Friedrich Murnau


(Copyright © 1999-2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

5.0 Journey into the Night (1921)
6.0 Castle Vogeloed (1921)
6.5 The Burning Soil (1922)
6.5 Phantom (1922)
7.4 Nosferatu a Symphony of Horror (1922)
5.0 The Finances of the Grand Duke (1924)
7.3 The Last Man (1924)
6.0 Tartuffe (1925)
6.9 Faust (1926)
7.5 Sunrise (1927)
7.0 City Girl (1930)
6.5 Tabù (1931)
Links:

If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.

1) Der Gang in die Nacht

Friedrich Murnau, allievo di Reinhardt, si inserì nell'immediato dopoguerra nell'ambiente del cinema espressionista.

Strinse amicizia con l'attore Conrad Veidt, con l'operatore Karl Freund e con lo sceneggiatore Carl Mayer.

All'espressionismo nero erano ispirati i suoi primi film, fra i quali Satanas (1919) e Der Janus Kopf (1920), col giovane Bela Lugosi, con i soliti motivi del mostro, dello sdoppiamento, del destino, ma facendo sovente ricorso a scenografie naturali. L'incontro con Mayer lo indirizzò invece verso un cinema più essenziale, e più idoneo alla sua educazione reinhardtiana, restia ad accettare i trucchi derivati dal teatro: Tutti questi film prima del 1921 sono persi.

Der Gang in die Nacht/ Journey into the Night (1921) e Schloss vogelöd/ Castle Vogeloed (1921), un giallo nel castello, con annegamento nel lago, sono i film piu` vecchi che rimangono.

2) Die Brennende acher

Nel 1922 realizza comunque due opere sceneggiate da Thea von Harbon, ancora legate ai moduli del film nero.

Der Brennende Acker/ The Burning Soil (1922) è un dramma rurale in cui due fratelli, cresciuti l'uno in città e l'altro in campagna, si ritrovano dopo la morte del padre; uno prende in mano la fattoria del padre, mentre l'altro, ambizioso, diventa segretario del conte, scopre che un suo terreno cela un giacimento di petrolio e per impossessarsene alla sua morte sposa la vedova, nonostante sia amato dalla figlia; ma la vedova, ignara, vende il terreno all'umile fratello; nel tragico finale la vedova si annega nel lago, la figlia appicca il fuoco ai pozzi e il giovane ambizioso fugge pieno di rimorsi. Il manicheismo città-campagna svela l'amore per la terra e per le anime semplici di Murnau. Lo sdoppiamento della personalità avviene a più livelli: il fratello malvagio che arriva dalla città si trova dinanzi al suo fantasma buono, e viceversa; la terra è buona (quella rigogliosa della fattoria) e cattiva (quella arida e brulla dei pozzi di petrolio). La donna ha un ruolo particolare nel dramma: ci sono donne soltanto dalla parte del malvagio, una amata e una sfruttata. Murnau si colloca già a questo punto in margine alla scuola espressionista, di cui sovverte numerose regole; si rivela soprattutto maestro nel manipolare i paesaggi naturali, seguendo l'esempio del cinema scandinavo.

Phantom (1922), tratto dal romanzo di Gerhart Hauptmann, è un film di strada in cui l'ambizioso protagonista tenta invano di ribellarsi alla sua condizione e in cui larga parte hanno le sue allucinazioni erotiche.

