Phantom:

Phantom” is an expressionist silent film by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. “Phantom” impressively and in Murnauian aesthetics shows the story of the town clerk Lorenz Lubota about his search for redemption and the waste of his potential. No fantasy horror like “Nosferatu“, but a profound drama about unfulfilled dreams and wrong decisions.

Synopsis

Lorenz Lubota is an employed city writer. Privately he writes poems and records experiences from his life. One day, on his way to work, he is hit by a horse-drawn carriage. He is only insignificantly injured, but is fascinated by the lady who was driving the carriage. He cannot forget her and searches for her like a phantom. The coachwoman Veronica is the beautiful daughter of the rich ironmonger Harlan. Lubota falls for her completely and even auditions with her parents, proposes marriage. He is chased away and severely humiliated. He falls completely into his dream world and neglects his life and work. He does not notice that he is secretly adored by a pretty, quiet girl, Marie. The consequence of his unsteady way of life is that he is fired. Then he meets a girl who looks like his crush Veronica. Her name is Melitta. He takes comfort in her, but Melitta is demanding and costs Lubota a lot of money. When his savings are exhausted and Melitta asks for more and more money, he borrows it under a pretext from his aunt, a pawnbroker.

When Lubota does not pay back the money on time, the pawnbroker Schwabe threatens to go to the police. Together with his shady buddy Wigottschinski he breaks into the pawnbroker’s house. Both are surprised by her and the pawnbroker is killed by Wigottschinski. Lubota is convicted as an accomplice and is sent to prison. He is lucky, the court was merciful with him. He is soon released. When he is released, Marie is waiting for him and takes care of him. Both become a couple and marry.

Production history

The film was shot at Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam. The author of the novel, Gerhart Hauptmann, appears in the film himself at the beginning. The contemporary reviews are consistently positive. They refer to the time after the First World War and the disorientation of the people, to a disturbed relationship to reality and to great helplessness, using Lorenz Lubotas as an example. The expressionistic style of the film creates tension and a vague mysticism.

Title: Phantom

Director: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau

Screenplay: Thea von Harbou

Original novel: Gerhart Hauptmann

Actors: Alfred Abel, Frida Richard, Aud Egede-Nissen, Lil Dagover, Karl Etlinger, Hans Heinrich von Twardowski, Adolf Klein, Olga Engl, Lya de Putti, Ilka Grüning

Producer: Erich Pommer

Cinematography: Axel Graatkjaer, Theophan Ouchakoff

Buildings: Erich Czerwonski, Hermann Warm

Editing: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau

Music: Leo Spies

 

Production Company: Uco-Film GmbH

Production Year: 1922

Genres: Drama, Silent movie

Country: Germany

Language: Silent film

Location: Bioscop studio, Neubabelsberg, Potsdam, Brandenburg

Length: 116 min

FSK: 12

Aspect ratio: 4:3 – 1.33:1

Sound: Mono

Other titles:

German: Phantom

French: Le fantôme

Italian: Fantasma

Spanish: El beso de la fama

Film label: B-Spree Classics

Premiered on November 13, 1922, Ufa-Palast am Zoo, Berlin on the occasion of Gerhart Hauptmann’s 60th birthday.

Mediabook (Blu-Ray+DVD): November 11, 2022

About Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau

Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe, his civil name, was born in Bielefeld on December 28, 1888. He attended acting school with Max Reinhardt, who immediately recognized his great talent and made him his assistant director at the Hebbel Theater. In 1910 he adopted the stage name “Murnau“. Initially for artistic reasons, but above all as a sign of a break with his parents, who did not accept his artistic activities or his homosexuality. Murnau is still considered one of the most important directors of the silent film era worldwide and one of the most important German film directors ever. Three of his films (“Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror” “The Last Man“, “Faust“), are in the top 30 (according to experts) of the best films ever made in Germany. Murnau went to the USA in 1927 and made films for the Fox company. The film “Sunrise“, made in the USA in 1927, won three Oscars at the 1929 Academy Awards. With the following film “Four Devils” there were great difficulties with the Fox film company, which angered Murnau. But this film was also very well received and rated in the USA. In 1929, there was a final rift between Murnau and the Fox studio. During the shooting of “City Girl” they constantly interfered with his work. Murnau did not like such constraints and canceled the contract with Fox. He tried to get back into business with UFA in Berlin, but that also failed. He then bought a sailing yacht and took it to the South Seas.

