Orlac is a world famous pianist. One day he is badly hurt in a big train wreck. He is in danger of losing both his hands so his wife begs the doctors to save them. They eventually manage to transplant his hands with those of another deceased person. After his recovery Orlac discovers that there is something seriously wrong with his new pair of hands -- it is as if they had a will of their own. But Orlac doesn't know that they actually belonged to a dangerous murderer.Written by
Aljaz Ciber, Slovenia
This film was incomplete for decades, due to footage that never made it into the American prints and footage that had been cut due to censorship in German prints. The film was restored to its original length in 1995 by F. W. Murnau Stiftung. See more »
When Orlac is playing his final concert, the wild movements of his arms in the long shots do not match the controlled movements of his hands in the closeups. See more »
In the opening credits, all cast members are billed by their last names only. See more »
Great German Expressionist Film That is Slowly Paced
Flirting with a (then) science fictional theme of body part transplantation, the film explores the feelings of a concert pianist, who having lost his hands in a train wreck, receives a new pair of hands that belonged to an executed murderer. Austrian director Robert Weine, who created the landmark 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' (1919) here reunites with and directs its star, Conrad Veidt, as the tormented pianist Paul Orlac.
The camera focuses on Veidt's many moods and reactions to his plight -- his hands are not capable of his concert abilities, and he feels that they are taking him over with thoughts and deeds of crime and murder. He does an outstanding job, but too much of the film is slowly paced. From the beginning extended train crash rescue, on through scene after scene of Orlac's, his wife's and the maid's over the top Expressionistic gesturing, the scenes seem to go on too long.
This slow pace is exaggerated by the lack of camera movement (everything is mostly wide shots with little tracking), the wonderfully and effectively spooky new musical score (on the KINO 2008 version), that sometimes lacks verve and variety, as well as the extensive time spent on the actors' Expressionist movements.
The film certainly has its high points. It's great to see an entire film shot in shadows and low light, all with Gothic sets. This is great German Expressionism. If you can relax and just go with the pace of the film, you can really enjoy the acting of Conrad Veidt-- whose hands keep getting creepier and scarier.
If it were cut to about sixty minutes to pick up the pace, it would be easier to enjoy and to see the great care that went into its creation and execution.
I'll have to give it a six.
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