Lorenz is still devastated by his "former life" as a convict. His tender wife Marie suggests he should write it down. He was a young dreamer who lives with his mother and sister, Melanie. The two women argued all the time, because the mother disapproved of her daughter's dissolute life, until eventually the girl decided to move out. Absent minded, Lorenz was always late at work. He hardly noticed that the daughter of the bookseller, Marie, was in love with him. One day he was run over by a coach and woke up seeing the beautiful face of a young woman. He fell in love with her, but she turned out to be a rich heiress, Veronika, living in a huge mansion. Lorenz gave some of his own poems to the bookseller, who was so impressed by his talent to tell a distinguished professor. Marie was ever more in love with him, but he didn't know. Lorenz went home in a state of confusion, still reminiscing about the beautiful stranger, indifferent to his mother crying for Melanie's departure. When the bookseller told him that his poems were excellent, Lorenz, indifferent to Marie's joy and hope, started dreaming of becoming famous sand being able to marry the rich Veronika. Convinced of having a wealthy future in fronts of him, Lorentz borrows money from his cynical aunt and then is invited by a sleazy man to have a drink at the decadent saloon. What Lorentz doesn't know is that the professor has found his poems worthless. Lorentz is shocked to find his sister Melanie dressed like a prostitute and entertaining customers. Involved in a brawl, he is taken home in a coach late at night, while his mother is anxiously waiting. During the trip, he overhears that Veronika is about to get engaged. Devastated, he neglects his job. That and the rumours about his saloon adventure and his obsession for the Veronika cost him his job (which, of course, further depress the poor mother). Marie is worried that she has not seen Lorentz in days, but he doesn't even remember her. He is obsessed with stopping Veronika's wedding and walk straight into her parent's house. (And he has never even spoken to her). He begs Veronika's parents, while the good Marie walks into Lorent's house to inquire with his mother about his health. Veronika's parents assure Lorentz that he will be allowed to see her. But he realizes that he doesn't stand a chance. He meets a girl who looks just like Veronika. She is the daughter of a calculating woman who, learning that Lorentz has a bright future as a poet, encourages to court the girl and asks him for money. Melanie lives with a scoundrel who has been planning for some time now to rob Lorentz's aunt. Lorentz accepts to help him: he is the only one she trusts, and she believes that some day he will become a great poet. So Lorentz and the scoundrel split the money. The aunt finds out the truth whe she goes to visit Lorentz and finds only a destitute mother who doesn't know his son's (or his daughter's) whereabouts. Needless to say, Lorentz's mother is further depressed by the news that her son has borrowed a large amount of money after losing his job. While his mother is agonizing, assisted only by the good Marie, Lorentz is still chasing his dream (the mirage of a white coach that disappears in the distance). He spends his money for the girl who looks like Veronika, but his visions are becoming more and more bizarre. Then, repentful, goes back to visit his ailing mother. Realizing the abyss he has fallen into, Lorentz begs his aunt to forgive him. But his partner the scoundrel convinces him to steal all her money. They are caught and imprisoned. This time it is Melanie's turn to visit her dying mother. Marie is the only one who stood by the poor old woman. Marie also waited for Lorentz to come out of prison. Then they got married and now they live happily in their little paradise.

Nello stesso anno Murnau dirige una sceneggiatura di Henrik Galeen tratta dal romanzo "Dracula" di Bram Stoker, Nosferatu eine Simphonie Des Grauens/ Nosferatu a Symphony of Horror (1922), il primo film di vampiri della storia del cinema.

In 1838 in Germany, a man, Hutter, is happily married to his wife Ellen, and emjoys an eden-like garden. He works for a real estate agent, Knock, a sinister old fellow who receives a strangely written letter (what look like hieroglyphs) from a Count Orlok of Transylvania who wishes to buy a deserted house in their town. Knock thus dispatches Hutter to the count's remote castle with the offer to purchase the house right across the street from Hutter's. Hutter takes off for the journey into the mountains. At the remote inn, the sole name of Orlok's castle brings a terrified silence among the customers. In his bedroom, Hutter finds a book about vampyres. He laughs at its legends. The following day a coach takes him through an idyllic landscape until sunset. At sunset, the coach rider refuses to continue because the mountain is known to be haunted. Hutter walks until he gets the first sight of the castle, on top of a promontory. A black coach, driven by a ghostly rider, comes to rescue him. The count welcomes with a little dinner. He reads a letter from Knock written in the same strange language. Hutter begins to feel uncomfortable when he cuts himself with a knife and the count tries to suck his blood. Then the count tells him that he only sleeps during the day. The following morning Hutter is confident again, as he writes a letter to his wife. But the count upsets him again when he smells his wife's perfume in his clothes. It is the perfume that seems to convince the count to sign the contract and purchase the house across Hutter's house. Hutter now reads again the book on vampyres, unable to sleep. Peering outside the door, he sees the count in a vampyre-like position. The door opens and the count walks in. In the meantime, Hutter's wife Ellen sleepwalks out of her room. A doctor is called. The vampyre is about to strangle Hutter. Ellen wakes up and screams. The scream seems to act at a distance and stop the vampyre, who retreats from Hutter's room. Now terrified, Hutter wanders around the castle. He spots a coffin, and inside finds a corpse. Then another one. Then he sees a servant loading coffin after coffin on a carriage. He flees from the window of his room, sees a raft take the coffins downstream, walks to town, where he is rescued by paesants and hospitalized. Count Orlok, instead, sets off on a ship, loaded with his coffins. A scientist, follower of Paracelsius, teaches about carnivorous plants. Knock is gone mad and is kept in a jail, where a spider is devouring its prey. Ellen awaits anxiously for Hutter's return. She receives his letter while she is at the beach, staring at the sea among crosses of dead people. Hutter finally recovers and leaves the hospital. Count Orlok's ship is approaching the shore, while Hutter is riding in a coach and Knock awaits in his cell. On the ship, sailors die of mysterious diseases. Rats come out of a coffin that is pried open. Sailors jump from the ship rather than die of the disease. The captain is left alone, and then the Count rises up and walks towards him. Knock senses that his master is near and escapes from jail. When the ship reaches the shore, the whole crew is dead, and the only living beings are rats. Unseen, Orlok walks into town carrying his own coffin and heads for his new house. Across the street, Hutter is welcomed by his loving wife.
Panic spreads around town as people believe that the ship carried the plague. Ellen doesn't resist the temptation to read the book on vampyres. She reads that nothing can stop a vampyre except a woman without sin, willing to keep the monster busy till sunrise. Ellen makes her decision as she watches a long procession of coffins in the main street. The crowd, looking for a scapegoat, chases Knock outside town and then captures him and ties him up. Ellen sacrifices herself to keep the vampyre awake till sunrise. She dies, but the the vampyre dies and the town is saved from the plague
Il paesaggio minaccioso dei Carpazi secerne in modo naturale la figura del vampiro. Il suo corpo emaciato diventa un esemplare della fauna del posto (come le iene e i topi): campi deserti e soglie buie sono il suo ambiente naturale; e la desolazione del chiaro di luna sul Mar Baltico preannuncia la fine morbosa del vampiro e viceversa il vampiro è diffuso in tutta la natura circostante; è qualcosa di più di una presenza, è insito alla vita stessa.

