walter schulze-mittendorff destiny



  1. 3. Fritz Lang‘s Vision of Death

„I slept and dreamed – or was I awake? With undimmed eyes, almost too clearly, I saw the familiar room in which I was lying. The shutters of the window were half open – the moonlight was streaming into the room. And I saw myself face to face, not terrifying, but unmistakeable, with Death. Made of black and white, light and shade, the rip cage, the naked bones. On top of it the head, barely recognisable, shaded by the wide-brimmed hat.

Death and I gazed at each other. I don’t know whether I should call the feeling I experienced at that moment one of fear. It was horror without panic. And even the horror made way for a kind of mystical ecstasy which gave me, boy though I still was, the complete understanding of the ecstasy which made martyrs and saints embrace death.

I raised myself in order to accompany him. In my weak state I collapsed. People came and lifted me up. Death had disappeared.

I recovered quickly. But love of death, compounded of horror and affection, which the Gothic master depicted, stayed with me and became a part of my films: humanized in Destiny, symbolic in Die Nibelungen, living Gothic in Metropolis.

From: Lotte Eisner, Fritz Lang, New York, 1976, p. 55 f

'Destiny' or ‚Der Müde Tod’ (Weary Death) is Fritz Lang's eighth film but his first work to attract attention beyond Germany's borders. Lang's experience with death in his early youth when he lay ill and feverish (see adjacent text), and the immediate closeness to death during the war arguably instilled in him a lasting relationship with this 'Godfather Death'. His approach to the subject 'death' finds a means of expression in his films that opens the door to occultism, to magic and mysticism.

Death is the ultimate mystery in the life of man. As the constant companion of life, death is generally banned in oneself to the spectral realms, due to the inner drive of wanting to escape him. One sees him only on the outside, in the dying of the other, and the ambivalent relationship regarding the fear of death on the one hand and man's inherent potential to kill on the other makes him the secret, eerie ruler over mankind. Death and life are taken to be as absolute polarities; either death is, or life – the unity of both remains mostly unknown, whereas it is the way to true peace after all.

  1. 4. Death as a Gate to Mysticism

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