Faust is visually engrossing, wonderfully atmospheric and kept me engrossed from start to finish. The puppets are superbly evocative and expressive, and the sets are gorgeously crafted while maintaining a homemade aesthetic that feels timeless. In some respects Ritz-Barr has recreated a German expressionist silent film, relying on suggestion and gesture to convey Faust’s inner conflicts and over- all plot. The score reinforces that feel – it’s superbly suited to your subject matter and to the visual sensibility of the sets – a vaguely foreboding tone that feels both classical and contemporary. The synthesizer effects whenever the devil speaks succeed particularly well in expressing evil mixed with otherworldly powers. I do want to note that I loved the framing device of the puppeteer playing the role of demigod. It suggests a bit of Svankmajer and the Quays as well, bringing the creator into the scene inside his homespun studio. This film is a real triumph, and a standing ovation is well deserved.
–Stephen London, writer/film critic, teacher
I have seen Faust and I like it. Puppets are beautiful and the way of filming as well very good. I got the impression of the old story in the old decors. Many beautiful objects. I like the scenario which is like all postmodernist stories not completely clear. There is a lot to guess. You have chosen an old Faust as seducer of Margaret so may be it is his dream only, or a vision Produced by Mephisto. I like the image of strong pres- sure of public opinion on Margaret, “Hure”, children write on a wall. I am guessing that you will continue to do some other items from puppetry “classics”. It is very good idea.
– Dr. Henryk Jurkowski, senior professor of theater and puppet arts, Warsaw, Poland and writer of many books on puppetry.
We have viewed your DVD three times by now ( and surely not for the last time) and are absolutely taken with, enthusiastic about, and enchanted by it.The whole idea of condensing such a complex drama into such a dense and breathtaking set is awesome. The pup- pets are endearing, the lighting extraordinary, the attention to detail meticulous and with each viewing there is something new to discover. You were right not to add a spoken commentary, which we had missed on our first viewing. The music and Goethe’s text blen- ded in are truly sufficient to carry the viewer through the plot, even though knowing the original plot could help a little. And yes, the music comments and pushes the drama forward aptly. Thank you so much for letting us take part in this truly wonderful and touching experience. And hopefully you will tackle the next classic drama soon. Meanwhile, we will reread Goethe’s Faust and Kleist’s About the Puppet Theater. Thank you for getting us reinterested in these treasures.
–Ulf Schmidt, senior business consultant, Hamburg,Germany.
I saw Faust and thought in it was excellent. The style reminded me of Teschner, it seems ripe. There is a great sense of character from each of the puppets. Your use of shadow, figure, and visuals of the study are nice and these of course are eclipse, pregnancy, light- ning, etc. to show us light and dark. I liked the Mephisto waltz . Mephisto’s character reads stronger than the rest. Visually, Faust can’t match him, though two souls may be struggling in his breast the struggle is weak on the human goodness side which makes the puppet in someways less responsible for his actions and the puppeteer-god more a deus-ex- machina at the end (you introduced god twice, which was good).Mephisto’s lure it seemed was your intention/focal point – not the way I might try to interpret Faust (or the human degradation of nature/environment). I think the guy should bear more responsibility. But this is an interpretive thing and hence small potatoes except that it gets Faust off the hook so to speak – and dramatically lessens the conflict. However this is a choice which you carry through consistently. This means that viewers may be less bound up in the drama as struggle that could go either way at various point and rather in the drama as aesthetic choice. The fight is between god and devil where the devil will win out since god only shows to pick up the pieces (close here to Goethe I guess but only after all the volcanos and the microsmic boy and Helen of Troy – great stuff for puppet and film so I look forward to Part II if you take it on!) Overall this is a fascinating piece which uses the visual music aspect of puppetry to make images as puppet theatre can at it’s best. You took on a big story and found a clear and clean way to present it in an aesthetically-interesting and thought-provoking way.
–Dr. Kathy Folie, Theatre Depatment Chair of UC Santa Cruz.
Based on Goethe’s Faust, Steven Barr’s film presents the story dramatically with marionettes in silent movie format. It was creative, unique, thought-provoking, and it inspired some good questions afterwards. Indeed the real treat was having the chance to hear the director’s perspective – about the history of the Faust story, about the making of the film, about the music he chose, and much more. We had about 40 people in the audience, and when I spoke with students afterwards they were all very enthusiastic about the experience.
—Margaret Gonglewski and Susan Norland, German Faculty,
The George Washington University,Washington, DC