Retrospective – F. W. Murnau

The most luminous films in the history of cinema were made by F.W. Murnau. The great German filmmaker is the subject of the Retrospective section at the 6th edition of the Olhar de Cinema – Curitiba International Film Festival, which will take place June 7th-15th in the capital of the Brazilian state of Paraná.

The retrospective presents recently made DCPs of 10 of Murnau’s films, with 8 of the copies previously unscreened in Brazil. The selection includes the director’s celebrated masterworks Nosferatu (1922), The Last Laugh (1924), and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) alongside lesser-known films. The Munich Film Museum’s new digital restoration of Murnau’s earliest extant film, The Dark Road (1921), seamlessly combines four reels from the original camera negative with footage from other sources. Eight of the ten DCPs are provided by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation, an archive that holds important films from many different German directors.

Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (1888-1931) was born in the town of Bielefeld and raised in Kassel. He studied philology, art history, literature, and theater, then joined the military and served as a company commander and fighter pilot during World War I. As a filmmaker, he worked prolifically in many different genres – including romance, comedy, horror, melodrama, and fantasy – during the dynamic period in early film history known today as German Expressionism. Murnau eventually left Germany on an invitation from 20th-Century Fox and made four films in the United States before dying in a car crash, at the age of 42, a week prior to the opening of his beautiful Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (1931). As with virtually all silent-era filmmakers, much of Murnau’s work has been lost over time. From the 21 films that he made, today only 12 survive in complete form.

“Murnau’s arrival marks Olhar de Cinema’s first retrospective devoted to a master from cinema’s silent era,” says festival director and director of programming Antônio Junior. “He is a filmmaker who shines his light deep into the darkness emanating from German Expressionism, which reflected the shadowy time following the First World War. Murnau, a deep aficionado of the cinematic art’s aesthetics and techniques, gave his camera the function of expressing his films’ atmospheres and their characters’ emotions. He carried with him an honest faith in the strength of the images he made and believed that, through them, he could create powerful works. It is thus with Murnau – not just his films, but the powerful narrative of his life and his work – that we hope to shine a light through our own dark time.”

The list of films confirmed for the retrospective is below in chronological order. All films were directed by F.W. Murnau.

The Dark Road (Der Gang in die Nacht) (Weimar Republic, 1921, 80min; score by Richard Siedhoff; copy provided by the Munich Film Museum)

The Haunted Castle (Schloss Vogelöd) (Weimar Republic, 1921, 61min; score by Neil Brand; copy provided by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation)

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens) (Weimar Republic, 1922, 95min, score composed by Hans Erdmann and conducted by Berndt Heller; copy provided by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation)

Phantom (Weimar Republic, 1922, 122min; score by Robert Israel; copy provided by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation)

The Grand Duke’s Finances (Die Finanzen des Grossherzogs) (Weimar Republic, 1924, 78min; score by Ekkehard Wölk; copy provided by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation)

The Last Laugh (Der letzte Mann) (Weimar Republic, 1924, 91min; score composed by Giuseppe Becce, arranged by Detlev Glanert, and conducted by Frank Strobel; copy provided by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation)

Tartuffe (Herr Tartüff) (American release version) (Weimar Republic, 1925, 65min; score adapted by Javier Pérez de Azpeitia from original music by Giuseppe Becce; copy provided by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation)

Faust (Faust – Eine deutsche Volkssage) (Weimar Republic, 1926, 108min; score by Javier Pérez de Azpeitia, based on the 1926 orchestra arrangement by Paul Hensel; copy provided by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation)

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (U.S.A., 1927, 106min; score uncredited; copy provided by Park Circus)

Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (U.S.A., 1931, 87min; music by Hugo Riesenfeld; copy provided by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation)

The retrospective has been curated by Aaron Cutler, one of the three features programmers for the Olhar de Cinema – Curitiba International Film Festival.