The Last Laugh (Der Letzte Mann) Reviews

  • Sep 28, 2020

    The silent-era films that have remained of interest to modern audiences tend toward either the fantastic (e.g. Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, Metropolis) or comedic (e.g. the works of Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton). These films, which rely on their visual brilliance to connect with audiences, remain potent today despite their lack of dialogue. Time has been less kind to the silent-era drama; it would seem it is just more difficult for modern audiences to pay attention to a story with complex narrative and emotional depth when the "talkies" seem to do it so much more effortlessly and enjoyably. But then there is this movie - a poignant character study of incredible depth and pathos despite having no dialogue at all. For the first few minutes after I decided to sit down to this film I thought: "this looks boring... lets see it through anyway, it's supposed to be a 'great film'." Ten minutes later the film had ceased to be a chore to watch and indeed sometimes I almost forgot I was watching a silent film at all. Something about Emil Jannings' portrayal, aided by the lively cinematography of the film, really brought me emotionally into the life of this aging doorman and his struggle for dignity in a situation where he found himself being discarded. And the fact that all of this was accomplished without dialogue or lengthy inter-titles and pages of exposition makes the achievement all the more remarkable, The only reason I don't give this 5 stars is the throwaway ending. I've read that this was a "happy ending" insisted on by the studio rather than part of the original plot of the film, but I would happily have cut the ending off and reverted to the German title "The Last Man" rather than "The Last Laugh". Perhaps you could argue that the ridiculousness of the ending in some way adds to the poignancy of the 'real' ending of despair, but I think we could do without it.

    The silent-era films that have remained of interest to modern audiences tend toward either the fantastic (e.g. Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, Metropolis) or comedic (e.g. the works of Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton). These films, which rely on their visual brilliance to connect with audiences, remain potent today despite their lack of dialogue. Time has been less kind to the silent-era drama; it would seem it is just more difficult for modern audiences to pay attention to a story with complex narrative and emotional depth when the "talkies" seem to do it so much more effortlessly and enjoyably. But then there is this movie - a poignant character study of incredible depth and pathos despite having no dialogue at all. For the first few minutes after I decided to sit down to this film I thought: "this looks boring... lets see it through anyway, it's supposed to be a 'great film'." Ten minutes later the film had ceased to be a chore to watch and indeed sometimes I almost forgot I was watching a silent film at all. Something about Emil Jannings' portrayal, aided by the lively cinematography of the film, really brought me emotionally into the life of this aging doorman and his struggle for dignity in a situation where he found himself being discarded. And the fact that all of this was accomplished without dialogue or lengthy inter-titles and pages of exposition makes the achievement all the more remarkable, The only reason I don't give this 5 stars is the throwaway ending. I've read that this was a "happy ending" insisted on by the studio rather than part of the original plot of the film, but I would happily have cut the ending off and reverted to the German title "The Last Man" rather than "The Last Laugh". Perhaps you could argue that the ridiculousness of the ending in some way adds to the poignancy of the 'real' ending of despair, but I think we could do without it.

  • Sep 15, 2020

    A doorman of a certain age works in the Atlantic hotel where he is as dutiful as he is kind. He has such pride in this simple job it projects on to his neighbors and acquaintances a sense of honor and joy making him a beloved figure among them, one that is instantly recognizable due to the uniform he wears almost as general wearing a medal of valour. One day the doorman is temporarily tiered out after carrying a big truck forgotten by a guest, unbeknownst to him however an hotel Manager witnesses only the aftermath and proceeds to replace him immediately by a man whose age closely resembles his. The doorman hence demoted to a washroom attendant is utterly and systematically broken in each aspect of his existence. But is there is a chance he might recover? To whom is the last laugh reserved for? Beautiful and emotionally gut wrenching this early film by Murnau exhibits some inventive camera work with angles and shoots that make lively the already solid performance by lead actor Emil Jannings. He is the key to this film he makes us feel the pain and discomfort as ours in thanks mostly to his acting ability. As an example even in the way he walks we sense that something fundamental has broken inside this man making us realize we all are at risk of suffering the fate quite similar to him. To life like a zombie to be AND not to be. In playing a man defined exclusively by his job the film becomes universal and personal a tightrope of no easy feat as a simple overacting could have made this project into a comic stupidity (as a moment of laughter from an actress facing us dead on almost made me fell) or, in the opposite direction an alienating bore.

