Sight and Sound - 03/01/2005
"[T]he film boasts a memorably grotesque performance from Emil Jannings..."
Description by OLDIES.com:
The most gifted visual storyteller of the German silent era, F.W. Murnau crafted works of great subtlety and emotional complexity through his absolute command of the cinematic medium. Known for such dazzling films as Nosferatu (1922), The Last Laugh (1924), Faust (1926) and Sunrise (1927), Murnau was also drawn to more intimate dramas exploring the dark corners of the human mind.
In Tartuffe, he revisits Moliere's fable of religious hypocrisy, in which a faithful wife (Lil Dagover) tries to convince her husband (Werner Krauss) that their morally superior guest, Tartuffe (Emil Jannings), is in fact a lecherous hypocrite with a taste for the grape. To endow the story with contemporary relevance, Murnau frames Moliere's tale with a modern-day plot concerning a housekeeper's stealthy efforts to poison her elderly master and take control of his estate.
An expressionistic retelling of the classic Moliere story, Murnau contemporized his version by setting the exploration of morality and hypocrisy amidst a housekeeper's murder plot. Here, the housekeeper (Rosa Valetti) schemes to poison her employer (Hermann Picha) in order to take control of his estate and fortune. However, the employer's grandson (Andre Mattoni) becomes wise to her plot, and shows his grandfather a film of Moliere's TARTUFFE to expose her plan.