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Book Review

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Goethe Yearbook



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The scope of Fratning Faust: Twentieth-Century Cultural Struggles is very ambitious, as Inez Hedges concedes at the outset. Rather than attempting to survey "the entire landscape of the Faustian," she narrows her focus to "the ways in which the Faustian rebel has surfaced in some of the most important cultural crises of the twentieth century" in order "to explore the Faustian myth in its various political, aesthetic, and social contexts" (xiii). While the topic appears very broad at first, the author skillfully demonstrates her expertise in European film and surrealism as she excavates little-known archival material and countless lesser-known Faust texts. Hedges begins with the history of film and Faust films. In the first chapter, "Faust and Early Film Spectatorship," she notes that the Faust theme was "the subject of over two dozen films in five different countries before 1913· She offers a fascinating account of Georges Melies's Faust films produced between 1897 and 1904. Rather than documenting life as the Lumière brothers did, he turned his camera toward the imaginary realm and quickly invented special effects. As Melies's became more adept at these tricks, they played a larger role in his Faust films. In view of the early history of film, it is worth noting that Goethe had dreamt of a Faust film, according to Ulrich Gaier Hedges continues with a brief analysis of Richard Ridgely's 1915 film The Magic Skin and concludes with readings of well-known German Faust films.


This is a book review from Goethe Yearbook 14 (2006): 237, doi:10.1353/gyr.2011.0445. Posted with permission.

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Goethe Society of North America



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