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Content and Synopsis

The aging doorman of the Hotel Atlantic (Emil Jannings) arrives home each day in his fancy uniform and is respectfully greeted by his neighbors. But when the hotel manager (portrayed by Hans Unterkircher) observes him resting after carrying a suitcase, he is replaced by a younger man. The manager wants to send him to a pensioners’ home and he collapses after desperately trying to prove he is still capable by lifting a heavy suitcase in the manager’s office. A bellhop yanks the uniform off of him and a female employee directs him to his new workplace in the washroom.

As fate would have it his niece (portrayed by Maly Delschaft) has gotten married this same day. On this, of all days, he cannot go home without his uniform! So, he sneaks into the manager’s office late in the evening and steals the uniform so that he can attend the wedding party and maintain his self-esteem and acceptance in the community. Once more he symbolizes luxury and the wider world.

During the night he is tortured by nightmares but the next morning he has almost forgotten what happened the previous day. The devoted expression on a neighbor’s face is perceived by him to be a grimace but he tells himself he must have drunk too much at the party. It is only when he sees the new doorman in front of the hotel that he remembers everything. Before entering he takes the uniform off, storing it in a baggage room.

 

 

 

A relative (portrayed by Emilie Kurz) wants to surprise him today with a freshly cooked lunch, which she brings to the hotel. The new doorman is on the job and he tells her that the old one is now a washroom attendant. She confirms this with her own eyes and rushes home aghast to tell the newlyweds. A neighbour listens at the door and spreads the news. At the end of the day he changes his clothes before going home, this time in vain. He is greeted with ridicule and laughter and flees back to the hotel.
                                                                       

The night watchman (portrayed by Georg John) helps him replace the stolen uniform and he goes to his place in the washroom.

The film’s sole intertitle appears at this point. It states that the story would normally end here but “the author has chosen to bestow an improbable epilogue upon the poor abandoned man.”

The newspapers report that a Mexican multi-millionaire has died in the washroom of the hotel Atlantic. His will states that his money should go to the person in whose arms he died. Our former doorman and bathroom attendant now appears as a wealthy guest in the Atlantic. He has invited the night watchman to dinner but the watchman jumps up upon seeing the hotel manager. A coach and four horses wait for our parvenu in front of the revolving door. He magnanimously takes a beggar into the coach, who proceeds to sit across from him but slides back to the ground, as there is no seat there.

About the Film:  

Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau stages this story so vividly that he is able to do without intertitles. The only exception is the single intertitle announcing the epilogue. The story is told from the protagonist’s point of view. Extreme perspectives, chiaroscuro and theatrical movement are considered to be characteristic features of German Expressionism. Entirely new, however, are multiple lighting and, most notably, the “unleashed” camera, which zooms and moves, sweeping and circling. This joyful experimentation is, however, not simply an end in itself. It is used to elaborate and dramatize the psychological development. “A true light show, a true moving picture” is how the Berlin Börsen-Courier (Berlin Stock Exchange Courier) put it on December 24th 1924. The Last Man is a milestone in film history and the apex of German silent film cinema.

 

The Last Man was filmed in the Ufa studios located in Berlin-Tempelhof and on the Ufa film lot in Neubabelsberg from May to September of 1924. Sets were designed by Robert Herlth and Walter Rörig. Producer – Erich Pommer. The premier took place in the Ufa-Palast am Zoo in Berlin on December 23rd 1924.

Three different negatives were made:  one for Germany, one for the USA, the third for general export.