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Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler
(Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler)

Live Musical Accompaniment by Robert Humphreville
Screening on Film
Directed by Fritz Lang.
With Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Aud Egede Nissen, Gertrude Welcker.
Germany, 1922, 35mm, black & white, silent, 270 min.
German intertitles with English subtitles.
Print source: HFA

Lang’s visionary silent epic introduces his most enduring emblem of modern life, the criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse. Rudolf Klein-Rogge’s villain is introduced shuffling a set of cards depicting his many disguises, ingenious Feuillade-like costumes that allow him to slip by unnoticed as—apropos events then overtaking the Weimar Republic—he manipulates the stock market, undermines currency and beguiles Berlin’s decadent demimonde. Explicitly positioned as a representative figure (the first half of the film is subtitled An Image of Our Times), Mabuse draws upon technological advances in communications and synchronization to exert control over time and space—a totalizing form of power that mirrors the work of the film director. “Once the universe has been struck by Mabuse’s vision, a certain unreality pervades it,” Chris Fujiwara writes. “Devoted to negation, Mabuse sees—and spreads to others’ vision—only hollowness, absence, delusion, and destruction.”

Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler with introduction by David Pendleton. ©Harvard Film Archive

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