Se sono numerosi i debiti verso il feuilleton macabro (la bara in cui dorme il vampiro) e il melodramma (il sacrificio della giovane moglie) o, verso la letteratura gotica (i paesaggi lugubri, il castello dei fantasmi) e l'espressionismo (la truccatura eccessiva di Nosferatu;; il vampiro è il massimo stadio del tiranno-mostro-mago; le scenografie, per quanto naturali, sono deformate dal caligarismo; le luci sono protagoniste, perché segnano addirittura il ciclo vitale del vampiro; il destino segnato sia per la donna sia per il mostro), il film è centrato su alcune costanti peculiari dell'opera di Murnau: il ruolo del sesso (che in questo caso distrugge il mostro) e, dell'amore (il grande amore spinge l'eroina a sacrificarsi per distruggere il tiranno) e della donna (praticamente priva di personalità quando è con il buono, protagonista determinante non appena entra nella sfera d'azione del malvagio). Nosferatu è costruito su una trama triviale e su una crisi di coscienza, quella della giovane affezionata moglie che deve perdere la propria identità e violare le regole della morale se vuole riuscire nel suo disegno.

4) Der letzte Mann

Dopo la commedia Die Finanzen des Grosherzogs/ The Finances of the Grand Duke (1924), Der Letzte Mann/ The Last Man/ The Last Laugh (1924) è un'altra collaborazione Murnau-Mayer, a cui si aggiungono Freund e Jannings; l'influsso di Mayer si fa sentire sia nella fotografia degli oggetti sia negli intensi movimenti della macchina da presa. Murnau estrapola le tecniche di Mayer, distillandone strumenti altamente efficaci e per caratterizzare i personaggi e per valorizzare lo spazio drammatico. Il film è perciò oltre il kammerspiel, come Nosferatu era oltre il film nero.

Emil Jannings è l'anziano portiere di un grande albergo berlinese e nel suo quartiere è considerato una personalità; ma il giorno del matrimonio della figlia viene declassato a inserviente delle toilette; Jannings si presenta al matrimonio ancora in divisa, ma quando trapela la verità perde tutto il rispetto di cui godeva da parte della gente; s'ubriaca ed è umiliato e sull'orlo del suicidio; a questo punto interviene la morte di un miliardario, che lascia i suoi averi in eredità al suo ex-portiere. La divisa è un simbolo potente del ruolo e dell'importanza che l'individuo ha in seno alla società; spogliato di essa, perde la sua identità e viene abbandonato da tutti. Altro simbolo è la porta girevole, che stacca nettamente i due luoghi del dramma, albergo dal quartiere dei poveri.

Freund rivoluzionò, eseguendo gli ordini di Murnau e Mayer, il modo di gestire la macchina da presa; dotata di rotelle affinchè potesse muoversi a piacimento, partecipava all'azione. Gli effetti di questa nuova tecnica furono sconvolgenti. Jannings fu a sua volta eccellente e contribuì a perfezionare la sceneggiatura; la sua recitazione esasperata dava il ritmo frenetico dell'azione e fissava il clima grottesco dell'ambiente.

Ognuno dei quattro autori tirò acqua al suo mulino, e ciò spiega alcune splendide contraddizioni. L'umiliazione e il trionfo di Jannings sono rappresentati dall'ambiente in cui opera: i gabinetti o la camera d'albergo lussuosa; di per sè il passaggio dall'atrio d'ingresso ai gabinetti sotterranei non giustifica un abbassamento del tenore di vita, ma il diverso ambiente (l'uno in superficie, l'altro sotto terra, l'uno pulito e fastoso, l'altro sporco e desolato) giustifica il crollo morale di fronte a sè stesso e alla sua gente; non è una questione economica, è una questione di vanità individuale e collettiva.

