Fresh face for Weary Death

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

DES­TINY Five Stars

Di­rected by Fritz Lang. Star­ring Lil Dagover, Wal­ter Janssen, Bern­hard Goet­zke, Ru­dolf Klein-Rogge. Club, IFI, Dublin, QFT, Belfast, 99mins

This eye-pop­ping restora­tion of Fritz Lang’s Des­tiny (Dur müd Tod), set to a newly com­posed or­ches­tral score by Cor­nelius Sch­wehr, was un­veiled, to no lit­tle fan­fare, at Ber­li­nale 2016. The Friedrich Wil­helm Mur­nau Foun­da­tion spent more than a year restor­ing the orig­i­nal colours and in­ter­ti­tles to a film that, since its 1921 hey­day, had faded al­most be­yond recog­ni­tion. Now jol­lied along by the 70-strong Ra­dio Sym­phony Or­ches­tra Ber­lin, its key hor­rors and de­lights – an owl in the moonlight, a mid­get pre­sid­ing over a cock­fight, a se­cret lover buried alive – are all the more sear­ing.

Draw­ing on folk­lore, Lang and his screen­writ­ing part­ner Thea von Har­bou, fash­ion a por­trait of Weary Death, to use the film’s orig­i­nal Ger­man ti­tle. A young woman (Lil Dagover) con­fronts the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of Death (the un­nerv­ing Bern­hard Goet­zke), so that she might beg for the life of her fi­ancé (Wal­ter Janssen). “Love is more pow­er­ful than death,” pleads the plucky hero­ine.

Death, who is worn by his du­ties, out­lines three ro­man­tic tragedies and makes a deal with the griev­ing girl: if she can pre­vent the death of the lovers in any one of the episodes, she will be re­united with her own love. The three tales trans­port us to the Mid­dle East, Qu­at­tro­cento Venice, and im­pe­rial China. Weimar cin­ema stars Dagover and Goet­zke play mul­ti­ple role against fas­ci­nat­ing Ex­pres­sion­ist tableaux.

Thus, an army of ghosts pass through a strange, for­bid­ding wall. Death’s lair is a for­est of im­prob­a­bly tall can­dles, each one rep­re­sent­ing a hu­man life. A ma­gi­cian rides a magic car­pet to the Em­peror’s palace, where he con­jures a minia­ture army be­tween his feet. The ma­gi­cian’s wronged as­sis­tant trans­forms her mas­ter into a hu­man cac­tus and the Em­peror’s guards into swine.

The po­etic script marks von Har­bou’s sec­ond col­lab­o­ra­tion with Lang. She would go on to write Metropo­lis, M, and The Tes­ta­ment of Dr Mabuse, be­fore she and Lang di­vorced in 1933, pri­mar­ily due to her sup­port for the Nazi regime. Years af­ter her death, Lang di­rected The In­dian Tomb, an adap­ta­tion of one of her nov­els. Per­haps love re­ally is more pow­er­ful than death.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.