Student of Prague, The (1913)

Student of Prague, The (1913)

“I agree that Mr. Scapinelli shall take from this room whatever he chooseth for his own use.”

A poor university student (Paul Wegener) in love with a countess (Grete Berger) unwittingly gives his reflection to a sorcerer (John Gottowt) in exchange for gold, and soon finds that his reflection is committing crimes in his name.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • German Films
  • Horror
  • Pact With the Devil
  • Silent Films

The Student of Prague (a.k.a. A Bargain With Satan) holds the distinction of being the second-oldest film listed in GFTFF, after Quo Vadis (1912). It’s primarily of interest to film fanatics for its status as what may be the first “horror” film ever made, and as a forerunner to the German Expressionist movement — but as a narrative, it hasn’t held up all that well. Indeed, it’s oddly difficult to follow what’s happening on screen (the clunky inter-titles don’t help), and other than innovative use of double exposure during the scenes when Wegener confronts or runs into his “reflection”, the direction is rather static. None of this is particularly surprising for a film made so early in the history of cinema, but film fanatics should simply be forewarned.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A provocative premise

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look simply for its historical relevance.


One thought on “Student of Prague, The (1913)

  1. First (and last) viewing. Not must-see (except for those who have a *very* strong interest in silent cinema).

    The assessment above is well put and covers my feelings as well, so I’ve nothing to add. There’s something very mildly intriguing about watching a film now over 100 years old – but, at the same time, this is something of an endurance test.

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