On the island of Bora Bora, he shot the film “Tabu” exclusively with amateur actors. This film, which Murnau had financed himself, was taken over by the Paramount studio. There they were so enthusiastic about this film that they gave Murnau a two-year contract. However, the life of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau took a tragic course. On March 11, 1931, shortly before a promotional tour for the film “Taboo” planned in Germany, Murnau was driving on a road south of Santa Barbara (California). He had let his servant Filipino, only 14 years old, take the wheel. The heavy car went out of the driver’s control at high speed, overturned and plunged down an embankment ten meters. While all the other occupants, besides Murnau and the valet, another person and his German shepherd got away with only a few scratches, Murnau hit the back of his head against a utility pole and was seriously injured. He was taken to a hospital in Santa Barbara and died the following night from his severe head injuries. He did not live to see the premiere of his film “Tabu” on March 18, 1931. He was buried in Berlin on March 19. Only 9 people attended his funeral, including Greta Garbo, Emil Jannings, Erich Pommer and G. W. Pabst. Fritz Lang gave the eulogy.

Filmography (excerpt)

1917  Devil’s Girl (lost) |  Teufelsmädchen (verschollen)
1919 The Boy in Blue (lost) | Der Knabe in blau (verschollen)
1920 Satanus (Fragment)
The Hunchback and the Dancer (lost) | Der Bucklige und die Tänzerin (verschollen)
The Janus Head (lost) |  Der Januskopf (verschollen)
Evening, Night, Morning (lost) |  Abend, Nacht, Morgen (verschollen)
1921 The Walk into the Night |  Der Gang in die Nacht
Marizza, the smuggler’s Madonna (fragment) |  Marizza, die Schmugglermadonna (Fragment)
Castle Vogelöd | Schloss Vogelöd
Longing (lost) |  Sehnsucht (verschollen)
1922 The Burning Field | Der brennende Acker
1922 Nosferatu: A symphony of horror | Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens
Phantom
1923 The Expulsion (Fragment) | Die Austreibung (Fragment)
1924  The Grand Duke’s finances | Die Finanzen des Großherzogs
The Last Man | Der letzte Mann
1925 Tartüff
1926 Faust, a folk tale | Faust, eine Volkssage
1927 Sunrise
1928 Four Devils (burned) | Vier Teufel (verbrannt)
1930 City Girl
1931 Tabu

In the turmoil of the Second World War, some of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s German films were lost and are now considered lost. In a major fire at the Fox company buildings in the USA, the film “Four Devils” also burned. Of Murnau’s 22 films, only 12 are complete today, 3 as fragments and 7 no longer exist.

About Alfred Abel

Alfred Abel was born in Leipzig on March 12, 1879, the son of a Jewish merchant. Abel completed a commercial apprenticeship and then studied art drawing at the Leipzig Art Academy. He also received private acting lessons. After a few stints at smaller theaters, he came to Berlin in 1904 to Max Reinhardt’s Deutsches Theater. In the most famous of Max Reinhardt’s only few film works, “The Venetian Night,” Abel made his film debut. In his more than 100 silent film roles, he worked with the most important directors of the time, such as Fritz Lang and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, in several films.

In 1930 Alfred Hitchcock cast him in his film “Mary“, the German version of “Murder“. In the talkies, Abel mostly played gentlemen with good manners, best dressed, of a distinguished reserved manner of a perfect gentleman. Abel directed five films himself and was cast as an actor in 36 talkies. When the Nazis discovered in 1935 that Alfred Abel had a Jewish father, i.e. was of Jewish descent, he was expelled from the Reichsfachschaft Film. However, Goebbels personally ordered Alfred Abel to be readmitted for artistic reasons. Alfred Abel died unexpectedly in Berlin on December 12, 1937. He was only 58 years old.

