Fritz Lang’s Der Mude Tod aka Destiny (1921) Cinema Review

Director: Fritz Lang | 115 mins | Masters of Cinema | In cinemas & on digital HD 9th June, Dual Format 17th July

A young woman (Lil Dagover) confronts the personification of Death (Bernhard Goetzke), in an effort to save the life of her fiancé (Walter Janssen). Death weaves three romantic tragedies and offers to unite the girl with her lover, if she can prevent the death of the lovers in at least one of the episodes. Thus begin three exotic scenarios of ill-fated love, in which the woman must somehow reverse the course of destiny: Persia, Quattrocento Venice, and a fancifully rendered ancient China. 

Masters of Cinema are about to release another classic movie of Fritz Lang in the shape of Der Mude Tod aka Destiny. They are planning to screen it at select cinemas across the UK and Ireland plus make the title available in Digital HD before it hits Dual Format later this summer.

As is the case with past Lang titles that this firm have released, Masters of Cinema have put a lot of care into this. At almost one hundred years old this is a film that is still impressive, for various reasons, and deserves such treatment. A 2k restoration goes some way towards lessening the numerous, glaringly obvious signs of ageing. Whatever is left only adds to the charm of one of Lang’s underrated works.

He is a director better known for the likes of Metropolis (1927) and M (1931), and rightly so, but Destiny is just as memorable a feature. The narrative and story borrow elements of Faust and Romeo & Juliet yet have their own unique twist that allows Lang to create something original as well as inspirational. In the century since release the story and some elements of Destiny continue to seep into other works.

A lot of big subjects are tackled throughout. Love, death, religion, desire, greed, the human condition and more play an integral part. Love and what people are willing to do for it as well as death and it’s physical manifestation are the most obvious. But there are levels to the film that further the opinion that Lang and his work were capable of more than simply being a cinematic experience. 

Lang’s talents as a director do overcome the limitations of cinema at the time, with him using techniques and methods that wouldn’t become common place for years or even decades down the line. His use of cross fading creates some genuinely impressive, for the time of course, scenes that make it appear as if ghosts are on screen or walking through walls. The sets, too, used for later sequences are of a high standard and bring to mind the efforts he made in a similar area for Frau im Mond (1929).

When this hits UK and Irish cinemas this will no doubt be a hit, those who miss out can still experience this classic work when the Dual Format is available for sale. Here’s hoping Masters of Cinema release more of Lang’s restored work.

Screening locations: BFI Southbank, The ICA, Cine Lumiere, Curzon Soho, Curzon Bloomsbury, The Barbican, Home Manchester, GFT Glasgow, Filmhouse Edinburgh, Irish Film Institute Dublin, QFT Belfast, Showroom Sheffield, Tyneside Cinema, Picturehouse Culture Shock Screenings (with more expected to be confirmed).

Pre-order.