Tragedia di gente minuta svolta senza didascalie, il film abbandona il kammerspiel quando si concede al sentimentalismo o al lieto fine; il tono del film oscilla fra questo grandioso e quel grottesco (nelle incoerenze, e inoltre nella satira della divisa, teutonicamente intera).
The film is a powerful realist melodrama... until the happy ending that destroys the tense atmosphere.

The camera takes the elevator to descend to the lobby of a hotel and then moves towards the revolving door and shows the crowd on a rainy night. An aging doorman (Emil Jannings) is escorting the patrons of the hotel with an umbrella. When, exhausted, he takes a break, the manager takes note. He lives in a poor and crowded neighborhood but he is respected by his neighbors for his uniform. The camera remains fixed on the little square as the sun goes down and then until the sun comes up again and we see the first people walking out. From the square we see the doorman's wife on the balcony dusting off the uniform. His wife is baking a wedding cake for her daughter. Back at work, he has a bad surprise: the hotel hired a new, younger doorman. The manager demoted him to janitor. They strip him of his uniform but he steals the key of the closet where they store it. At the end of his shift, when nobody is around, avoiding the night watchman, the old man sneaks into the manager's room and steals the uniform from the closet, so that he can walk home still wearing it and not lose the respect of his neighbors. Her daughter's wedding has been celebrated and they were just waiting for him at the reception. The old man gets drunk, his head starts spinning and he has hallucinations: he lifts with one hand a heavy trunk that six men cannot lift while his neighbors clap their hands. In the morning, still a little drunk, he leaves his home wearing the uniform and staggers towards the hotel. He sees everything blurred. He removes the uniform before turning the last corner and leaves it at the train station. He is now horribly late but he sneaks into the hotel unseen from the back door. He spends the day in the restrooms, far from the excitement of the lobby. His wife wants to surprise him with a special lunch bag and is shocked to find out that he is not the doorman but a janitor. For the rest of the day he is careless in his job and upsets the hotel guests who use the restroom. His wife runs home ashamed. The neighbors overhear what she tells her daughter. Soon the whole neighborhood knows that the doorman is a janitor. At the end of his shift the old man picks up the uniform at the train station and then walks home wearing it. He doesn't know that the whole neighborhood knows. They are waiting for him, to make fun of him, thinking that he has always pretended to be a doorman when in fact he was only a janitor. His wife, his daughter and his son-in-law are ashamed of him and don't need to speak a word. The old man walks out and, devastated, walks back to the hotel. He runs into the night watchman, surrenders the uniform and cries. The night watchman restores the uniform in the closet and lets him walk into the restroom. The night watchman is the only one to be compassionate. When the old man collapses on a chair, the watchman covers his back with his own uniform. We then see the film's only title card, that reminds us that we are watching a film. In real life the old man would be doomed, but the author of the film invents an unlikely happy ending. The newspapers report how a bachelor tycoon left his fortune to the janitor of the hotel (his will stated that his entire fortune should go to the person in whose arms he dies). The old man can buy a new suit and dine at the expensive restaurant of the hotel while all the rich guests laugh at the funny circumstances that turned him into a rich man (the second time that people laugh at him). He invites the night watchman, also a poor old man to dine with him. The two old men smoke cigars and leave in a carriage, and, after tipping the hotel's personnel, they even take a beggar with them.

5) Faust

Nei due film successivi Murnau si dedicò al magniloquente Jannings, per il quale approntò due trasposizioni dal teatro classico e romantico, rispettivamente il Tartuffe (1925) di Molière e il Faust (1926) di Goethe.

Nella prima il quartetto di Der Letzte Mann era ancora integro ma si limitò a trasferire l'inganno dell'ipocrita nella Germania contemporanea, e ad usare il film come esercizio di stile: per aprire gli occhi al nonno che una furba governante sta tentando di circuire, il nipote proietta il Tartuffe.

Nella seconda Jannings è Mefistofele, che trasporta Faust nella lussuosa abitazione di una contessa; sedotta la quale, Faust si offre al rogo per espiare. Il film è il primo kolossal espressionista, poiché anticipa di qualche anno Metropolis. L'atmosfera è però da commedia musicale o da melodramma, contaminata appena dalle illusioni ottenute con i soliti virtuosismi alla macchina da presa.
The film, however, is only a mediocre adaptation of Goethe's poem (only the first part of it), and it is further bogged down by the implausible comic detour of the devil seducing a fat old woman.

