Phantom (1922) + PHACE

Director: F.W. Murnau
Writer: Thea von Harbou, Hans Heinrich von Twardowski
Based on: Gerhart Hauptmann‘s novel
Cast: Alfred Abel, Lya De Putti, Frida Richard, Aud Egede-Nissen, Hans Heinrich von Twardowski, Adolf Klein, Olga Engl, Karl Etlinger, Lil Dagover
Part of: Film and Music Cycle in the Konzerthaus
With music by PHACE
Seen on: 10.1.2020

Lorenz (Alfred Abel) walks a little aimlessly through his life, dreaming of publishing his poetry, but not much ambition for anything.That is, until fate seems to strike – quite literally: he gets run over by Veronica (Lya De Putti), beautiful, rich, and very much from another world than he is. Lorenz can’t stop thinking about her anymore. When he finds another girl, Melitta (Lya De Putti), who looks just like Veronica but is more within his reach, he will do anything to win her over, even if it means going in considerable debt.

Phantom the film might be better than the impression I had of it after this evening, simply because I really struggled with the music by PHACE this time. Ultimately, the evening felt rather exhausting to me.

The film poster showing a drawing of a woman's face on a black background.

I have been going to the Film and Music Cycle for many years now, and PHACE is usually part of their standard program. And I’m just not a fan of their music and the way they relate it to the film. But this time was the first time where I thought that their music actively took away from the film and my enjoyment of it. The way they fit the music to the film was pretty much the opposite of a cooperation – which is what I’d expect from film music – it turned into a fight for attention.

That it worked so little for me might also be due to the fact that even when considered without the music, the film wasn’t particularly great in my book. There are some interesting visual moments, although I’ve come to expect more from Murnau.

Bookbinder Starke (Karl Etlinger), his daughter Marie (Lil Dagover) and Lorenz (Alfred Abel) in Starke's shop.

But the plot is the real trouble here – I just didn’t care for the story about a man who is brought close to ruin by (his obsession with) a woman, while his real love – a meek, good woman – waits quietly until he gets himself back together again, so she can take care of him for the rest of their lives. The movie’s 100 years make themselves felt too much here, although my real annoyance probably comes from the fact that this same story could very well be told in a 2020 film. We, as a society, have learned so little.

I have to admit, that we pretty much took flight as soon as the film ended – which I usually don’t like to do because it seems disrespectful to the performers. But really, I was just happy to get out of there.

A nun walking down a flight of stairs.

Summarizing: Didn’t work for me.

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