Teatro Comunale di Bologna > 18:30


Paul Leni
Introduced by

Julia Wallmüller (Deutsche Kinemathek)

Recorded musics composed and performed at the piano by Richard Siedhoff


Wednesday 26/08/2020


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Ever since Rudolf Kurtz paid homage to it in Expressionismus und Film (1926), Das Wachsfigurenkabinett has been considered one of the most important Expressionist films of the Weimar Republic. Less than a year after the premiere of the film, the original negative was burned at the customs office in Paris. German prints did not survive, neither did any other trace of the German original version, such as the censor’s certificate. The most original film element is a nitrate print preserved in the archive of the BFI, which had been produced for the UK market in the mid-1920s. This print was the main source for a restoration in 1998, carried out by Cineteca di Bologna. For the recent digital restoration, a collaboration between Deutsche Kinemathek and Cineteca di Bologna, the same print was used as main source element for restoration. The print, however, showed severe signs of mechanical wear and photochemical decay. Luckily, the BFI also holds a duplicate negative produced from that print in 1979, when some of the material degradation was not as severe. This was used to replace many of the heavily damaged sections in the BFI print. Furthermore, a nitrate print from the Cinémathèque française was used as substitution material for the numerous missing frames in the BFI print. The French print was presumably made in Germany from the British print in the late 1920s for the Canadian market. In an extensive reconstruction process, the missing frames in the BFI elements were reconstructed by creating inserts from the French material. In the absence of the original German texts, the intertitles of the BFI print have been retained in the restoration, which corresponds to the English version of the film. Also the colours of the restoration refer to the colours of the BFI print.

Julia Wallmüller

The visual deliberateness that artists use in creating a style readily captures the emotionally expressive elements of Expressionism. Paul Leni, the creator of Waxworks, has explored this relationship with an uncommon delicacy of feeling. The Expressionist components of Waxworks do not grow out of a need to adopt this position, but are rather one means of expression among many. Leni courageously and clearly transforms natural objects into shapes that anticipate the mood of the scene by directing the space and line. He inflates forms; he lets them shrink. In an Oriental scene, he twists them in a truly delightful and amusing fashion; in a Russian he polishes them in a festive, Byzantine way. And in one sinister sequence that provides a framework and a profile for Jack the Ripper, Leni shows an instinctive feeling for the kinetic energy, the tensile strength, of the Expressionist scenery… Expressionism achieved this success by subordinating its methods to its psychological purpose. It is becoming applied art. Leni has teased this capacity from Expressionism masterfully, thereby opening up a wealth of potential for its use in film.

Rudolf Kurtz, Expressionism and film, John Libbey Publishing, New Barnet 2016

Cast and Credits

Sog., Scen.: Henrik Galeen. F.: Helmar Lerski. Scgf.: Paul Leni. Ass. regia: Wilhelm Dieterle. Int.: Emil Jannings (Harun al Raschid), Conrad Veidt (Ivan il terribile), Werner Kraus (Jack lo squartatore), Wilhelm Dieterle (il poeta / Assad il pasticciere / un principe russo), Olga Belajeff (Eva / Maimune / una boiarda), John Gottow (proprietario del Panoptikum), Paul Biensfeld (visir), Ernst Legal, Georg John. Prod.: Neptun-Film AG, Berlino per Ufa. DCP.