NATHAN THE WISE (NATHAN DER WEISE)
Manfred Noa's adaptation of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's stage play is one of the completely forgotten classics of German silent cinema. It is an appeal to peace and tolerance that was violently attacked by the Nazis. The story takes place against the backdrop of religious wars between Christians, Islamists and Jews in 12th-century Jerusalem, and it stars Werner Krauss (THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI), in one of his best roles. The Filmmuseum München (Munich Film Museum) has restored the only surviving elements of this silent masterpiece, recreating its color tints and tones, and presenting in on DVD with the options of two different music scores and ten different subtitle languages. As a bonus feature the disc offers digital presentations of the beautiful production stills used as the film’s original 1923 lobby cards. Accompanying the DVD is a 16-page, bilingual booklet with an article by Stefan Drössler, of the Munich Film Museum. The carefully researched essay details the film's production and reception, especially the many attempts to censure the film in Germany and abroad.
"Gotthold Ephraim Lessing published his "dramatic poem" in 1779 as a direct response to censure by official orthodox religious circles, to which he was subject after publishing a work by Samuel Reimarus that was critical of religion. He set his story in Jerusalem at the time of the Crusades, where Christians, Jews and Muslims were in constant and close confrontation. It threatens to end tragically in religious conflict, but the main character succeeds, with insight and shrewdness, in reconciling the religious communities. Lessing's drama is acknowledged in German literary history as a "humanist manifesto" that defends "religious tolerance and the freedom of ideas". Scriptwriter Hans Kyser adapted the drama to great cinematic effect, incorporating as a powerful prologue, the opening episode that Lessing resolved only at the end of his drama. Manfred Noa used the brutality of the Crusades and their exotic setting to stage visually impressive crowd scenes. Experienced actors from box-office hits were magnificent in the leading roles, among them Werner Krauss (DES CABINET DES DR. CALIGARI / THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI by Robert Wiene) as Nathan, and Carl de Vogt (DIE SPINNEN / THE SPIDERS by Fritz Lang) as a young Templar knight. As in the original drama, this emotionally charged production ends in an impassioned plea for reason and for tolerance towards people of other faiths.[....]
The Filmmuseum München discovered the film in 1996 under the title DIE ERSTÜRMUNG JERUSALEM (THE STORMING OF JERUSALEM), in the collection of Gosfilmofond in Moscow. The Russian film archive had made a black-and-white duplicate negative of a tinted nitrate print that no longer exists. The original title was missing and new chapter titles had been arbitrarily inserted faults that the Filmmuseum München corrected as well as it recreated the colour tints.”
— Stefan Drössler, excerpted from his essay.
Format: DVD-PAL / Region 0
(No Regional Code)
NATHAN THE WISE (NATHAN DER WEISE)
Director: Manfred Noa
Screenplay: Hans Kyser; based on the stage play by Ephraim Lessing
Cinematographer: Gustave Preiss, Hans Karl Gottschalk
Producer: Filmhaus Bavaria GmbH, München
Cast: Werner Krauss, Carl de Vogt, Fritz Greiner, Lia Eibenschütz, Bella Muzsnay, Margarete Kupfer, Rudolf Lettinger, Ernst Schrumpf, Ferdinand Martini, Max Schreck & Ernst Matray
Reconstruction: Filmmuseum München
Editor: Enno Patalas, Gerhard Ullmann & Klaus Volkmer
• 123 minutes
• B&W, Tinted & Toned
• Lobby cards from 1923
Total Running Time: 02:03:02
Language: German intertitles, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese & Japanese subtitles
Musical Score: Two Optional Scores:
• Music score by Aljoscha Zimmermann, performed by Sabrina Hausmann (violin) and Mark Pogolski (piano)
• Improvised piano score by Joachim Bärenz
Booklet Text: Stefan Drössler (Bilingual German & English)
Published By: Edition Filmmuseum
Institutional Price: $250 (plus shipping).
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