Filmography (excerpt)

1913 A Venetian Night | Eine venezianische Nacht
1915 Lache, Bajazzo
1922 Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler 1+2 | Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler 1+2
The Burning Field | Der brennende Acker
Phantom
1923 Buddenbrooks
1924 The Grand Duke’s Finances | Die Finanzen des Großherzogs
1927 The tragedy of a lost man | Die Tragödie eines Verlorenen
Metropolis
1930 Dolly makes a career | Dolly macht Karriere
1931 Mary
The Disgust | Das Ekel
My wife, the impostor | Meine Frau, die Hochstaplerin
The Congress Dances | Der Kongress tanzt
1932 The White Demon | Der weiße Dämon
1933 Burning Secret | Brennendes Geheimnis
1935 Victoria
1936 The Court Concert | Das Hofkonzert
1937 Seven Slaps | Sieben Ohrfeigen
Unter Ausschluss der Öffentlichkeit

About Lil Dagover

Lil Dagover was born Marie Antonie Sieglinde Marta Seubert on September 30, 1887 in Pati (now Indonesia). Lil Dagover was one of the leading German silent film stars, but unlike other silent film actresses, she also appeared in many cinema and television productions during the sound film era. She was cast in some 80 motion pictures from 1913 until shortly before her death in January 1980. She acted under such important German directors as Helmut Käutner, Fritz Lang, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, Detlef Sierck, Alfred Weidenmann and Ottokar Runze. But she also appeared in international productions, for example in the USA under director Michael Curtiz and in France under director Henri Fescourt. In 1907 she married the actor Fritz Daghofer and changed her married name to Lil Dagover. Lil from her call name Sieglinde and in her new married name she replaced the “f” with a “v”. Through her husband she came to the film. In 1913, she made her film debut in the silent flick Snake Dance. In 1919 she played her first important role in the Fritz Lang two-parter “The Spiders“. In 1920, she appeared in one of the most important German films of all time: “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” directed by Robert Wiene.

Lil Dagover was the top cast member in most of the sophisticated silent films of the 1920s. After her divorce from Fritz Daghofer, she married film producer Georg Witt in 1926. In the 1920s, she also acted under Max Reinhardt at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin. She had a language education, so it was not difficult for her to switch to talkies. She remained a celebrated film star even during the Nazi era. She pretended to be apolitical and kept away from the public as much as she could. Even after the end of the Second World War, she made films again from 1948. When she played the title role in the 1961 Edgar Wallace classic “The Strange Countess,” she was almost 75. In her last film role, directed by Maximilian Schell in “Tales from the Vienna Woods,” she was then already at the biblical age of 92. After the Second World War, she received the Federal Film Award for her role in “Royal Highness” and the Film Ribbon in Gold! Lil Dagover died on January 23, 1980 at her home in Grünwald-Geiselgasteig (Bavaria Film Studios).

Filmography (excerpt)

1913 Snake dance | Schlangentanz
1918  The song of the mother | Das Lied der Mutter
1919 The spiders | Die Spinnen 1+2
Harakiri
1920 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari | Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari
1921 The Tired Death | Der müde Tod
1922 Phantom
1925 Tartüff
1927 The Count of Monte Cristo |  Der Graf von Monte Christo
1930 There Is a Woman Who Never Forgets You | Es gibt eine Frau die dich niemals vergisst
The White Devil | Der weiße Teufel
1931 The Congress Dances | Der Kongress tanzt

Elizabeth of Austria | Elisabeth von Österreich

The Woman from Monte Carlo

1934  I marry my wife | Ich heirate meine Frau
1935  The Bird Seller | Der Vogelhändler
1936 Final chord | Schlussakkord
1937 The cross sonata | Die Kreutzersonate
1938 The stars are shining | Es leuchten die Sterne
1940 Friedrich Schiller
Bismarck
1950 Chased by the devil | Vom Teufel gejagt
1953 Royal Highness | Königliche Hoheit
1954 Schloß Hubertus
1955 Roses in Autumn | Rosen im Herbst (Effi Briest)
1956 Crown Prince Rudolf’s last love | Kronprinz Rudolfs letzte Liebe
1959 Buddenbrooks
1961 The Strange Countess | Die seltsame Gräfin
1975 The Judge and his Executioner | Der Richter und sein Henker
1977 The Standard | Die Standarte
1979 Stories from the Vienna Woods | Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald

About Frida Richard

Friederike Raithel, her civil name, was born in Vienna on November 1, 1873. There she attended a dance and drama school together with Max Reinhardt and Fritz Richard. Fritz Richard married her in 1898, and she first worked as an English teacher. In 1905 she moved with her husband to Berlin. There she also met Max Reinhardt again and acted on his stages.

