Destiny (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
September 7, 2016 by Dennis Amith
“Destiny” is no doubt a wonderful, technical achievement by Fritz Lang for its time and one can see how this film would inspire filmmakers during that era for its use of storytelling and special effects. This new restoration is the authorized and definitive presentation of “Destiny” and another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang Blu-ray release that I strongly recommend!
© 2016 Friedrich-Wilheim-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden. All Rights Reserved.
DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1921
DURATION: 98 Minutes
BLU-RAY INFORMATION: Color Tinted, 1:33:1, Intertitles, 20 Stereo
COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber Inc.
RATED: NOT RATED
RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2016
Directed by Fritz Lang
Screenplay by Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou
Produced by Erich Pommer
Music by Cornelius Schwehr as commissioned by ZDF/ARTE performed by the 70-member Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra under the director of conductor Frank Strobel
Photographed by Erich Nitzschmann, Hermann Saalfrank, Fritz Acno Wagner
Art Direction by Robert Herlth, Walter Rohrig, Hermann Warm with Bernhard Goetzke, Lil Dagover, Walter Janssen, Hans Sternberg, Wilhelm Diegelmann, Rudolf Klein-Rogge
Lil Dagover as Young Woman, Das junge Madchen, Zobeide, Monna Fliametta, Tiao Tsien
Walter Janssen as Young Man, Der junge Mann, Franke, Giovan Francesco, Liang
Bernhard Goetzke as Death, der Tod, El Mot, Bogner, Archer
Hans Sternberg as Mayor, Burgermeister
Karl Ruckert as Reverend
Max Adalbert as Notary, Notar, Schatzmeister, Chancellor
Wilhelm Diegelmann as Doctor, Arzt
Erich Pabst as Teacher, Lehrer
Karl Platen as Pharmacist, Apotheker
Hermann Picha as Taylor, Schneider
Paul Rehkopf as Grave-Digger, Kuster
A dizzying blend of German Romanticism, Orientalism, and Expressionism, Fritz Lang s DESTINY (Der made Tod) marked a bold step for Lang, away from the conventional melodrama and into the kind of high-concept filmmaking that would culminate in such über-stylized works as Die Nibelungen and Metropolis. DESTINY is a visually ambitious, cinematic allegory in which a young woman (Lil Dagover) confronts the personification of Death (Bernhard Goetzke), in an effort to save the life of her fiancé (Walter Janssen). She is transported to a Gothic cathedral, where lives are represented as burning candles of varying length. Death weaves three romantic tragedies, and offers to unite the girl with her lover, if she can prevent the death of the lovers in at least one of the episodes. Thus begin three exotic scenarios of ill-fated love, in which the woman must somehow reverse the course of destiny: Persia, Quattrocento Venice, and a fancifully-rendered ancient China. Restored by Anke Wilkening on behalf of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, this definitive presentation of Destiny preserves the original German intertitles and simulates the historic color tinting and toning of its initial release. Accompanying the film is a newly-composed score by Cornelius Schwehr as a commissioned composition by ZDF / ARTE performed by the 70-member Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Frank Strobel.
Before filmmaker Fritz Lang created films such as “Metropolis”, “M”, “Woman in the Moon”, “Spies” and his “Dr. Mabuse” films, he created the film, “Destiny” (Der müde Tod). A film which he also co-written with Thea von Harbou.
Originally released in the US with the title “Behind the Wall”, the silent film is known for its special effects, which was innovative for its time and a film that incorporates three Expressionistic stories.
“Destiny” was also an influential film in the careers of filmmakers, Alfred Hitchcock and Luis Bunuel.
And now “Destiny” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.
“Destiny” begins with Death (portrayed by Bernhard Goetzke) appearing near an area where lovers, a young woman (portrayed by Lil Dagover) and man (portrayed by Walter Janssen) are sharing an intimate time together.
Death goes into the carriage and rides alongside the couple and when they get into town, Death who is known as “The Stranger” purchases a local cemetery and immediately erects a tall wall around the area with no entrance gates which mystifies the townspeople.
As the couple are enjoying a meal together, the Stranger immediately sits next to them and as the couple are playing with a periscope, they see something that scares both of them that they stop.
As the young woman goes upstairs and finds a dog with a few kittens to play with them, the young man stays with the Stranger at the table. When the young woman returns, the young man is gone and the townspeople tells her that he left with the stranger.
When she goes to look for him, she can’t find him.
