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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Faust

September 14th, 2014

Faust - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Faust came out in limited release last year before coming out on DVD in June. This week it comes out on Blu-ray. I'm not sure why the DVD release came out so much earlier than the Blu-ray. I tried to get the DVD, but there were not enough screeners to go around, but the Blu-ray showed up. Was it worth the wait?

The Movie

The film begins with Professor Faust dissecting a body with his assistant. They discuss what he has learned, a lot of how the human body works, but not about the soul. He needs money to continue his research, but doesn't know where to turn. He tries his father, who is a doctor, but his father treats those who can't afford to pay badly. He meets up with a Moneylender, but he doesn't have anything of value to peddle, not even his gold ring, which the Moneylender rejects. When Faust returns home, the Moneylender arrives to talk to him and return the ring, which he had left behind. While poking around Faust's room, the Moneylender finds a bottle of hemlock that Faust had bought to end his life, but the Moneylender drinks it as if it were nothing. That's not entirely true. It gives him an upset stomach.

The pair go for a walk and eventually the Moneylender leads Faust to the baths, a place when women gather to do laundry. At first Faust doesn't even know why he followed the Moneylender there, but then he spots Margarete there and it is love at first sight, at least for him. We also see the Moneylender take a bath and after seeing him naked, it is clear he is not human. Granted, if you know anything about the Faust legend, you already knew that. He even flat out admitted to being the Devil, but at the time Faust thought it was just the ramblings of a strange man. The pair next go to a bar, where the Moneylender gets into an altercation with a drunken soldier. Faust tries to calm everyone down, but the Moneylender instead increases the chaos by stabbing the wall with a meat fork causing a fountain of wine to spring forth. While everyone is clamoring for the wine, the drunken soldier confronts them just as the Moneylender puts the meat fork in Faust's hand and the soldier is accidentally stabbed.

The pair take off before anyone notices the soldier is dead. The Moneylender leads Faust away and Faust asks the Moneylender to help him help the family of the dead soldier. He is even more determined to help right the wrong when he learns the dead soldier's sister is Margarete. It is almost like the devil enjoys messing with Faust.

Faust is not the most accessible film I've seen. It's the kind of film that will please movie critics more than the average moviegoer. The film is shot in 4:3 aspect ratio with rounded corners like an old-school TV set. Additionally, some scenes are shot with a strange lens giving the movie a strange look, which probably means something to the director, but I'm not sure what. It is also a very dense movie when it comes to the dialogue, as Faust and the Moneylender are rather chatty through most of the movie and the dialogue doesn't always advance the plot. This dense dialogue is joined by a lot of camera movement. Even scenes where there's no action, the camera tends to pan in one direction, then another, rarely stopping. It adds up to a lot of style and energy, but I think it is also a film that will take a second viewing to fully appreciate. Unfortunately, my schedule is so crowded, that watching a film more than once is rare, but this is one I certainly want to watch again.

The Extras

There are no extras on the Blu-ray.

The technical presentation is good, but not great, but that's not surprising. It is a dialogue driven drama, so there's not a lot of flashy visuals on screen. Additionally, the strange lens used in some scenes means the level of details isn't great either. Likewise, the audio is clear, but there's not a lot of dynamic effects.

The Blu-ray costs $31, which is nearly $10 or 50% more than the DVD. That's a lot to ask for this type of release.

The Verdict

Faust is definitely an art house film that is stylish, but might not appeal to the average moviegoer. There are not extras on the DVD or Blu-ray, so unless you love the director's style, I think a rental will be enough.

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Filed under: Video Review, Faust, Johannes Zeiler, Anton Adasinsky, Isolda Dychauk