Director: F.W. Murnau
Writers: Molière (play), Carl Mayer (manuscript)
Producer: Erich Pommer
Cinematography: Carl Freund
Score: Giuseppe Becce
Starring: Emil Jannings/Werner Krauss/ Hermann Picha/ Rosa Valetti/ André Mattoni/ Lil Dagover
Finally, I managed to find FW Murnau’s Herr Tartüff (1925) online with ENGLISH SUBS…on YouTube! Below is the link… and here’s what I thought:
Contrary to previous belief, Herr Tartüff isn’t as much a screen adaptation of the comedy stage-play Tartuffe by Molière, but rather a story about a young man who shows his wealthy and decrepit grandfather a film of the Tartuffe tale, to prove a point to the old man. The point the grandson’s trying to make and why he wants to make it, is something best found out for yourselves. There are no philosophical or intellectual statements being made here. Instead Murnau brings us an early example of the story-within-a-story format, which is both hilarious and beguiling. Interestingly, Herr Tartüff was also one of the first films to use the ‘breaking the fourth wall’ technique, where the protagonist talk directly to the audience through the camera, which the grandson does at the beginning of the film. As usual Jannings is sublime in the title-role, which sees him once again making full use of his incredible diversity and natural feel for humour. The more absurd, the more he’s in his element. Watch out for his Benny Hill impression!
The rest of the star-studded cast includes Lil Dagover (Destiny/Caligari/Phantom) as Elire; André Mattoni as Sein Enkel/the grandson; Werner Krauss, who’s appeared in almost everything I’ve seen recently (Dr Caligari/ The Joyless Street/ Waxworks/ Shattered/ and Secrets of the Soul, which I’ll be reviewing shortly) as Herr Orgon; and UFA’s resident grumpy old battle-axe, the ever reliable Rosa Valetti, as the housekeeper. I can’t think of a single UFA film made, which featured a café, where Rosa Valetti wasn’t behind the bar with her grimacing look of disapproval.
But the iconic names don’t stop there. As well as being directed by FW Murnau, Carl Mayer was the writer, Karl Freund the cinematographer, and it was produced by Erich Pommer, who was arguably the most important film-producer of the Weimar film industry. Another feather in Friedrich Wilhelm’s ‘Alpine hat’, the superbly filmed Herr Tartüff scores a well deserved 8/10.
Working video link as of 02/01/15: