Destiny Screen 9 articles

Destiny

1921

Destiny Poster
  • Fritz Lang's first international success, made in 1921 at the height of the expressionist movement in film, has the atmosphere of a harsh German fairy tale.

  • The tone ranges from baroque melodrama to eccentric whimsy, and the plotting is full of digressions and asides, but Lang's design sense and use of architectural space gives the film a basic consistency. And the plentiful special effects still look amazingly inventive.

  • Lang’s film, although ambitious, appears to have been a low-budget production. Lang overcomes this shortcoming by the use of mostly simple sets and by foregrounding the actors’ physical features. Lang regularly uses light and shadow to highlight aspects within the frame and to add a dynamic edge to the images.

  • Each [story] is ambitious and worldly—set in Persia, Venice, and China, but none are as engaging as the main story that links them, which is another reason why this movie is so unusual: wraparound segments often provide nothing but filler. Destiny is most certainly worth checking out because Bernhard Goetzke just might be the coolest-looking Death in screen history (the iconic Seventh Seal’s Bengt Ekerot included)—and because what film by Lang isn’t?

  • Despite how it may sound, Destiny actually showcases Lang's lighter side: The premise itself, after all, is one in which Death functions as a hopeful matchmaker. Lang also unleashes high-suspense sword-fights, cartoonishly obnoxious leaders (the burly Chinese emperor kicks his subordinates when upset), and flying carpets — a special-effects coup that would serve as the inspiration for Douglas Fairbanks's The Thief of Bagdad.

  • Arabian nights, Renaissance Venice, and folkloric China provide Dagover with a trio of incarnations and the director with a thousand opportunities to explore cinema's possibilities... A tear streaks down the face of a statue and the heroine is back in the present, with the clock ticking for her to find one life for Death; even the wretched wish to hang on to theirs, however, so she finds transcendence in Lang's purifying blaze and a final sublime stroll, forward and heavenwards.

  • Called Fritz Lang’s first great movie, even by him, Destiny (1921) displays a fluency of visual expression that marks silent-era masterpieces to come as well as the primitive devices cinema is about to leave behind.

  • That Seven Chances was immediately followed in the same venue that afternoon by a screening of the Murnau Foundation’s beautiful recent restoration of Fritz Lang’s Destiny (1921) speaks to the can’t-go-wrong vibe of the festival’s slate: stand in the back for a packed-to-the-gills projection of a Keaton, grab a seat as the theater thins out between screenings, and gear up for a glorious, immersive presentation of Lang’s time-traveling psycho-goth epic.

  • It’s a spectacle like no other, and a film which gets to the heart of the idea that, as humans, we find new ways to fight against the spectre of death every single day.

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