This 1921 silent feature written and directed by Fritz Lang is a fascinating fairly tale. The story involves Death, (Bernard Goetzke), who arrives at a small village and snatches a young man, (Walter Janssen). His distraught lover, (Lil Dagover), bargains with death who agrees to free her sweetheart if she can save the life of one of three men who are about to die.
Lang frequently uses shadow and light to emphasize features within the frame and to add a lively edge to the images. The screen is often split into light and darkness, with the image sometimes covered in part of the frame.
Although the performances by the actors portraying the lovers are ordinary and unmemorable, Goetzke's portrayal of the grim reaper with his silent authority and deathly features are unforgettable. When the actor stares vacantly at the camera, a creepy element is added to the film. Goetzke is staring at the audience, but also into the empty space that is perpetuity and death.
Amazing set design and lighting along with Lang's compelling script and Goetzke's superb performance as Death all work together to make this silent film an enormous enjoyment to watch.