    A doorman of a certain age works in the Atlantic hotel where he is as dutiful as he is kind. He has such pride in this simple job it projects on to his neighbors and acquaintances a sense of honor and joy making him a beloved figure among them, one that is instantly recognizable due to the uniform he wears almost as general wearing a medal of valour. One day the doorman is temporarily tiered out after carrying a big truck forgotten by a guest, unbeknownst to him however an hotel Manager witnesses only the aftermath and proceeds to replace him immediately by a man whose age closely resembles his. The doorman hence demoted to a washroom attendant is utterly and systematically broken in each aspect of his existence. But is there is a chance he might recover? To whom is the last laugh reserved for? Beautiful and emotionally gut wrenching this early film by Murnau exhibits some inventive camera work with angles and shoots that make lively the already solid performance by lead actor Emil Jannings. He is the key to this film he makes us feel the pain and discomfort as ours in thanks mostly to his acting ability. As an example even in the way he walks we sense that something fundamental has broken inside this man making us realize we all are at risk of suffering the fate quite similar to him. To life like a zombie to be AND not to be. In playing a man defined exclusively by his job the film becomes universal and personal a tightrope of no easy feat as a simple overacting could have made this project into a comic stupidity (as a moment of laughter from an actress facing us dead on almost made me fell) or, in the opposite direction an alienating bore.

  • Mar 04, 2018

    Arguably Murnau's best work.

    Arguably Murnau's best work.

  • Sep 18, 2017

    *Spoiler Warning* This movie does a great job at getting you to sympathize with the main character by showing the struggles he has to face. Due to all the poor treatment he undergoes, it makes it a deeply powerful film. I also liked the body movement the doorman made. As he worked in the bathroom, he would often slouch and move around slowly. This was a great way of showing his misery. I also liked that the film had no title cards (except for one near the end, which I'll get to soon). I prefer silent films which feature no title cards as they're usually more immersive experiences since they use visuals and facial expressions to tell their story. Also, the camerawork was impressive. In the opening scene, the camera shows the doorman from a low angle. This highlights his superiority. After he gets fired, however, that style is gone. I also liked how scenes from the hotel were juxtaposed with scenes from the bathroom. Additionally, several facial close-ups made me feel like I was viewing the world from the doorman's point of view. As for the single title card near the end, it serves as a prelude to a major tonal shift with the movie. I thought about it for quite some time as I wasn't sure what to think of it. However, I have to admit it was flawed. It served as a deus ex-machina. Not only that, but it was drawn out to be much longer than it needed to be. The restaurant scene was also over-the-top in the way of the food served. Since Murnau appeared to apologize for it with the title card, it's clear that it's not meant to be taken seriously and that it's a comical ending. However, this is another flaw since the film which came before it was serious. It didn't fit the movie in my opinion. That might not have been too spoiler-y, but close enough. Despite the ending, however, I still enjoyed this movie quite a bit. It's essential viewing for silent film fanatics.

    *Spoiler Warning* This movie does a great job at getting you to sympathize with the main character by showing the struggles he has to face. Due to all the poor treatment he undergoes, it makes it a deeply powerful film. I also liked the body movement the doorman made. As he worked in the bathroom, he would often slouch and move around slowly. This was a great way of showing his misery. I also liked that the film had no title cards (except for one near the end, which I'll get to soon). I prefer silent films which feature no title cards as they're usually more immersive experiences since they use visuals and facial expressions to tell their story. Also, the camerawork was impressive. In the opening scene, the camera shows the doorman from a low angle. This highlights his superiority. After he gets fired, however, that style is gone. I also liked how scenes from the hotel were juxtaposed with scenes from the bathroom. Additionally, several facial close-ups made me feel like I was viewing the world from the doorman's point of view. As for the single title card near the end, it serves as a prelude to a major tonal shift with the movie. I thought about it for quite some time as I wasn't sure what to think of it. However, I have to admit it was flawed. It served as a deus ex-machina. Not only that, but it was drawn out to be much longer than it needed to be. The restaurant scene was also over-the-top in the way of the food served. Since Murnau appeared to apologize for it with the title card, it's clear that it's not meant to be taken seriously and that it's a comical ending. However, this is another flaw since the film which came before it was serious. It didn't fit the movie in my opinion. That might not have been too spoiler-y, but close enough. Despite the ending, however, I still enjoyed this movie quite a bit. It's essential viewing for silent film fanatics.

