(Review originally written at 24 December 2007)
This is one great and effectively powerful movie, that focuses all around the mental breakdown of a man, who has given up basically everything for the woman he falls in love with. Love, like always, makes blind, causing things to go from bad till worse for the main character Prof. Immanuel Rath, played by the always impressive Emil Jannings.
The movie is a good looking one with these sort of beautiful fake looking German expressionistic backgrounds and sets, that were mostly popular in the '20's and also part of the early '30's, such as this movie is from. It also at times has got some good cinematography. The sound quality and editing of it isn't always great but who can blame them, considering that this movie is from the period when 'talkies' were still in its baby shoes.
It has a story that sort of slowly progresses and has a couple of overlong sequences. All reasons to not regard this movie as one of the best ever made but that doesn't take away that this is a real good movie from Josef von Sternberg.
Things really start to start off after the movie is about halve way though, when Prof. Immanuel Rath's life and career starts to go in a downward spiral.
Who ever said movies are made only to entertain? I'm sorry by I'm just sort of getting sick and tired of people constantly commenting negatively on movies just because they make them depressed. In that regard "Schindler's List" would be the worst movie ever made. Often these sort of depressing movies are among the best since it means they influence your emotions and touch you therefor are effective and also simply really well crafted ones.
Even though it's an heavy movie with a dramatic story, it also has got plenty of entertainment in it. Lots of moments are really fun and just downward comical like, with also some weird and fun characters in it.
With a great role from Emil Jannings, who was perhaps the very best actor of the '20's and even was the first person to receive an Oscar for best actor in a leading role. What made Emil Jannings mostly so great was that he could both play convincingly in a dramatic and comical way, often also in one and the same movie. This is also one of those movies, in which he plays a very serious character who in this movie also gets in some odd and comical situations. Jannings handles these comical moments extremely well, through minimalistic acting. The movie also features Marlene Dietrich in an early role before her real stardom. This movie was really the one that launched her career. Besided her acting skills, she also gets the chance to show of her singing skills in this movie. Though it's a bit funny that she is supposedly a native English speaker in this movie, even though she has a clear fat thick German accent.
A real powerful and effective quality film, from the early days of sound cinema.