The film opens with the riders of the apocalypse who are skeletons. An archangel and a demon bet: the demon bets that he can steal Faust'soul and the angel tells him that he can have Earth if he succeeds. Faust, an elderly alchemist, is trying to turn metal into gold and the demon is certain he will succumb. We then see a giant shadow envelope the town: the demon with his wings. The demon sends a hurricane on the town, an allegorical wind that brings the plague and kills many people. Faust searches for a cure in vain. God does not reply to his prayers. A young woman comes to beg for help because her mother is dying, but she dies in his arms. A preacher shouts that those who have faith will survive but he is soon killed. Faust feels that all his knowledge is useless and throws all his books in the fire. Lastly, he throws the bible too in the fire. Suddenly he notices a book open at a page that explains how to make a deal with the Devil. Faust follows the instructions and Mephisto appears amid an explosion. Faust runs away but Mephisto follows him all the way to his studio. Faust offers him a one-day trial: Faust will have superhuman powers until the sand runs out in an hourglass. Faust signs (with a drop of blood) in order to fight the plague and begins immediately to heal the sick but soon realizes that he cannot operate when there is a crucifix. The villagers realize that he is in league with the Devil and a mob tries to stone him to death. Faust locks himself in his house and is ready to kill himself with poison, but Mephisto appears and reminds him that he signed up for a day. Mephisto then tempts him with an image of him as a young handsome man and offers to make him young again. Faust wakes up a young man. Mephisto is replaced by a new, younger demon who shines the mirage of a young beautiful woman. Faust begs to be taken to her and the new Mephisto flies him there on his flying mantle. They fly over mountains and valleys until they reach Italy. They arrive at a castle where the duchess of Parma, considered the most beautiful woman of Italy, is getting married with a magnificent and opulent party. Mephisto and Faust appear with a cortege of elephants and dancers. Mephisto introduces Faust to the duchess and Faust offers a giant diamond to her. She elopes with him while Mephisto kills the groom with a sword. Faust is just about to make love to the duchess that the sand runs out in the hourglass. Faust cannot resist and sells his soul to the Devil for good. Faust is soon unhappy with his easy life. Mephisto offers him everything but Faust cannot be satisfied. Faust dreams of the simple life of his village before the plague. Mephisto obeys and takes him home. They arrive in the middle of Easter celebrations. Among the crowd walking into the church Faust sees a sweet and devout girl, Gretchen. Mephisto can't stand the music played in the church. Meanwhile, soldiers return home on vacation. One of them is Valentin, Gretchen's brother, who brings gifts to his old mother. Gretchen is delighted to see Valentin. Mephisto breaks into their house and deposits an enchanted chain into a drawer of Gretchen's room. Gretchen is surprised to find the gift but doesn't tell her mother. Gretchen visits her neighbor Marthe who sells love potions and shows her the mysterious present. After Gretchen leaves, Mephisto visits Marthe pretending to be a friend of her cousin and delivers a necklace that makes her fall in love with him (either just for fun or to distract her). Meanwhile, Faust seduces Gretchen in the garden. While Mephisto promises to keep the brother out of the way, Faust climbs to her bedroom's window and enter her room. But Mephisto instead tells her brother in a tavern that Gretchen is not pure and tells him to run home and see for himself. Mephisto also wakes up her mother with a strong wind. The wind opens the door of Gretchen's bedroom and reveals Gretchen in bed with Faust. The old mother collapses dead. Valentin arrives and challenges Faust to a sword duel. Mephisto stabs Valentin in the back and then shouts "murder" all over town waking up the villagers. Valentin dies cursing his sister in front of everybody. She is publicly humiliated and expelled. Christmas comes. Gretchen is now a tramp with a little child, roaming the streets while it's snowing. The villagers still despise her and nobody helps her. The child dies, she is accused of murder, and condemned to burn at the stake. She cries for help and somehow Faust hears her cry. Faust orders Mephisto and, voila, Faust is flown to the square where she is being taken to the stake. Faust curses youth, Mephisto smashes a magic mirror, and Faust regains his old body and throws himself to Gretchen's feet. Faust begs her to forgive him. As the flames begin to envelope her, old Faust jumps on the stage and hugs her to be burned alive with her. A light shines in the sky and the archangel appears. Mephisto demands the Earth because he has won the bet, but the archangel replies that a word defeated him: "love".

Nel 1926 Murnau e Mayer si trasferiscono ad Hollywood. Mentre Mayer tornerà in patria due anni dopo, Murnau resterà in America fino alla morte, avvenuta per incidente d'auto precocemente nel 1931, all'età di quarantadue anni.

