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Tartuffe/The Way to Murnau
Tartuffe/The Way to Murnau
Actors: Hermann Picha, Rosa Valetti, André Mattoni, Werner Krauss, Lil Dagover
Director: F.W. Murnau
Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Drama
NR     2003     1hr 10min

Studio: Kino International Release Date: 11/11/2003


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Movie Details

Actors: Hermann Picha, Rosa Valetti, André Mattoni, Werner Krauss, Lil Dagover
Director: F.W. Murnau
Creators: Karl Freund, Erich Pommer, Carl Mayer, Molière
Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Silent Films, Drama
Studio: Kino Video
Format: DVD - Black and White - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 11/11/2003
Original Release Date: 07/24/1927
Theatrical Release Date: 07/24/1927
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 10min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: German
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Tartuffe Played Silently
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 01/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Murnau's film Tartuffe is an adaptation of Molière's 17th century play about religious hypocrisy. It would appear to be a daunting task to adapt a classic play, consisting almost entirely of dialogue, to the medium of silent cinema where the focus must be on the visual and where dialogue can be conveyed only with title cards. Murnau's film succeeds because he takes Molière's play only as his point of departure. He does not try to reproduce the language of the play with a succession of long title cards. Rather he finds the essence of the story and reproduces it visually. In this way he remains both faithful to Molière and to the demands of silent cinema. Murnau presents Tartuffe as a film within a film. He uses, as a framing device, a modern story of an old man whose housekeeper is trying to get his money by turning him against his grandson. The grandson presents the film of Tartuffe to expose to the old man the housekeeper's hypocrisy. This modern story works well and parallels the story of Tartuffe in some interesting ways, but it takes up about a quarter of the running time of the whole film. Still Murnau is able, with the time remaining, to present a wonderful Tartuffe. This story involves a French nobleman Orgon who has come under the influence of an apparently pious, puritanical Saint, Tartuffe. Orgon dismisses the servants, throws out his luxurious furniture and even considers kissing his wife, Elmire, to be a sin. Naturally Elmire is upset about the change in her husband's behaviour. She sees through Tartuffe and sets out to expose him. The comic acting of the three principles, Lil Dagover, Werner Krauss and especially Emil Jannings as Tartuffe, is very good. Jannings, walking around with a pious expression and a religious text pressed up against his nose, is hilarious. The film shows that while great silent comedy was mostly in the style of Chaplin and Keaton, it was possible to produce a very funny comedy of manners. A fine piano score by Javier Pérez de Azpeitia helps the light mood of the film. The music suits the film's period setting and follows the action well. The tinted print on the Kino DVD has been restored and looks great. The print has hardly any visible damage, with only a few tiny blemishes. The image is sharp and clear and detailed. As an extra the DVD contains a half hour long documentary, The Way to Murnau. This film is interesting and provides a useful overview of Murnau's life and career and has a good number of clips from his films. This DVD is essential for anyone who likes Murnau's films. Tartuffe may not be one of his most famous films, but it is one of the most enjoyable."
Painting with a Camera
Brad Baker | Atherton, Ca United States | 05/12/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)

"An old woman grouchily gets out of bed and attends to her master.Trying to attach his assets, she is secretly poisoning the master little-by-little. The housekeeper drives off his grandson, a fledging young theater actor. A story-within-a-story, "Tartuffe" then begins Moliere's famous comedy, set in 18th Century France,as a play for the grandfather to enjoy. "Tartuffe" is a religious fraud, a pompous hypocrite seeking financial gain from his friend's estate, and sexual favors from his lovely wife. His true intentions are neatly hidden under the black cape of a saintly fanatic....In 1926, German genius director F.W. Murnau squeezed in a quickly shot "Tartuffe" in 6 weeks, just before he and actor Emil Jannings began work on "Faust". Scripted by Carl Mayer, photographed by Karl Freund, "Tartuffe" is a model of economy. The pace never flags. The "Tartuffe" DVD is a masterful restoration by Kino Films and an Italian group.3 separate cinema sources are edited into a polished new transfer. The quality surely rivals any viewing since the film was first seen. The DVD offers a valuable 32-minute documentary on Murnau's life and work. The documentary journeys to Murnau's Westphalia hometown and the Carpathian mountains. It reviews his service in the dismal trenches of World War I, and the sudden killing of his soldier-best friend. These traumas perhaps form the basis for the visceral psychological dramas his movies would explore. "Camera angles help photograph thought" Murnau wrote. A lover of Classical Art, many of Murnau's films reflect rich tableaus lifted directly from the works of Rembrandt. The documentary includes clips from Murnau's early rare movies, such as "Phantom" and "Schloss Vogeloed(The Haunted Castle)". In 1927, William Fox lured Murnau to Hollywood. Here Murnau reached the zenith of his cinema art with his first American film. He called it "Sunrise"."
Worth a look
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 03/19/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Taken in comparison to other of Murnau's films, 'Tartuffe' may seem a bit trite, uninspired, and not that memorable, but it does succeed in telling the entire story in only about an hour and in delivering an important lesson about hypocrisy, trust, and whom one's true friends are. An old man is slowly being poisoned by his old housekeeper, who hopes to inherit his entire fortune when he passes away. (Not only is the housekeeper homely, but she also looked to me like a man in drag!) The man's grandson, an aspiring actor, becomes wise to this mean old woman's underhanded dealings, and stops by to pay them an unexpected visit, right on the heels of his grandfather having written his last testament, in which he had left everything to the housekeeper and nothing to him, since he strongly disapproves of the acting profession. Not easily deterred by either of them, he manages to get back inside the house by donning a disguise and flattering the housekeeper. Once inside, he shows them a film based on the play 'Tartuffe,' by Jean Baptiste Molière, a 17th century French playwright, and here the real story begins.

