyser - Intertitles: Gerhart Hauptmann - Photography: Carl Hoffmann - Cast: Gösta Ekman, Emil Jannings, Camilla Horn, Frida Richard, Wilhelm Dieterle, Yvette Guilbert, Hanna Ralph - Produced by: Universum Film AG (Ufa), Berlin - Premiere: October 14, 1926, Berlin (Ufa-Palast am Zoo)

Screen Tests for Faust by Ernst Lubitsch USA 1923 Directed by: Ernst Lubitsch With: Charles King, Lester Cuneo, Francis McDonald, Frank Leigh, Lew Cody Produced by: Mary Pickford Film

About the intertitles for Faust

Ufa manager Neumann contacted celebrated author Gerhart Hauptmann with a plea to revise the sloppy intertitles that had been featured in the work print of FAUST. Hauptmann refused at first, only to later change his mind after seeing the film at a special screening in Stralsund and after Ufa had doubled its initial offer. Hauptmann postponed work on his play "Dorothea Angermann" in order to bring the "precious film work" to a fitting conclusion, believing its box office potential would be seriously affected if he didn't.On August 23, the daily newspaper B.Z. am Mittag published extracts from Hauptmann's rhyming intertitles. For the preview screenings simultaneously scheduled in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Leipzig, Breslau and Munich two days later, it was already too late for the new titles to be added to the prints. Hans Kyser, the author behind the film's screenplay, subsequently wrote a polemic against Hauptmann's contribution to the film in the form of an open letter sub-headed "On the Disagreement Surrounding the FAUST Titles" that was published in the B.Z. am Mittag on September 1. Although he admitted to not having seen the film with Hauptmann's titles, Kyser was nonetheless concerned that due to the very fact they were written in rhyming verse the film would be imbued with a "literary character" that would deter from the "visionary strength of its visual composition." Virtually every newspaper and magazine subsequently printed Kyser's letter, offering their own responses on the subject of Hauptmann's rhyming titles in the process. Following an internal screening of FAUST with Hauptmann's titles, Ufa manager Neumann contacted Hauptmann's wife Margarete and urged her to talk her husband round to "revising" and "popu- larizing" his "deeply profound" rhyming titles for FAUST: "By the time the small percentage of the audience that is even capable of intelligent thought has finally understood the verse, the film has already progressed a further 300 ft." Neumann bragged that for several years his closely held belief had been that "the mindset of the cinema-going audience is equivalent to an eight year old child's." Hauptmann did not accede to Neumann's request.At the start of October, Ufa announced that Hauptmann's titles would ultimately not feature in the film, but would be published in the accompanying program brochure to the premiere screening at the Ufa Palast am Zoo in Berlin on October 14. The fact that the film was submitted to the German film censor's office in Berlin twice, on August 17, 1926 and again on October 26 that same year, suggests that the film underwent further revisions during this period. No less than 36 changes, some more significant than others, can be evidenced when one compares the existing intertitles of the work print most likely presented at preview screenings with the so-called "Kyser titles" and the titles as recorded on the surviving second screening permit issued by the German censor's of- fice, which most likely corresponds to the version screened at the Berlin premiere. It is not clear whether the film was ever publicly screened with Hauptmann's titles. In its trade advertisements, Parufamet mentioned the fact that the "debates" surrounding Gerhart Hauptmann's titles for FAUST had promulgated into even the most remote areas. Newspaper advertisements for the Estonian premiere of FAUST, which took place in Talinn on December 2, 1926, made explicit reference to Hauptmann's name. It therefore cannot be ruled out that Hauptmann's titles may have served as the basis for translations into certain foreign languages.

Stefan Drössler

DVD features

  • Faust. Eine deutsche Volkssage 1926, 105'
  • Piano score by Richard Siedhoff
  • Screen Tests for Faust by Ernst Lubitsch 1923, 11'
  • 28-pages trilingual Booklet with an essay by Stefan Drössler and documents by Gerhart Hauptmann and Hans Kyser

Edited by: Filmmuseum München and Goethe-Institut München
DVD authoring: Gunther Bittmann, Tobias Dressel
DVD supervision: Stefan Drössler

First edition December 2020

TV Format Original format Audio format Language Subtitles Region code

4:3 (PAL)
Music score
Dolby Digital 2.0
German intertitles
All Regions


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