One of the most influential silent films of all time, F.W. Murnau's street-drama tragedy (of an aging hotel porter who loses his job to a younger, more dashing man and suffers the humiliation of being demoted to washroom attendant) is a compendium of silent film techniques handled with a new sophistication. When the hearty, rather pompous Emil Jannings loses the dignified uniform of his station, he transforms into a scared little man scurrying through the shadows to hide his demotion from friends and family. Murnau captures the humiliation and calamitous fallout from the demotion (he loses not just his self-respect, but the esteem of his neighbors and even his apartment) in haunting, expressionistic images that magnify the petty events into tragic melodrama. The story seems a little extreme even for the genre but it's never less than a harrowing, subjective experience, even with the rather fanciful happy ending tacked on the end of it. Most famously, Murnau throws the camera into motion--one of his most famous shots takes the viewers up an elevator, through the grand hotel lobby, and out the revolving glass door in a single smooth shot--and it hasn't stopped moving since.
Kino's DVD features a wonderful score by Timothy Brock and the Olympia Chamber Orchestra as well as the credits montage sequence from the German release. Production stills are also included among the supplements. --Sean Axmaker