The Damnation of Faust (film)

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The Damnation of Faust
Directed by Georges Méliès
Starring Georges Méliès
Release date
  • December 1903 (1903-12)
Country France
Language Silent

Faust aux enfers, released in the United States as The Damnation of Faust and in Britain as The Condemnation of Faust, is a 1903 French short silent film directed by Georges Méliès.[1]


Méliès had previously filmed two other adaptations of the Faust legend: Faust and Marguerite (1897) and Damnation of Faust (1898). The 1903 Damnation of Faust was his third version. In 1904, he would make a fourth and last straightforward adaptation, Faust and Marguerite, but his later films The Merry Frolics of Satan (1905) and The Knight of the Snows (1912) are also inspired by the legend.[2] According to Méliès's American catalogue, the direct inspiration for the 1903 version was Hector Berlioz's musical work La damnation de Faust.[3]

Méliès plays Mephistopheles in the film.[2] The dancing masked demons have the same costumes as those in The Infernal Cake Walk, a Méliès film made earlier in 1903.[2] The elaborate painted scenery for the film takes advantage of stage machinery techniques, including scenery rolling both horizontally and vertically; the sixth tableau was designed so that the set could repeatedly peel back to show new layers, allowing Méliès to show Faust and Mephistopheles advancing without having to move his heavy camera.[2] Other special effects used in the film include pyrotechnics, substitution splices, superimpositions on black backgrounds, and dissolves.[2]

Release and reception[edit]

The film was released by Méliès's Star Film Company and is numbered 527–533 in its catalogues.[1] On 11 December 1903, the film was registered for American copyright at the Library of Congress.[1] Méliès's 1905 American catalogue advertised the film as "a grand fantastical fantasy in 15 motion tableaux, inspired by Berlioz's celebrated song poem", and pointed out that exhibitors could precede it with the 1904 Faust and Marguerite: "Our film No. 562, 'Faust and Marguerite,' which has met with unprecedented success, forms a natural beginning to the above subject."[3] In addition to the black-and-white print, a hand-colored version of the film was also available at a higher price.[3]

A 1981 publication on Méliès's films by the Centre national du cinéma commented that, although the ballet sequence is inadvertently comic, the rest of the film is "dramatic and expressionistic", with the dancing demons creating a "very modern" effect.[2] The film scholar Elizabeth Ezra highlighted the descent into hell and ballet sequence as early cinematic examples of the tilt shot and the non-diegetic insert, respectively.[4]


  1. ^ a b c Malthête, Jacques; Mannoni, Laurent (2008), L'oeuvre de Georges Méliès, Paris: Éditions de La Martinière, p. 346, ISBN 9782732437323 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Essai de reconstitution du catalogue français de la Star-Film; suivi d'une analyse catalographique des films de Georges Méliès recensés en France, Bois d'Arcy: Service des archives du film du Centre national de la cinématographie, 1981, pp. 168–170, ISBN 2903053073, OCLC 10506429 
  3. ^ a b c Méliès, Georges (1905), Complete Catalogue of Genuine and Original "Star" Films, New York: Geo. Méliès, pp. 37–38 
  4. ^ Ezra, Elizabeth (2000), Georges Méliès, Manchester: Manchester University Press, p. 38, ISBN 0-7190-5395-1 

External links[edit]