Monday, April 23

The Student of Prague at MoMA

What’s Showing Today? Monday, April 23
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Featured Screening: The Student of Prague at MoMA

MoMA‘s Kino! New Films from Germany has a perhaps unlikely opening night pick—1913’s The Student of Prague, an often-overlooked, fantastical silent film that also represents one of the first productions of Germany’s Babelsberg Studios, which celebrates its centennial this year.

Though perhaps more modest in its design than the better-known movies it precedes like Faust, The Golem, and Caligari, it retains its own unique atmosphere and innovative special effects. The story was written by Hanns Heinz Ewers, a literary figure noted his his similarities to Edgar Allan Poe, friendship with Aleister Crowley and and early recognition of cinema as a valid form of artistic expression—or, as Sigfried Kracauer describes him, “he had the good fortune to be a bad author with an imagination reveling in gross sensation and sex . . . always good screen material.” Many of Ewers stories correspond to Goethe’s literature, and Student of Prague represents a reworking of his take on Faust. In it, a young student becomes obsessed with a beautiful young lady and makes a bargain to sell his reflection to the devil only to learn his doppelgänger is committing horrendous crimes. The protagonist is played by Paul Wegener, who is best known for directing and starring in the 1920 version of The Golem. He also went on to further collaborations with Ewers and Rye and a dubious association with the Nazi party, albeit one much more fruitful than Ewers’s own. In addition to rejecting the Nazi party’s anti-semitism, Ewers was rejected by his parties for his association with noted homosexuals. He had arranged Stellan Rye‘s gig directing Student of Prague after Rye, an ex-Danish military lieutenant and burgeoning literary celebrity, spent several years in prison following convictions of organizing ritualized homosexual activity within the army barracks. Rye left for Berlin where friend Herman Bang (author of the source story of Carl Dreyer’s Michael) introduced him to Ewers. Rye and Ewers subsequently made five additional, now-lost, features together, three of which starred Wegener—the final collaboration for all three being Die Augen des Ole Brandis, about a painter who makes a similarly Mephistophelean bargain with a mysterious figure to receive eyes that may see the world as it really is; being an Ewers story, the world is irredeemably corrupt and debased save a requisite last-minute happy ending.

With the war oncoming, Rye voluntarily enlisted in the German army and was killed in France. Ewers lived briefly in the United States and was interned for three years without charge as a suspected spy (not entirely without evidence). Back in Germany, he tried to win favor with the Nazi party, who ultimately rejected him and banned his works, culminating in his dying in poverty of tuberculosis. The Student of Prague is probably remembered today because of the endorsement of its historical significance in Sigfried Kracauer’s influential 1947 From Caligari to Hitler, and furthermore its somewhat uneven photography at its most dazzlingly inventive places The Student of Prague as a nascent influence on the expressionist style.

Also Noted

Ken Jacobs‘ 440-minute Star Spangled to Death runs over the next four evenings at Spectacle. $10 passes are available for all four nights, and Jacobs will be in attendance for Thursday’s concluding chapter.

With The Killing of Sister George, Robert Aldrich operates in full-on camp-dread mode applied most successfully in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, and The Legend of Lylah Clare. Like Jane, Clare and the much earlier The Big Knife, Sister George has its roots in the world of showbusiness—Bery Reid plays a sadistic, alcoholic, disaffected lesbian soap opera star.

Today

Tribeca Film Festival
Full Listings

Contemporary Galleries: 1980-Now at MoMA
Series Details

  • Jane and Tortured Dust (Part 3 & 4) (Stan Brakhage). Details. 1984/1985. 31 min. 3:00 pm.

Mezhrabpom: The Red Dream Factory at MoMA
Series Details

  •  Film and Photo League/Workers International Relief. Details. 1930/1926/1932. 89 min. 4:00 pm.

Kino! 2012: New Films from Germany at MoMA
Series Details

  • Unknown (Jaume Collet-Serra). Details. 2011. 113 min. 4:00 pm.
  • The Student of Prague (Stellan Rye). Details. Live accompaniment. 1913. 60 min. 7:30 pm.

The Killing of Sister George (Robert Aldrich) at IFC CenterDetails. 35mm. 1968. 138 min. 8:00 pm.
Bjarne Melgaard Inverviews Leo Bersani
 at The Kitchen. Details. 7:00 pm. FREE.
Modern Mondays: An Evening with Adam Pendleton and Lorraine O’Grady at MoMA. Details. 7:00 pm.
Star Spangled to Death Part 1/4 (Ken Jacobs) at Spectacle. Details. 1957-2004. 8:00 pm.

Ongoing

Jean Gentil (Laura Amelia Guzmán & Israel Cárdenas) at Anthology Film ArchivesDetails. 2010. 84 min. 7:00 and 9:00 pm.
The Devil, Probably 
(Robert Bresson) at BAMCinématekDetails. 35mm. 1977. 95 min. 4:30, 6:50 and 9:15 pm.
Post Mortem (Pablo Larraín) at Film ForumDetails. 2010. 98 min. 1:00, 3:15, 5:40, 7:50 and 10:00 pm.
The Gang’s All Here (Busby Berkeley) at Film ForumDetails. 35mm. 1943. 103 min. 1:00, 3:10, 5:20, 7:30 and 9:40 pm.
Gerhard Richter Painting (Corinna Belz) at Film ForumDetails. 2011. 94 min. 1:00, 6:10 and 10:15 pm.
A Separation (Asghar Farhadi) at Film ForumDetails. 2011. 122 min. 3:00 and 8:00 pm.

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