BEYOND THE WALL; THE LIGHT WITHIN; THE THREE LIGHTS BETWEEN WORLDS; THE WEARY DEATH
(Der Müde Tod)
Fritz Lang draws upon a mythic Mediaeval/Gothic worldview. The film is not so much a morality as it is a mortality play; one where aspects take on literal form a personalized Death and where love is an absolute force that can conquer Death. Lang was clearly influenced by the multi-period historical tapestry of D.W. Griffiths epic Intolerance (1916) from which he borrows Griffiths idea of multiple stories, each taking place in different historical eras. Unfortunately, Lang does not have the facilities at his disposal to create the epic sweep that Griffith did the sets are often too cut-priced to offer a full historical pageant. Moreover, the stories are variably effective the final segments tone of burlesque varies wildly in style from the serious mood sustained in the other episodes or even the wraparound.
Certainly, Fritz Langs images are impressive the parade of double-exposed spirits passing through the giant wall; the masked Giovanfransescos arrival by underground gondola; some of the magicians tricks including producing miniature armies out of a box and a horse that rides across the sky; and especially the scene where Death takes Lil Dagover to a room where he shows her an array of lit candles, each representing a single life.
Frumpy Lil Dagover is too dull to play the part of the wistful 19th Century Romantic heroine. On the other hand, Bernard Goetzke, who seems like Rutger Hauer cast as Robert E. Howards Solomon Kane, impresses as a gaunt and stony but strangely sympathetic Death.
Fritz Langs other films of genre interest are: Dr Mabuse, The Gambler (1922) concerning a ruthless criminal mastermind; the two-part Niebelungen saga, Siegfried (1924) and Kriemhilds Revenge (1924), based on the Teutonic myths; Metropolis (1927); Woman in the Moon (1929), a realistic attempt to portary a Moon landing; M (1931), a thriller concerning the hunt for a child killer; The Testament of Dr Mabuse (1933); the afterlife fantasy Liliom (1933); the film noir psycho-thriller Secret Beyond the Door (1948); and a further Dr Mabuse sequel The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960).
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