Destiny (Fritz Lang), Blu-ray (1921/2016)

A fascinating Gothic silent by one of the leading German directors.

Destiny (Fritz Lang), Blu-ray (1921/2016)

Director: Fritz Lang
Cast: Lil Dagover, Walter Janssen, Bernard Goetzke
Studio: Decla-Bioscop (Weimar Republic)/Blackhawk Films/ Flicker Alley FA-MD3 036
Video: 4:3+ for 16:9 screens, B&W 1080p HD
Audio: English titles by Ulrich Ruedel
Music: Orig. score played by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orch. using film music arrangements of the period
Length: 99 min.
Rating: ****

This important silent film was highly influential for its unusual presentation and special effects and helped persuade Hitchcock and Bununel to get into cinema. It is structured as a frame tale with three stories of a fantasy-historical nature within the main story.

Human lives are each represented by a candle burning in a huge vault. Death is a man who gives the young woman (Lil) three chances to save her lover from death, if love can triumph over death. The first of the three stories is set in the Arabian Nights, and Douglas Fairbanks purchased the American rights so he could delay its opening and copied some of the special effects for the Persian segment of his Thief of Bagdad. The second story is a Renaissance-Venetian romance and the third is a mostly comic story set in China.

You won’t find this film on the Flicker Alley site and may have to request it, but it was recently restored and is much improved over other versions available on DVD. It is also available as a streaming download. The very clear intertitles in English are patterned after those Germanic fonts used in movies of the period, and the copy comes from the original German censor records. It took me awhile to even realize this was a silent film. Many of the scenes are tinted, which was done with many German films of this period.

—John Sunier

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