This long lost silent-era film is the last German made feature of the great Ernst Lubitsch (1892-1947) before his transition to Hollywood. Unseen for more than 80 years, The Loves of Pharaoh has been, essentially, lovingly re-edited from the suviving reels in Russia and Italy by Bundesarchiv (Berlin), The Munich Film Museum, and George Eastman House and is an outstanding achievement in the craft of film restoration. The epic 1922 film, amongst other things a love story set in Ancient Egypt, was well received across the Atlantic, The New York Times review heralded it “a magnificent production and stirring testament of the genuineness and genius of Ernst Lubitsch”. Even by today’s superior technological advancements, the film still holds up against the momumental blockbuster productions, if nothing more than for its grand vision, spectacle and tragedy. No expense was spared, no techniques too daring for the man who was to define Hollywood productions with what was known as “The Lubitsch Touch”.
For much of the early 20th Century, the world was captivated by the many great discoveries from Egypt culminating, of course, in the excavation in 1922 of the tomb of King Tutankhamun. Against this dramatic backdrop, Lubitsch set about recreating the Egypt of 3000 years ago, ushering in monumental sets and literally a cast of thousands. Meticulously staged battle sequences and massive crowds add to the fervour of the subliminal sexual tensions and power struggles. The story itself concerns the cruel Pharaoh Amenes who falls for an honest homespun Greek slave girl Theonis, she rejects him in search of her condemned true love, but nonetheless takes title as Queen of Egypt rendering him impotent. To win her love he goes to battle against the threatening Ethiopians after an aborted peace deal between the two empires. While the era’s expressionistic acting may seem antiquated, it should not detract from the depth of this grandiose and powerful story. In particular, Emil Jannings is terrific as Amenes.
For lovers of the Silent Era period and Lubitsch admirers, this is an invaluable contribution to the world of cinema, not to mention the absolute importance and skill of film restoration.
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Writers: Norbert Falk, Hanns Kräly
Stars: Emil Jannings, Harry Liedtke, Paul Biensfeldt
Runtime: 100 min