Is love stronger than death? This is a question explored in Destiny, the 1921 silent expressionist and allegorical film from director Fritz Lang, his first notable success released five years before his futuristic science fiction classic Metropolis and ten years before his crime film noir M.. Destiny – Der mude Tod (“The weary Death”) – has been overlooked in favour of the better-known yet it was cited by English and American director Alfred Hitchcock and Spanish director Luis Bunuel as being influential to their own films.
A young, newly-married couple, played by Lil Dagover and Walter Janssen, travel to start their new life. On the way they are joined in their horse-drawn coach by an unsmiling stranger, who is Death, played by Bernhard Goetzke, come to end the life of the young husband. When the young wife realises her husband has been taken, away, and why, she finds Death and pleads with him to spare her husband, saying that she loves him and believes that her love is stronger than the death which is her young husband’s destiny.
Death takes her to a room full of burning candles of differing lengths, telling her that each candle is someone’s life and that he is ordered by the Lord to bring death to them when it has burnt out. However he is not unsympathetic to her distress and shows her three candles that have nearly burnt out, saying that if she can intervene and save one of these lives her husband’s can be spared. The three tasks set take her to Persia, Italy and China and the film presents the outcomes, with a satisfying and thought-provoking final twist.
A new restoration of Der mude Tod (AKA Destiny) was released in cinemas, and on dual-format Blu-Ray and DVD, in July this year by Eureka Video as part of their Masters of Cinema Series.