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Copyright © 1999-2017 by Carl Bennett
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Fritz Lang
Circle of Destiny
(1998)

 

This biography of German filmmaker Fritz Lang accompanies a series of Lang films that have already been released on DVD by a handful of home video producers. Many of Lang’s silents are already available on DVD or are, no doubt, being planned for release.

A number of filmed interviews in German and French with Fritz Lang are bracketed by production stills and clips from his films and by modern interviews with Lang collaborators, European filmmakers and a biographer. Director Volker Schlöndorff elucidates what it meant to be a German filmmaker and to be influenced by Lang’s films, particularly the silents and M. The other interviewees were producer Artur Brauner, director Claude Chabrol, Alfred Eibel, biographer Patrick McGilligan, assistant director Pierre Rissient, Cornelius Schnauber, and writer and director Curt Siodmak.

Some of the topics of the documentary cover cinematic influences, Lang’s discovery and development of actresses, his relationship with writer and wife Thea von Harbou, his sidestepping of the whole Nazi movement in Germany, his complete control of his films’ productions and in particular M, a quick nod toward his Hollywood period, and a brief focus on his latter day German films. Clearly the focus is on Lang’s European films. Clips and stills from Die Spinnen (1919), Der müde Tod (1921), Dr. Mabuse: Der Spieler (1922), Die Nibelungen (1924), Metropolis (1927), Spione (1928), Die Frau im Mond (1929), M (1931), Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (1933) and more are included. — Carl Bennett

coverImage Entertainment
2001 DVD edition

Fritz Lang: Circle of Destiny (1998), color and black & white, 54 minutes, not rated.

Image Entertainment, ID9759KADVD, UPC 0-14381-97592-5.
Letterboxed 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD disc, Region 0, 7.5 Mbps average video bit rate, 224 kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, English language subtitles, 12 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $19.99.
Release date: 28 August 2001.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 9 / audio: 9 / additional content: 0 / overall: 8.

Rather than rely on a voice-over narration, documentary director Jorge Dana chooses to let photo montage and the interviews tell the story. This 1998 French documentary is presented in the native languages of the interviewees, with DVD subtitles in English that can be turned off. Subtitles in other languages are unavailable on this disc. The letterbox presentation is in 1.78:1 aspect ratio, that of high-definition television. Some interviews appear to have been shot utilizing HDTV equipment, others were shot on standard video and film equipment. The DVD has not been anamorphically enhanced for 16:9 television monitors.

The video picture is extremely clear and detailed, however, some prints of the Lang films are not a quite as good as those seen on the full-length DVDs of those titles. Standard format films and videos have been windowboxed within the 1.78:1 letterbox framing. Subtitles appear at the bottom edge of the letterbox framing, and occasionally at the top of the frame to avoid titles in the original program material.

The music is, surprisingly for a documentary, a standout in this production. The well-chosen music is compiled from a variety of prerecorded sources including the main theme, (utilized by Lang in M) which is taken from Grieg’s Peer Gynt. Some brief exerpts, however, are compromised by tape hiss. Overall, the brief exerpts are employed as mood bridges between interview exerpts.

We found that we couldn’t turn away from this biographical documentary and, when it was finished, we felt compelled to take another look at the Lang films covered. In particular, we watched Spies (which Chabrol loves) and M. You can add this reasonably priced disc to your collection and find yourself revisiting Lang’s films as well.

 
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
 
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Amazon.ca. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.
Other silent era FRITZ LANG films available on home video.

Other GERMAN FILMS of the silent era available on home video.

Other silent era-related DOCUMENTARIES available on home video.
 
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