Monsieur Orgon is a completely changed man since falling completely under the sway of his new friend Tartuffe (Emil Jannings), who in addition to being a religious fanatic is quite a weirdo. His demands are so strict that, for example, Orgon demands that all of the servants except for one leave the place and that all of the lights be put out, since Tartuffe doesn't approve of such luxuries and frivolities. His wife Elmire is naturally very depressed and frustrated over how he's paying so much attention to Tartuffe but none to her, and treating this bizarre grotesque "holy man" with more respect, reverence, and love than he's been showing her lately. However, Elmire suspects that Tartuffe is not all that he seems, and sets out to prove to her husband that this grotesque fellow he's taken into their house and put all of his faith and trust in is nothing more than a charlatan, a lecher, a hypocrite, and a two-face who's only interested in taking all of his money and stealing his wife. She's so determined to win her husband's love back and to expose Tartuffe that she is prepared to go to any length. The scene of her attempted seduction of Tartuffe is surprisingly graphic for 1926 (far from leaving most of it up to the imagination the way most films of that era do!), and had to be censored in some markets in the U.S. As the play within a play ends, the grandson reveals himself and the modern-day Tartuffe sitting beside his grandfather, along with the message that one never knows just whom one is sitting beside, if that person too might be a hypocrite masquerading under the guise of holiness or concern for one's well-being.

Also included is a mini-documentary, 'The Way to Murnau.' Though far from exhaustive, given that it's only a bit over 30 minutes long, it does give an interesting and concise look into the master's life, art, and methods. Among the film clips shown are ones from some of his little-seen early films 'Der Brennende Acker' ('The Burning Soil') and 'Schloß Vogelöd' ('The Haunted Castle'). All in all, it's not something I'd recommend for someone just getting into Murnau (or Emil Jannings, who totally lives up his portrayal of the grotesque disgusting vulgar Tartuffe), but it is worth a look for those who are more familiar with his art and know that he usually had more inspired, memorable, and artistic pictures."
A powerful message disguised as art
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 03/17/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Famed German director F W Murnau is probably best remembered for his award-winning "Sunrise", the ground-breaking "The Last Laugh" and the ultimate horror film, "Nosferatu", but this rather short (just on hour) film which Murnau directed in less than 6 weeks before doing another one of his classics, "Faust", should not be overlooked. The main point that "Tartuffe" left with me is the theme of hypocrisy and the poignant texts at the beginning and end which address the audience directly, telling us that hypocrites are everywhere among us - `what about the person sitting next to you?' I thought this was a brilliant way to make the theme of the famous 17th century play come to life and have valuable meaning in our day - and in any day, for that matter. This point is underscored by the interesting and effective way in which this film is a story within a story: the original 17th century tale, which makes up the bulk of the film, is shown by a traveling film projectionist to a household where another form of hypocrisy is taking place, with the purpose of teaching them a lesson. Emil Jannings is simply magnificent as the strange and ugly religious hypocrite, Mr. Tartuffe, who poses as a saint and brainwashes a man into becoming a pious fanatic who gladly hands over his entire fortune in blind devotion to the holy man. (Obviously things have not changed in the past few centuries!) Fortunately, the deceived man's wife immediately sees Tartuffe for what he really is, and attempts to lay a trap for him to expose his hypocrisy. Emotions are wonderfully expressed by the talented cast, and visually the sets and costumes are like a classic work of art. Murnau's smooth, elegant style, together with a fitting musical score makes "Tartuffe" a pleasure to watch while it also leaves behind a compelling message about hypocrisy in general. While the half-hour documentary about Murnau on this disc may only be average, I still got some valuable points out of it which helped me appreciate some aspects of Murnau and his films much more; such as his reclusiveness, vivid imagination since childhood, and the influence on him by the classic European painters. Anyone interested in the great directors of the silent era should not miss "Tartuffe", and lovers of all things artistic would enjoy this film, too."