Unit 3

Unit 3. Faust in Film and Music

Although it would make more sense chronologically to go on to Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus now, due to the length of that novel, we will concentrate in this unit on our film and musical works so that you can devote your reading time to Thomas Mann.  Our discussions in the next unit, Unit 4, will concentrate on Mann's Doctor Faustus. Prepare by taking notes as you read. If you like, click ahead to Unit 4 and download the guiding questions on Thomas Mann to support you in your reading.

We will examine only a small but fascinating sample of the films and music based on the Faust legend. Follow the directions below in your progress through this unit.

Poster for Svankmajer's Faust

Lesen Sie die Wikis!

Jan Svankmajer

The Czech Republic in the Twentieth Century

Friedrich Murnau

Germany between the World Wars

Article Reviews from Articles Collection 3

I. Jan Svankmajer: Faust (1995, 97 minutes)

Discuss the ideas and images presented in Jan Svankmajer's masterpiece. This is not a film review; you are not deciding whether or not you like the film or would recommend it to the general viewer. Bring to this work of art the same level of critical skills you are bringing to your printed texts. Therefore, as with our other texts, we will stop and discuss it AS WE WATCH IT in order to better find our way together through it.

1. Read the Wikis presenting background information on Svankmajer and the Czech Republic to prepare you for the viewing.

2. Viewing the film

Stop after the first 10 - 15 minutes. Don't watch any further!

Write down as many details as you can remember – who, what, where, when, how? Characters, angles, colors, techniques? How does the film feel so far? Given that it's called "Faust,"can you identify any key characters? Describe Faust.. How does he compare, socially, intellectually, physically, verbally, with the Fausts you have met thus far? What do you think about that? What do you think is going to happen? (If you're watching with other people, what do they think? What details have they noticed?)

Discussion Board Posting 10. Share your first impressions in the discussion group.

2. Repeat this process two more times. Stop after 15 or 20 minutes and take notes again. Compare your notes with details you noticed earlier. If there is a Faust, is there a Mephistopheles? Is there a God? What details do you notice? How do you interpret these images? How is this like or unlike previous versions you’ve read? Are there parallels with other characters you have met in other versions of Faust? If so, with which ones?

Save these comments to incorporate with your summary comments. Then go on and finish watching the film.

3. Discussion Board Posting 11

Place the film into an historical, social and philosphical context.  How does this Faust compare to other interpretations? Write your summary comments on the film and post to the discussion group.

Faust from Murnau's film

II. Friedrich Murnau: Faust (1926, 85 min.)

Use the same process to view Murnau's Faust. However, post to the discussion group once.

1. Consult the background on the class Wikis.

2. View the film, stopping to take notes at intervals, but especially after the first 10 or 15 minutes. Consider the same questions as you have for Svankmajer as you go along.

3. Discussion Board Posting 12

Write your summary comments and post to the discussion group.

III. Two American Fausts

Two recent Fausts from the late twentieth century, one a film and the other a rock opera, show us yet more interpretations and possibilities of the theme.

 A. Ken Russell: Altered States (1980, 102 minutes) 

1. Watch the Ken Russell film, stopping after the first 20 minutes or so to reflect and take notes on what you’ve seen so far, and then watching through to the end. 

2. Summarize your ideas about this film. Who is Faust? Are there parallels with other characters in other versions? If so, with whom? Is Faust good or evil, saved or damned? What does this mean in the context of this film? What are the differences and similarites with other versions and how do you interpret them? Place the film into a social, theological, philosphical and historical context.

B. Randy Newman: Randy Newman's Faust (1995, 59 minutes)

Randy Newman as Mephistopheles
3. Listen to Randy Newman's Faust while reading the lyrics.

Again, how does this Faust compare to other versions? Think about the questions above and write your thoughts.

Click here for a review of a live performance of Randy Newman's Faust.

4. Finally consider these two American Fausts together. What similarities do they share and what are the differences between them? Is there anything about them you would consider uniquely American? If so, what, and why? 

5. Discussion Board Posting 13.

Summarize your above thoughts on these two works into an essay and post it on the discussion board. You may treat each work separately or write about both together.

When you have completed these assignments, continue the course with Unit 4.