This 2-disc DVD presents the reconstructed and restored version of The Student of Prague, one of the first German 'art films'. Based on an original script by popular writer Hanns Heinz Ewers, it tells the story of Balduin, a student who is destroyed when he sells himself to the devil. Mark Pogolski's piano recording is based on the original score by Joseph Weiss, a pupil of Franz Liszt. Daniel Grossmann conducts the Orchester Jakobsplatz playing Bernd Thewes's adaptation of the original score. Bonus features include the film's reconstructed English export version, plus The Ideal Wife, a short film also made by Ewers in 1913 which features Ernst Lubitsch.
Der Student von Prag - Germany 1913 - Directed and written by: Hanns Heinz Ewers - Cinematography by: Guido Seeber - Original score by: Josef Weiss - Cast: Paul Wegener, Grete Berger, Lyda Salmonova, John Gottowt, Lothar Körner, Fritz Weidemann Produced by: Deutsche Bioscop Gesellschaft m.b.H., Berlin Premiere: August 22, 1913 (Berlin, Mozartsaal & U.T.-LichtspieleFriedrichstraße)
About the Film
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 1912. 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 score. The film's premiere took place on 22 August, 1913, in the 'Mozart-Lichtspiele' on Berlin's Nollendorfplatz.The Student of Prague was advertised as the first filmic attempt to portray 'great, serious dramatic and literary art'. The film's huge success led the production company to produce a slightly shortened English-language export version, which was already shown worldwide in 1913.
The story of Balduin, the student who makes a pact with the devil, takes a Romantic motif from German literature and establishes the fantastic genre in German silent film, which would later be continued by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, Fritz Lang, and others. Still astonishing today is Guido Seeber's camera work, which, starting with the film's first scene, incorporates carefully-choreographed planned sequences and double exposures,achievements which had never before been seen. In line with its aspiration to be more than illustrated literature, the film largely dispensed with intertitles. In keeping with the conventions of the day, the film's scenes were tinted. In the prologue, director Ewers and lead actor Wegener introduce Prague, the scene ofthe action.
The original film was sold in 1915 by its production company 'Deutsche Bioscop' to 'Robert Glombeck Deutsche Filmindustrie KG'. When a remake of the film was produced in 1926, a savvy film distributor released the original in cinemas as a 'rerun', albeit in a reworked form. Ewers had been proud of making a film with asfew intertitles as possible. These appeared like chapter headings in the manner of fairground movies, typically at the start of every scene. Glombeck, on the other hand, added notes on location and time, plot explanations and dialogue, for a total of 107 new intertitles, which he inserted right into the scenes, according to silent film conventions of the 1920s. Thus the film remained in the archives for 60 years.
For the new reconstruction of the film by the Munich Film Museum, which was completed in collaboration with Wilfried Kugel, more or less fragmentary English-language export nitrate copies of the film from Japan and the USA were consulted. The English intertitles were largely inadequate, incorrect translations of the original German titles, which were apparently produced in Berlin in 1913. Easily recognisable due to their different graphic design, the explanatory titles added by the workers of the time stood out. The copies made from the missing original negative displayed improved image quality and contained shots, such as the prologue, that were believed lost. Their colouration provided important indicators for the tinting of the original copies. Original intertitles and tints were reproduced based on contemporary models; the few missing shots at the beginning of the film are indicated by short black phases.
The present DVD presents for the first time all the authorised versions of the film that were prepared by the Munich Film Museum. The versions with the original piano music and the revised orchestration by Bernd Thewes run at different speeds. Silent films were not subject to standardisation, and their speed could vary from screening to screening. The export version with English intertitles and the additional short film The Ideal Wife run at the sound film speed that was specified by the end of the 1920s. We know that many cinemas ran the films considerably faster, by no means orientating themselves to the kind of 'realistic' motion sequences that we find self-evident today.
The audio description, commissioned by the Munich Film Museum and prepared by Deutsche Hörfilm GmbH, does not restrict itself to merely providing the most objective description of visual information possible. Instead, it reaches back to the practice of the 'film narrator', who was common in the 1910s. This speaker provided interpretive and inventive details about the films, which were not yet employing closeups or dialogue titles. Those without vision loss are also advised to switch on this version, since it provides an impression of a form of film presentation that continued the tradition of minstrels, storytellers, and variety theatre MCs.
DVD features (2-disc DVD)
- Der Student von Prag 1913, 76'
- Original piano score by Josef Weiss, performed by Mark Pogolski
- Audiodescription by Deutsche Hörfilm
- The Student of Prague or A BArgain with Satan 1913, 46'
- Der Student von Prag 1913, 83'
- Orchestral score by Bernd Thewes based on the original score by Jodef Weiss, performed by the Orchester Jakobsplatz München conducted by Daniel Grossmann
- Die ideale Gattin 1913, 16'
- Oroiginal script and documents as ROM features
- 20 page trilingual booklet with texts by Hanns Heinz Ewers and an essay by Stefan Droessler
Edited by: Filmmuseum München and Goethe-Institut
DVD authoring: Tobias Dressel
DVD supervision: Stefan Droessler
First edition July 2016, Second Edition December 2016