Faust to be shown with live music

The classic 1922 film tells about a man who sold his soul

Restored silent films are being brought back to the big screen with live music. F.W. Murnau's Faust, released in 1926, will be at kino Lucerna on May 20 with music from Czech violinist Iva Bittová and German guitarist Marc Sinan. The film with has English titles.

Faust is one of the classics of German expressionist cinema, made right before director Murnau relocated to Hollywood to make Sunrise.

The stakes are high in this version, with the demon Mephisto, played by the great Emil Jannings, making a bet with an archangel that he can corrupt a devout man. If Mephisto wins, the dark forces will get control of the earth.

At the time the film was made, it was the most elaborate production ever made by German studio UFA, but it only held that title for a year before Fritz Lang's Metropolis overtook it.

Faust was only seen in shortened, poor quality copies for decades but has been restored using a variety of copies to get the best versions of various scenes. Some scenes existed in only a single copy in archives.

Local legend has it that the Faust tale took place in Prague, and a building on Karlovo náměstí used by the Medical Faculty of Charles University is officially known as Faust House (Faustův dům).

Many other cities also lay claim to the legend, and the film uses a somewhat generic setting.

The current trend for live music with film is not to look for scores from the time, or to try to do musical sound effects track that closely matches the action on screen, but to do modern music as a sort of thematic jam session.

Iva Bittová comes from a musical family but began as an actress. She switched to music in the 1980s. Singing and playing an avant-garde violin, though still makes the odd film appearance. She has eight albums and tours a lot.

Marc Sinan comes from a more classical background and has played guitar on concert stages since his youth. He also composes. In 2011, he received a special prize of the German UNESCO Commission for using music to bring cultures together.

The screening of Faust is part of a series of films by F.W. Murnau being presented with live music. The first film, Nosferatu, sold out long before its screening. But there is good news for vampire film fans. Another screening of the restored 1922 version of Nosferatu has been added for June 3.

The series also includes the 1924 film the Last Laugh, which again stars Emil Jannings. The tragic tale of a hotel doorman who loses his job will be shown May 27 at Lucerna, with music by Clarinet Factory.

It was an experiment in making a film with almost no dialogue cards. The gestures and context are meant to carry the whole story. It is often included on lists of the best film ever made, and it has a 100 percent rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

Emil Jannings, as a note of trivia that may help readers win a contest one night, was the first actor to ever win an Oscar and still is the only German actor to ever win Best Actor. He won for the films The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh for 1927/28, as multiple films were taken into account back then, and not just one as is the case now.

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