6)Sunrise

Il capolavoro del periodo americano è Sunrise (1927), film tecnicamente impeccabile basato su una sceneggiatura poetica e melodrammatica di Mayer, intensamente lirico sia per l'azione sia per le immagini.

La vicenda si svolge in un'unica lunga giornata d'estate: un contadino, che viveva tranquillo nel suo villaggio di campagna con la famiglia, è stato sedotto da una turista che lo dissangua e gli suggerisce di annegare l'ingenua e buona moglie nel lago; all'ultimo momento il contadino non trova però il coraggio e la moglie può fuggire sulla terraferma; l'uomo la insegue e implora invano il suo perdono; vagano per la città e alla fine si rappacificano; mentre tornano a casa una tempesta improvvisa li fa naufragare: il contadino, disperato per la perdita della moglie, sta per uccidere la sua seduttrice, quando apprende che la moglie è sana e salva.

Nel film si trovano diverse costanti dell'opera di Murnau: l'annegamento, il contrasto fra la campagna e la città, la lotta fra la fedeltà all'amore e l'osservanza della legge.

L'idillio campestre è guastato dalla vamp cittadina portatrice dell'eros moderno e contaminatrice del quieto calore domestico: l'uomo deve quasi uccidere l'amata per capire quanto la ami in realtà.

La città è però anche il luogo della riconciliazione; essa appare agli occhi dei due sposi come una gigantesca fiera, un mondo di favola dove il traffico, la folla, i palazzi sono espressioni di festa. La città riecheggia cioè il loro sentimento di gioia e di amore: il loro itinerario sentimentale culmina in effetti in un luna-park. Mentre la campagna fa da contrasto al loro amore; cercando di separarli, fa vedere quanto si amano.

Se all'inizio la campagna è armonia e la città sovversione, alla fine i ruoli sembrano invertiti; il viaggio di attraversamento ha come esorcizzato la città, sostituendo il reale, borghese gretto e meschino, con l'immaginario contadino, meraviglioso e fiabesco.

Il film si appropria genialmente di diversi modelli hollywoodiani, dalla comica (l'episodio della statua rotta, sostituita con una palla e del maialino ubriaco, il diverbio con un villanzone nel salone del barbiere), dalla commedia (il frenetico spensierato giro della città) al sentimentale (il bacio in mezzo al traffico), dal thriller (l'andata e il ritorno sulla barca, rispettivamente con la suspense per l'omicidio e la tempesta).

L'illuminazione e la cinepresa penetrano la psiche dei due protagonisti modellando gli ambienti secondo il loro stato d'animo. L'annullamento del maleficio cittadino con cui è cominciato il dramma obbliga Murnau a usare la campagna come agente della maledizione divina che deve abbattersi sulla coppia; in un certo senso la città è stata comunque malvagia, poiché ha ritardato la partenza degli sposi, seducendoli con i suoi baracconi viventi, fino al momento della tempesta: la disgrazia è stata causata dalla permanenza in città: e non è mortale solo in quanto avviene nell'ambiente naturale dei contadini, nella campagna, che è buona e non li può uccidere (il vecchio contadino salva la giovane perché conosce a menadito il flusso delle maree). Il lago, uno dei simboli più frequenti nei film di Murnau, è un luogo neutrale, teatro in genere della tragedia mortale, ma non dotato di un personalità attiva. Il mare è in psicanalisi la sessualità totale, pulsione di morte e regresso agli stadi primitivi della vita. Nella palude (prosecuzione del lago dentro la campagna) il contadino furente può sfogare le sue pulsioni.

Capolavoro ibrido, nato dalla confluenza di esperienze e citazioni a volte antitetiche, Sunrise è un punto d'arrivo per la personalità artistica di Murnau, soprattutto per il suo simbolismo sessuale: la donna è sdoppiata in oggetto di piacere e oggetto di riproduzione ed è raddoppiata dalla dicotomia città-campagna.
Murnau borrows from naturalism, expressionism, comedy, thriller and film noir. The lengthy comic section even borrows something from the slapsticks. The happy ending, as usual, is Murnau's weak point.