When she looks around, she ends up near the cemetery area and she sees ghosts approaching her and going through the wall to the cemetery and then sees her lover, coming towards her as a ghost and then entering the cemetery.
She faints after seeing the love of her life, now dead. But somehow the young woman has found a way to enter Death’s domain.
When she confronts Death and she anguishes over the death of her beloved, Death grants her three chances to bring back her love if she can prove that love can overcome death.
But can she defeat destiny?
“Destiny” is presented in 1:33:1 and is color-tinted. It’s important to note that the 2K digital restoration supervised by Anke Wilkening on behalf of Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung is magnificent.
As for picture quality, as one can expect from a film that is a 100-years-old, you are going to see some scratches but in the context of silent films, “Destiny” looks quite magnificent as there was great love (and a lot of hardwork) that was put into this restoration. The film on blu-ray does not exhibit any major nitrate damage, warping, blurring or blackening on the film print.
I also liked the changes that were made to this film in order to get the color tinting right to match with the storyline and its toning of its initial release.
This is another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang film that looks absolutely magnificent on Blu-ray!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Destiny” is presented in lossless stereo with German intertitles with optional English subtitles. The music featured on this Blu-ray releases is by Cornelius Schwehr as commissioned by ZDF/ARTE performed by the 70-member Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra under the director of conductor Frank Strobel.
The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear and I absolutely loved the score.
“Destiny” comes with the following special features:
- Restoration Demonstration Footage – (15:22) A comparison between the original film and the restored version of the film.
- 2016 Re-release Trailer
“I think the main characteristic of all my pictures is this fight against destiny, against fate. I once wrote in an introduction to a book that is the fight which is important, not the result to it…” – Fritz Lang
Before Fritz Lang would create his plethora of silent film masterpieces within his extensive oeuvre, one of his most influential and technological marvels was his 1921 silent film, “Destiny”.
Using the technology of superimposition to show the dead going through the wall, all done with filming via camera before the days of editing in a laboratory shows and what great length the filmmaker went in order to create this supernatural tragic love story.
A film of surrealism showcasing death on his mission of what is destiny, confronting a woman in anguish over the death of her love one, who dares to prove to him that love overcomes death and she can go against what is destiny.
Is love stronger than death? Can it overcome death? Can she prove it?
This stoic death may look threatening but this version does not have the horrors of a skeletal being cloaked in a robe or anything too macabre. In fact, Bernhard Goetzke’s version of “Death” must perform his mission but yet he does have compassion enough to give the young woman three chances that love is stronger than death.
And so, there are three different stories in which the young woman (portrayed by Lil Dagover) must save her lover (portrayed by Walter Janssen).
The first chance/story is set in the Middle East during Ramadan, and a man, who is a Franke wants to rescue Zobeide (sister of the Caliph of Baghdad) from the palace. But when it is revealed that the man has desecrated the holy site, he is targeted for death by everyone. But can Zobeide rescue him?
The second chance/story is set in Quattrocento, Venice. The story revolves around a planned sword fight between Monna Fiametta’s lover Giovan Francesco and the best swordsman, Girolamo. Girolamo expects Monna to marry him after he kills Giovan. But can Monna rescue her lover?
The third chance/story is set in China and the Chinese emperor wants the magician’s daughter, Tiao Tsien to be with him. But she likes Liang instead.
Of the three stories, the third is rather fascinating for its use of special effects and its multiple uses of superimposition.
But there is a fourth chance but I would rather not spoil it with a summary as it is used as part of the final conclusion to the film.
But the film manages to exhibit surrealism, expressionism and romanticism combined with various stories to show tragedy in various aspects but how a woman feels her destiny is to be with the man she loves.
As for the restoration of this wonderful Fritz Lang film, the 2K digital restoration supervised by Anke Wilkening was fantastic. The film looks very good considering it’s a century old and while scratches and few frames of damage do appear, there is no significant major nitrate damage or major film warping that interrupts your viewing of the film.
The lossless soundtrack features a wonderful score by Cornelius Schwehr as commissioned by ZDF/ARTE performed by the 70-member Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra under the director of conductor Frank Strobel. The music really brings emotion to the characters and was quite pleased with the soundtrack.
In addition, there is also a restoration featurette and a trailer included.
Overall, “Destiny” is no doubt a wonderful, technical achievement by Fritz Lang for its time and one can see how this film would inspire filmmakers during that era for its use of storytelling and special effects. This new restoration is the authorized and definitive presentation of “Destiny” and another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang Blu-ray release that I strongly recommend!
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