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Destiny /Der Müde Tod

Destiny title card

Year - 1921
Studio - Decla-Bioscop
Stars - Lil Dagover, Walter Janssen, Bernhard Goetzke, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Hans Sternberg, Erich Pabst
Director - Fritz Lang
Writing Credits - Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbou

Synopsis

In a 19th century European village, a strange visitor (Bernhard Goetzke) wants to purchase the land adjoining the village cemetery, for his "personal garden." The town council cannot resist his gold, and sells him the property. He builds a high stone wall around all sides, with no apparent entrance.

The stranger visits to the village tavern, where a young couple (Walter Janssen and Lil Dagover) are enjoying each others' company. The young girl leaves the room briefly and, upon her return, is shocked to find that her fiancé is missing. She learns that he has left with the stranger to his garden fortress.

Destiny poster

The apothecary makes her a potion to allow her to enter the fortress where she learns that the stranger is Death, and the lives of the world's humans are represented by thousands of flickering candles. She believes that love is stronger than death, and she begs him to return her lover to him. He makes an offer: he will comply if she is able to save the life of a man in one of three different scenarios presented to her.

The three stories are played out in ancient Persia, Vienna, and China, each involving a young couple in love (also played by Janssen and Dagover) with the man's life in jeopardy. In all the stories, the maiden fails to prevent her lover's demise.

But Death makes the young woman a final proposition, that he will return her lover to her if she replaces him with another person who is near death. She searches in vain for someone willing to give up his life. Meanwhile, a large structure in the village breaks out in flames and a mother cries out that her baby is still in the burning building. The young woman races into the building, finds the baby and holds it out to Death who stands beside her in the flames. But she pulls it back and lowers it from the window to the mother below.

Death leads her to the body of her lover where she dies in his arms. Their souls arise and are guided by Death as they walk together into eternity.

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