From 1910 she also appeared in silent films and became one of the busiest actresses of the silent era, mostly in supporting roles. In 1932, the Richard couple moved to Salzburg, where Fritz Richard died a year later. From the mid-1930s, she also appeared in top German productions. For example, she played important roles in “The Victor,” “Mothers Love,” “Ein hoffnungsloser Fall,” “The postmaster” and “The Great Sacrifice .” Last film before her death was Leni Riefenstahl’sTiefland“. Frida Richard died on September 12, 1946 in Salzburg.

Filmography (excerpt)

1910  The fourth commandment | Das vierte Gebot
1913 Eva
1917  The Bell | Die Glocke
1922 Phantom
1924 The Nibelungs 1+2 | Die Nibelungen 1+2

The mountain of destiny | Der Berg des Schicksals

1926 Faust

Manon Lescaut

The holy mountain | Der heilige Berg

1928  Schinderhannes
1929 The burning heart | Das brennende Herz
1932 The victor | Der Sieger
1939 Mother Love | Mutterliebe
1940 The Postmaster | Der Postmeister
1941 Goodbye, Franziska | Auf Wiedersehn, Franziska
1942 Eternal Rembrandt | Ewiger Rembrandt

The Golden City | Die goldene Stadt

The Great Sacrifice | Opfergang

1945 Tiefland

About Aud Egede-Nissen

Aud EgedeNissen was born on May 30, 1893 in Bergen, Norway. She played the role of Femme Fatal in a series of German silent films beginning in 1914. Whether as a calculating seductress or a strumpet, she was great in these roles. With the beginning of the talkies, her film career came to an end. In her last German film, one of the first talkies, “Zwischen Tag und Morgen” (Between Day and Morning), she once again played a brilliant role. After her film career, she only acted in theater in Norway and also directed plays. She died in Oslo on November 15, 1974.

Filmography (excerpt)

1916 The Phantom of the Opera | Das Phantom der Oper
1920 Sumurun
Anna Boleyn
1922 Dr. Mabuse, the gambler 1+2 | Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler 1+2
  Phantom
1923 The Road | Die Straße
1925 The Disreputable | Die Verrufenen
1931  Between night and morning | Zwischen Nacht und Morgen

Phantom | Trailer [2022] (German) ᴴᴰ

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Comments & Feedback

“After Nosferatu, The Phantom represents a clear evolution of Murnau’s talent.” (themoviewaffler.com)

“It’s been less than a decade since The Phantom, long thought lost, was rediscovered and restored. It stands in the shadow of its more famous predecessor, but even if it’s not the landmark Nosferatu it is, it should be seen.” (battleshippretension.com)

“F.W. Murnau’s Phantom, released the same year but shot after Nosferatu, is not a fantasy film as its title suggests, but it sometimes approaches that genre for its recurring expressionist aesthetic and some “Murnauscher” thematic elements. The various monochrome hues of the picture were expressly chosen by Murnau, who, however, wanted the dream and nightmare visions to remain in pure black and white.(Francis Moury, juanasensio.com)

Perhaps the most interesting feature of Phantom is that the main thematic nodes are all resolved through immediate visual gimmicks, i.e. fully functional on the narrative and at the same time on the symbolic level.” (David Bax 2015 / garden-of-silence.com)

“Phantom, a poignant drama about unfortunate choices and the tragedy of a life lived in the shadow of failure.” (cinegrandiose.com)

Available formats and finishes

Limited Mediabook (Blu-Ray + DVD):

Blu-Ray aspect ratio: 4:3 – 1.33:1 / 1080p 24; DVD aspect ratio: 4:3 – 1.33:1

Running time Blu-Ray: 121 min; Running time DVD: 116 min

Sound Format Blu-Ray: German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (mono); Sound Format DVD: German DD 2.0 (mono)

Bonus material: Mediabook with 24-page book part with many pictures and interesting background information

FSK 12 | FSK sticker removable

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