Ernst Szebedits (Murnau Stiftung)
Der müde Tod (The Weary Death) offers the most elegant convergence between the Destiny-machine and the film’s narrative structure. […] Der müde Tod remains also one of the most perfectly crafted films of the Weimar cinema, perhaps the most beautiful of the Märchen films based on folk and fairy tales. […] In the film’s intertitles and ‘naive’ characterisation Lang and Harbou invoke the style of a popular tale, with its simplicity of psychology, its materialisation of metaphysical figures and the tale’s aspiration to deliver wisdom about the antinomies of life, the intertwining of love and death. But concealed within its self-conscious invocation of an oral tradition of tale-telling Der müde Tod offers a complex meditation on cinematic narrative. The story stands as one of scenarist Harbou’s most poetic inventions. […] The simplicity and symmetry of the tale cannot obscure its powerful meditation on the nature of story-telling. As a tale, we watch this film unfold, aware that it is being told, our attention drawn to its structuring devices and to such extra-diegetic processes as casting and scripting. The film’s division into six single reel ‘verses’ draws the viewer’s attention to the film as a crafted piece of story-telling. […] Lang/Harbou also provide a series of relays between the tales through repetition. The similar narrative structure in each tale of love crushed by tyrants cues the viewer to see them as variants of a single plot, and establishes the film’s sense of fatality through repetition of the same story dynamics and identical endings. Each story moves towards its resolution implacably, like destiny. The end of each story is death, as the appearance of Goetzke signals the closure of each tale, Death becoming a figure of fate because it represents the inevitable ending. Story-telling, therefore, provides a perfect image of the struggle against, and surrender to, death, which is destiny. In Der müde Tod the story serves as a perfect image for the Destiny-machine, the system whose ending is always the same. And that’s why Death is weary.
Tom Gunning, The Films of Fritz Lan. Allegories of Vision and Modernity, BFI Publishing, London 2000
Cast and Credits
Sog., Scen.: Thea von Harbou (non accreditata), Fritz Lang. F.: Erich Nitzschmann, Hermann Saalfrank, Fritz Arno Wagner. Scgf.: Walter Röhrig, Hermann Warm, Robert Herlth. Int.: Lil Dagover (la giovane donna, Zobeide, Monna Fiammetta, Tiao Tsien), Walter Janssen (lo sposo, Frank, Giovanfrancesco, Liang), Bernhard Goetzke (la Morte, El Mot, l’arciere), Rudolf Klein-Rogge (Girolamo, il Derviscio), Hans Sternberg (il sindaco), Max Adalbert (il notaio, il tesoriere), Wilhelm Diegelmann (il medico), Karl Platen (il farmacista), Erich Pabst (l’insegnante). Prod.: Erich Pommer per Decla-Bioscop AG. DCP. Tinted.
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