Sunday, December 16, 2018 at 7:30pm
Henrik Galeen's The Student of Prague

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Introduced by Charles Burnett

The Student of Prague, Henrik Galeen, 1926, 16mm, 91 mins

Beginning his career as an assistant to Max Reinhardt at the Deutsches Theater, the Austrian-born writer, director, and actor Henrik Galeen would go on to pen the scenario for F.W. Murnau's genre-defining vampire picture Nosferatu. A few years thereafter he would helm the 1926 version of The Student of Prague—a remake of Stellan Rye's influential 1913 production—which blends an expressionist sensibility with sumptuous interiors and evocative natural settings. Conrad Veidt, best-known as the somnambulist from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, stars in the title role as Balduin, an impecunious student who strikes a Faustian bargain, exchanging his reflection for a princely sum. Yet the cost of the high life he begins to enjoy soon becomes clear when he is forced to contend with a malefic doppelgänger, newly-minted from his mirror. "Today's reality," Galeen offered, "rivals yesterday's fantasy. And thus in order to create fantastic films, we should direct our attention to new problems springing from our current context."

Though now rarely-screened, The Student of Prague has long fascinated a range of artists and writers. Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep, To Sleep with Anger) has cited it as among the greatest movies ever made; the poet H.D. published an extended treatment of the film and its at times "intolerable beauty" in the pages of modernist film mag Close Up; Jean Baudrillard dubbed it an illustration par excellence of the alienation endemic to life in a market society.

"As soon as he has sold his image or, in other words, has sold a part of himself, the student is hounded to his death by it in real life," wrote Baudrillard. "This translates the unvarnished truth of the process of alienation: nothing of what is alienated runs off into some neutral circuit, into an 'external world' over against which we might be said to remain free—suffering, with each dispossession, only a loss in our having, but always retaining possession of ourselves in our 'private' sphere and ultimately remaining intact in our being. This is the reassuring fiction of the 'inner self' or 'heart of hearts,' where the soul is free of the world. Alienation goes much deeper than that. There is a part of us which gets away from us in this process, but we do not get away from it. The object (the soul, the shadow, the product of our labor become object) takes its revenge. All we are dispossessed of remains attached to us, but negatively. In other words, it haunts us. That part of us sold and forgotten is still us, or rather it is a caricature of us, the ghost, the specter which follows us; it is our continuation and takes its revenge."

Print courtesy Duke University Libraries.

Tickets - $8, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.