Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon) (Masters of Cinema) DVD
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Directed by Fritz Lang
Produced in 1929
Main Language - Silent
Fritz Rasp, Gerda Maurus, Gustav von Wangenheim, Klaus Pohl, Willy Fritsch
Anyone who has watched Dr Mabuse: The Gambler or Spione will recognise the joyful anticipation that prefigures spending an evening with a silent epic from Fritz Lang. Rightly, you can expect a complete visual treat with his realisation of grand set-pieces equalled by his fascination with the small details, the dials and the mechanisms that set these scenes in mootion, the film shuttling between the two in such a shadows-and-angles way that it looks like a strikingly conceived graphic novel come to life. When you add to this his peerless eye for a striking image – a leather-gloved hand reaching for a doorbell, a discarded bowler hat smouldering on a gas lamp – and a consistency of the film’s design, so that for example, the shape of Professor Mannfeldt’s dousing rod for moon exploration resembles almost exactly the trajectory from the earth to the moon in an earlier diagram, well, it’s a fine evening’s entertainment.
Frau im Mond takes in space exploration, a discredited, cranky scientist, an international cartel in search of moon gold, stolen documents, disguise, adventure and romance, the film’s drama going hand in hand with good humour. It’s nice too to see some familiar faces in the leading roles – Gerda Maurus and Willy Fritsch (Spione), Fritz Rasp (Metropolis) and Gustav von Wangenheim (Nosferatu’s Hutter) who once again plays the hapless suitor.
Frau im Mond was promoted as 'the first scientific science fiction film', and for the practicalities of lunar exploration, Lang consulted the rocket pioneer Hermann Oberth. (In fact the film was actually banned in 1937 by the Nazis for fear the diagrams included may be too technically informative; later a Frau im Mond logo was painted on the base of the first successfully launched V-2 rocket.) What is presented has elements of both uncannily accurate prescience and total naiveté (and in respect of this it should be remembered that when it was made in 1929, it was closer in time to George Méliès’ Trip to the Moon than we are now to, say, Star Wars).
The film also famously features the very first countdown to a rocket’s blast off – from 6 to 1 to NOW! – conceived by Lang as a way to heighten the moment’s tension. Impossible not to enjoy.
Graeme Hobbs on 24th December 2007
Author of 289 reviews
Frau im Mond is a number of things. Firstly, it was the first feature-length film to portray space-exploration in a serious manner, paying close attention to the science involved in launching a vessel from the surface of the earth to the valleys of the moon. Secondly, it's a potboiler of a picture that combines espionage tale, serial melodrama, and comic-book sci-fi into a storyline that is by turns delirious, hushed, and deranged. Thirdly, it's a movie so rife with narrative contradiction and visual ingenuity that it could only be the work of one filmmaker: Fritz Lang.
In this, Lang’s final silent epic, he spins a tale involving a wicked cartel of spies who co-opt an experimental mission to the moon in the hope of plundering the satellite’s vast (and highly theoretical) stores of gold. When the crew, helmed by Willy Fritsch and Gerda Maurus (both of whom had previously starred in Lang’s Spione), finally reach their impossible destination, they find themselves stranded in a lunar labyrinth without walls, where emotions run scattershot, and the new goal becomes survival.
A modern Daedalus tale which uncannily foretold Germany’s wartime push into rocket-science, Frau im Mond is as much a warning-sign against human hubris as it is a hopeful depiction of mankind’s potential. This Masters of Cinema Series version presents the culmination of Fritz Lang’s silent cinema, newly restored to its near-original length.
Publisher: Eureka / Masters of Cinema
Length: 163 mins
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 21st January 2008
Cat No: EKA40238
Subtitles: German, English
- Brand new film restoration by F. W. Murnau-Stiftung
- Original German intertitles with newly-translated optional English subtitles
- 36-page booklet which includes a newly revised analysis by Michael E. Grost on the film, and on Fritz Lang's body of work as a whole — and more!