Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
aka Der müde Tod
Actors: Lil Dagover, Walter Janssen, Bernhard Goetzke, Hans Sternberg, Karl Rückert
Director: Fritz Lang
Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
This beautiful gothic fantasy was inspired by a childhood dream of its writer/director, Fritz Lang, who first gained world recognition with this film's triumph. "Destiny" is the story of a young man taken by Death just as ... more »
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A Weary Death
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 06/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Destiny is not a particularly good title for Fritz Lang's Der Müde Tod. Translated literally the title means `The Tired Death' and this is much better, for the film is about Death being tired of the work he has to perform. The figure of Death thus becomes a fairly sympathetic character trying desperately to help. When he is appealed to by a young woman who has just lost her fiancé, he gives her three chances to bring her beloved back from the dead. Lang shows a room full of candles each representing a human life and then shows three of these candles flickering and about to go out. The task that Death sets the young woman is to save any one of the three lives represented by the candles. Lang then shows the woman and her fiancé in three stories representing each of the candles. These stories are wonderfully imaginative and present vivid images of Persia, Renaissance Venice and China. Lang's film is full of amazing special effects including a flying horse and flying carpet sequence which influenced Douglas Fairbanks when he made The Thief of Bagdad. However, it is the emotional atmosphere of the film which makes it truly memorable. Lang shows the desperation of the young woman and makes us care about her plight. But it is with his image of the compassionate Death that Lang really shows his originality. This is a Death wishing and willing to resurrect the dead and going as far as he can, because he cares about the woman and her fiancé also. Finally Death becomes a caring friend wrapping his arms around the couple. It is an ambiguous image, but one of great power. The quality of the print used for this Image DVD is superb. It is colour tinted in a variety of shades and shows very little damage. This is a beautiful film and all the details of the amazing production-design can be seen and appreciated. There is some slight cropping of the film on the left hand side, but this is hardly noticeable. The credits and the title cards have been reconstructed and newly translated. The original fonts have been reproduced, which is fine, but it must be said that the Gothic typeface can be a little hard to read. Finally the film is accompanied by a fine score which fits in very well with the eerie mood of the film."
A Groundbreaking Work of Early Expressionist Cinema
Mr Peter G George | 02/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Image has earned itself a reputation for high quality, digitally remastered DVD editions of films from the silent era (though, admittedly, they do have a few dismal releases to their name), and their growing catalogue of early Expressionist cinema is particularly exciting. The present DVD edition of this early Fritz Lang film features yet another outstanding transfer, digitally remastered from a 35mm fine grain master print of the French reissue version. Moreover the transfer preserves the film's original "square" aspect ratio with vertical black bars and a horizontal bar at the bottom of the frame (in other words, there is either NO or very minimal cropping). In addition, as already highlighted in other reviews, this Image release provides newly translated English intertitles, some of which were missing in previous versions, and which reproduce the font of the original titles. My only complaint with this Image release is that it is a barebones edition, which shows not just in the absence of audio commentary (which I can live without, as long as the transfer is good), but in the clumsy menu options and scene access, as well as in the austere packaging. These concerns, however, are quite peripheral. With respect to the film itself, a previous reviewer has provided a marvelous narrative and thematic exposition of the film which I will not bother to repeat. Though one of Lang's lesser known works, Destiny is a truly groundbreaking and highly poetic piece of cinema. As with Ingmar Bergman's THE SEVENTH SEAL, Fritz Lang's DESTINY (Der Mude Tod) succeeds in remythologizing familiar allegories and symbols of death and infusing them anew with eloquence and expressive force. Bunuel's confession that this film opened his eyes to "the poetic expressiveness of cinema" is not in the least bit hyperbolicIn sum, I highly recommend this DVD edition."
For Love is as strong as Death
Steven Hellerstedt | 05/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A young couple, very much in love, stop off at a tavern in a small 19th century German village. A gaunt, grim faced stranger joins them. Just recently the stranger had purchased a 99-year lease on a tract of land adjoining the village's cemetery. The stranger had built an impregnable, `without door or gate', wall about the estate.
The stranger, of course, is Death, and within the walls of his `garden' reside the souls of the newly dead and the innumerable candles whose flames melt the tallow of all human life. Death attends the young man he is about to claim. The woman leaves the room for a moment, and when she returns the stranger and her beloved are gone. The woman gives chases, sees the shade of her beloved pass through the impassable wall to Death's garden. An old apothecary finds the distraught woman and shelters her in his pharmacy. The woman drinks a potion from an ancient bottle and is again in front of the walled garden - although now there is a door opening to a steep staircase. The woman enters and meets Death of the staircases. I want to go where my beloved is, the woman tells him.
Death strikes a bargain - if the woman can save the life of just one of three whose candle has grown short, he will return her fiancé to her.
I liked Fritz Lang's DESTINY (Der Müde Tod) a lot. Death's bargain plunges the movie into three episodes, as the actors playing the loving couple and Death reenact endangered love stories in Arab, Italian and Chinese settings. Lang employs primitive, and effective, tricks - camera angles, double exposures, etc. - to show the dead filing past the living, to make carpets fly and to transform pagoda into elephants. Underpinning it all is the fascinating struggle between Death and Love. It's Lang's meditation on this struggle that I enjoyed the most. After that poignant scene on the staircase I was hooked on the woman's quest for reunion.
The musical underscore is appropriate, tasteful and unobtrusive. The print is in good condition, watchable with flares and scratches. Although this disk is a little pricey, it contains no extras of any kind.
A Poem! A Ballade!
John D. Steyers | San Diego, CA, USA | 11/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I first began to study film history, Fritz Lang's "Destiny" was a film I never expected to see. It was widely considered a "lost" film. When prints surfaced in the '60's, I anticipated seeing it very eagerly. I saw it as part of a course in the aesthetics of German expressionism/surrealiism while in graduate school, with a synchronized taped music track especially created by one of my fellow students. I was enthralled. Since films were available "as film" in those days, I knew that, sadly, my budget precluded my ever hoping to own a print. Thank the gods for DVD!
"Destiny" is surely one of the finest films of its time and place -- a pinnacle of German filmmaking. It contains humor, adventure, pathos and visual poetry. the acting, executed by a top-rank German cast, is stylized, but in ways very suited to the distinct art of the silent film. The special effects, done by means as old as film itself, and far cruder than today's computerized examples, still surprise and delight. "Destiny",
as a whole, tells several stories within an elegiac framing, but is still tightly organized and coheres to reveal itself as a visual/dramatic poem
a ballade. It is one of the most beautiful silent films I have ever seen."