With a fashionable quasi-Biblical theme, monumental sets, thousands of extras and an imposing central performance by the great German screen actor Emil Jannings, the film was Lubitsch’s last major production in Germany and his ticket to Hollywood…
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That love is an element of hazard in the execution of the most painstaking plans, on par with revolutions and tortuous intrigues, is not a revolutionary notion. That it’s through love one breaks the endogamic limits of class, culture and idiosyncrasy is plausible again, but stale. From rags to riches or from wisdom to asylum – the topic has been ploughed and plundered lengthways and widthways. Lubitsch replays these
The story sprawls, and just enough of the film is missing to make it difficult to follow, despite the explanatory title cards. Lubtisch scores some real triumphs here with his actors, but he's got no feeling at all for Big Historic Spectacle -- Fritz Lang would have gotten a lot more bang for his buck.
Stars are capricious enough that “properly” rating what is still an unfinished film (no matter the restoration I watched represents a mostly completed project) will stand up as an even more inconstant critique, whatever it might amount to; what is most telling here, and worth watching for, are all the intimations of the auteur Lubitsch would become. [cont’d]
A few interesting moments but overall a bit problematic in terms of the story. I know who the film wanted me to root for but I had a hard time sympathizing with any of the characters in the film. The film was also a bit too long and the ending was peculiarly grim for no reason.