  • May 11, 2017

    A masterpiece. A masterwork from the Master. It feels so fresh and powerful, it's not surprising that it is an innovative cinema, this is visible to the naked eye. German cinema of the 20s was so powerful and enriching for the cinema. I sometimes wonder what cinema would have been liked without this influence. It's just make me sad that cinema doesn't evolve anymore. This story of a man obsessed with his uniform that he values more than anything else is simple but highly effective and make a strong statement of anti militarist sentiment or any other institutions that empower people with all that nonsense.

    A masterpiece. A masterwork from the Master. It feels so fresh and powerful, it's not surprising that it is an innovative cinema, this is visible to the naked eye. German cinema of the 20s was so powerful and enriching for the cinema. I sometimes wonder what cinema would have been liked without this influence. It's just make me sad that cinema doesn't evolve anymore. This story of a man obsessed with his uniform that he values more than anything else is simple but highly effective and make a strong statement of anti militarist sentiment or any other institutions that empower people with all that nonsense.

  • Feb 16, 2017

    A poor but proud doorman loses his prestigious job on the same day his daughter weds, leading him into a shameful road of theft and regret as his neighbors revel in his misery. As the title proclaims, though, he gets his comeuppance when a rich man dies in the bathroom he's now attending. Although the ending seems a hurried afterthought, this Murnau classic has both revolutionary camera work & emotional merit.

    A poor but proud doorman loses his prestigious job on the same day his daughter weds, leading him into a shameful road of theft and regret as his neighbors revel in his misery. As the title proclaims, though, he gets his comeuppance when a rich man dies in the bathroom he's now attending. Although the ending seems a hurried afterthought, this Murnau classic has both revolutionary camera work & emotional merit.

  • Dec 20, 2016

    A Murnau silent classic featuring a strong Emil Jannings performance.

    A Murnau silent classic featuring a strong Emil Jannings performance.

  • Oct 25, 2016

    This German Expressionist film from F.W. Murnau who also did "Nosferatu" is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the silent film art-form. It is a very stylish film with an emotional story. Starring Emil Jannings in a captivating performance, this film tells the story of a doorman at a prestigious Berlin hotel who is demoted and therefore loses his standing and respect within his community and family, thus beginning a downward spiral. Anyone seriously interested in film should check this out!

    This German Expressionist film from F.W. Murnau who also did "Nosferatu" is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the silent film art-form. It is a very stylish film with an emotional story. Starring Emil Jannings in a captivating performance, this film tells the story of a doorman at a prestigious Berlin hotel who is demoted and therefore loses his standing and respect within his community and family, thus beginning a downward spiral. Anyone seriously interested in film should check this out!

  • Aug 25, 2016

    One of the greatest treasures of world cinema

    One of the greatest treasures of world cinema

  • Apr 11, 2016

    The Last Laugh is a disappointing movie. On the technical side, the film is gorgeous with just fantastic cinematography with some great camera movements and with a visually appealing look to it, but the film lacks in character work and plotwise with a very abrupt cop-out happy ending and I do think that the use of more intertitles would have strengthened both of those aspects. It is in the end a solid film, but far from I expected from it.

    The Last Laugh is a disappointing movie. On the technical side, the film is gorgeous with just fantastic cinematography with some great camera movements and with a visually appealing look to it, but the film lacks in character work and plotwise with a very abrupt cop-out happy ending and I do think that the use of more intertitles would have strengthened both of those aspects. It is in the end a solid film, but far from I expected from it.