A train leaves the train station. Tourist arrive on a sunny day at a idyllic town by the lake. We are informed that one of the tourists is a "Woman from the City" and that she is still there after several weeks. In the evening she walks outside. She stops in front of a house where a couple is about to start dinner. She whistles and the husband, after a little hesitation, wears a jacket and walks out. When the wife comes back with the food, she realizes that the husband is out with his lover. Two old women gossip about the situation: the couple used to be happy but now the man is running up debts for his lover. The wife hugs their child and weeps while the husband hugs her lover in the moonlight. She wants him to sell the house and move with her to the city. And she hints that he should kill his wife, faking a boat accident. Initially he refuses but then he listens to her plan. He then sneaks inside the house while his wife and child are sleeping. In the morning the wife finds him lying in the bed still dressed with the jacket and tenderly pulls the blanket over him. He wakes up still unsure what to do, agonizing about making a decision, torn between the two women. When he tells the wife that he'll take her on a boating trip, she is happy and excited. She gets dressed in a minute and leaves the child with an old lady. The dog seems to sense that something is wrong. It unchains itself, runs after them and swims to the boat until she helps it to climb on board. The husband rows back to shore and chains the dog again. When he returns and rows frantically to the middle of the lake without saying a word, she realizes that something is wrong with him. He starts moving towards her with the homicidal look in his eyes and she begs him to space her. But he can't do it and rows quickly back to shore. His wife is devastated that he would even think of killing her (on a boat trip that she thought was a happy surprise). Instead of going home, she flees to the road where she jumps on a trolley. He runs after her and, while the trolley coasts the romantic lake and enter the city, he tries to regain her trust. She tries to run away on foot and he again follows her and saves her when she's almost run over by a car. They walk into a cafe where she keeps crying without speaking. They walk out and he buys her flowers but she keeps crying without speaking. They happen to stand in front of a church where a wedding is being celebrated. They walk inside to witness the ceremony. Now it's the husband who weeps; and begs her to forgive him. Now she's the one who consoles him. They walk through the streets without paying attention to the crowd. When they kiss, they even block traffic and cause a traffic jam. When a man flirts with the wife in a barber shop, the husband scares him with a knife. They amuse a photographer who takes a picture of them kissing like newlyweds. In the evening they end up in an amusement park and enjoy the fireworks after some comic episodes (like chasing a drunk piglet and entertaining city folks with a country dance). Meanwhile, the lover is still working on the plan to sell the husband's house, thinking that he has killed the wife. When it's time to go home, they board the trolley in a happy mood. Then they take the boat and romantically stare at the moonlight. Suddenly the streets of the city are swept by a violent storm. Soon the storm engulfes the lake as well. The husband does his best but the boat begins to sink. The husband ties the wife to two bundles of reeds (originally meant to save him after killing her) so she will not drown. The boat capsizes and the wife disappears in the waters. When calm returns in the middle of the night, the husband reaches the shore, runs to the city and calls for help. The lover hears the commotion and thinks it's all part of their plan to fake a boat accident. She follows the people who are rushing to the lake and watches as they search for the missing wife. We see that she is floating, saved by the bundles of reeds, but unconscious. The husband finds an unfastened bundle and breaks down, convinced that she has drowned. The men end their search and remove their hats in mourning. He returns home in tears. The old babysitter, also in tears, is hugging his sleeping child. The lover, still thinking that he killed the wife, follows him to the house and shows up in her elegant dress. She expects a lover's hug but instead, furious, the husband tries to strangle her. We see that an old man has found his wife's body and the men are carrying her to the house. The old babysitter shouts the news to the husband and the husband releases the lover. The wife reopens her eyes as he hugs her. The lover leaves the village in a carriage. And the sun rises.

7) Tabù

Il film Four Devils (1928) e` perduto.

City Girl (1930), still silent, is superficially a story about female rebellion and city-countryside contrast, but there is also a metaphor on the evolution of sexuality from the rural world (in which it is essentially a reproduction tool) to the urban world (where it becomes pleasure), the former linear and clean, the latter confused and filthy. The film is a tense social melodrama a` la Tennessee Williams. There is little here of the expressionist Murnau.

