F.W. Murnau’s German silent classic Der letzte Mann depicts the tale of the elderly but proud doorman of a posh Berlin hotel. Demoted to polishing tiles beneath a sink, all seems lost—but appearances can be deceiving.
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I have an old copy of the US release, but this beautiful restoration breathes new life into the crown jewel of the German "Kammerspiel" genre. Murnau sold out when he went to Hollywood, but there were few choices available to German film makers when the Nazis rose to power, and Goebbels "cleansed" the German film industry, which didn't recover til the 1970's. Only 4&1/2 stars because of the tacked-on happy ending.
F.W. Murnau was one of the true great artists of the cinema. Through this film he was able to show every emotion without the use of words or inter-titles. Along with Emil Jannings devastating performance this is one of the best films to come out of the German Silent Era.
some people probably angry with the deus ex machina ending, but i like it, to show the possibility of what cinema can achieve. the 'authorship consciousness' even before the theory of auteur or camera-stylo existed.
'02 restoration Murnau's silent classic ruminates on aging and the value of labour in its tale of a somewhat pompous hotel employee who suddenly finds himself demoted to washroom attendant and is met with scorn by his family and neighbours. What's fascinating is that the tale is told without any intertitle of dialogue. Unfortunately the film is near ruined by its tacked on studio requested happy ending.
As much as I loved the first 72 minutes of the film, I think I have never hated any ending as much as this one. The camera movement is incredible, using no intertitles is very impressive and I liked Jannings over-the-top acting. Next time that I will watch this great film I will stop after 72 minutes, that should be the real ending !
Even before seeing this one, I'd heard that the ending sunk the film. But I'll stick up for it. Today, the sudden, self-reflexive reversal of fortune could seem too cutely postmodern, but cutely postmodern was ahead of the curve in 1924, and it all works thematically. After all, that's what the movies are best at: expressing our despair and curing our ills. One of the most beautiful accomplishments of the silent era.
Witnessing Murnau's amazing film technique (for instance: When Jannings gets his demotion letter: the shaky camera to convey his near fainting, the POV camera work) I have to be impressed with him and also be depressed that most narrative filmmaking hasn't progressed that much since then. I don't think Jannings was too over the top given his era's background & the material. The copout ending was only saved by him.