A young man, Lem, is traveling on a train with instructions from his father to sell their wheat at a certain price and with a note from his mother to beware of strangers. The old folks live in a farm. In the seat across from Lem is sitting a sexy girl who sees him counting his money but tries in vain to strike a conversation. We see that his father is a miser: he scolds his little daughter because she plays with wheat, which to him is a good to sell. Lem reaches the trade exchange of the big city, Chicago. Meanwhile a simple girl, Kate, a waitress in a busy restaurant , longs for the slow life of the countryside. They start chatting at the restaurant. She is envious that he lives in Minnesota. At home she sees a billboard publicizing the idyllic life of Minnesota. She has a lonely life, her only company a bird. Lem reads in the newspaper that the price of wheat is collapsing and, panicking, sells for less than the price wanted by his father. Lem returns to the restaurant and tells Kate that he's afraid of how his father will react. Lem is shy but she guesses that he's in love. He's about to board the train at the station when he changes his mind, and at the same time Kate leaves the restaurant and rushes to the station. They miss each other but then they find each other outside the restaurant. He proposes and they get married. He sends a telegraph to his folks that he married a waitress. His father suspects that the naive boy has been seduced by a loose city girl. When he takes her home, his mother welcomes Kate, but his father ignores her and instead scolds Lem for selling the wheat so cheap. Alone with Kate, the father insinuates that she married Lem for money. He responds angrily and he slaps her in the face. Kate is disappointed that Lem, terrified of his father, doesn't defend her. Some rowdy and vulgar workers arrive, having heard of the new wife and that there is tension between Lem and Kate. Lem's father orders her to serve the men just like a waitress. When they work in the field, Kate and Lem are humiliated by the men. One of them, Mac, openly flirts with Kate, especially after Kate and Lem have an argument and Lem comes to sleep in their dormitory. The father, meanwhile, is worried that a hailstorm is coming, and orders all the men to work a night shift. Mac injures his hand and asks Kate to clean the wound. While they are alone, he asks her to leave with him. Lem's father finds them together and thinks that she is having an affair. Kate now realizes that the countryside is not idyllic at all: if possible, it is even dirtier than the city. Just when the wind is picking up, in the middle of the night, Mac quits and takes all the hired hands with him, abandoning the farm to the coming storm. Alerted by his father that Kate is planning to leave him for Mac, Lem interrogates Kate but she refuses to defend herself. Mac forces Kate to leave with him, threatening to tell Lem that she's the one who organized the strike, but instead Kate flees alone. Lem finds a farewell letter in which she tells him what happened and hopes that her departure will restore peace in the house. Lem, furious, finally attacks Mac. They fight on a cart driven by scared horses. Lem wins and acrobatically stops the horses. His father thinks that it is Mac running away and shoots at him. Luckily he misses, and then, scared that he almost killed his own son, hugs Lem, for the first time showing that he loves him. Lem tells him that the way he treated Kate is worse than shooting, and then goes looking for Kate. The workers decide to stay and work. Lem finds Kate walking in the wrong direction. Lem offers to give her a ride to the train station. On the way they make peace. Back at the farm, Lem's father asks Kate to forgive him. And Kate finally finds the idyllic rural lifestyle that she always dreamed of.

Il mare, con tutta la carica simbolica di cui lo può connotare Murnau, è l'ambiente di Tabù (1931), il suo ultimo film e il suo testamento spirituale, oltre al suo massimo risultato in fatto di splendore figurativo.

Tabù è la conclusiva, metaforica e lirica, pessimistica visione della vita come lotta fra l'amore e la legge che gli impedisce di realizzarsi.

Murnau si recò con il documentarista Flaherty a Tahiti, in Polinesia; l'idea era di produrre insieme un film indipendente, che non dovesse sottostare alle clausole dittatoriali del cinema di Hollywood; ma l'unione si spezzò quasi subito, e Murnau rimase padrone assoluto dell'opera.

Un pescatore di perle ama una giovane indigena, che un sacerdote consacra agli dei; il giovane la rapisce e la porta su un'isola deserta; ma il sacerdote li scova e, nonostante i disperati tentativi del giovane, riconduce con sè la ragazza e uccide il giovane che si oppone.

All'atmosfera da favola dell'idillio sull'isola, segue un'atmosfera disperata in cui il destino compie il suo dovere schiacciando l'uomo impotente.

Il sacerdote rappresenta il destino, la legge, la morte, la città; è il garante dell'ordine e l'agente della disgrazia.

Il film nasce, come Sunrise, dall'incrocio fra diversi generi, primi il film d'inseguimento, quello sentimentale e il melodramma, mentre poche tracce resistono del film esotico (l'ambientazione è come sempre atemporale e indipendente dagli abiti dei protagonisti).

La simbolizzazione è fortissima: il giovane rischia la vita pescando perle che gli servono per sopravvivere, e per salvare l'amata con una possibile fuga in nave; ma al sacerdote basta presentarsi per vincere; il giovane invano si affanna nell'acqua per opporsi a lui; quando questi lo vuole, lo uccide. Il giovane muore annegato. La donna è qui una sola, contemporaneamente piacere e produzione, ma ma non è raggiungibile.

Il pessimismo di Murnau è riassunto definitivamente nei simboli del mare (la morte) e della donna (la vita), in eterna opposizione. Il sacerdote incarna l'ennesimo travestimento del tirannomaestromago (il destino), a cui la donna è indissolubilmente legata.

Tabu non è altro che un lineare passaggio dalla donna, al sacerdote, al mare, in cui è rappresentata la parabola umana . La metafisica si riduce alla psicologia di un uomo dilaniato da forze oscure.

Tutti i film di Murnau sono viaggi psicoanalitici nell'immaginario. I protagonisti si divincolano in una ragnatela di impulsi, sollecitati e torturati dalle forze del male (impersonate da un essere maligno per natura). Tutto si svolge in uno spazio simbolico che è tutt'uno con la tragedia.

What is unique about this cinema database