In the bourgeois circles of Europe after the Great War, can anything save the modern man? Harry Haller, a solitary intellectual, has all his life feared his dual nature of being human and being a beast. He's decided to die on his 50th birthday, which is soon. He's rescued from his solipsism by the mysterious Hermine, who takes him dancing, introduces him to jazz and to the beautiful and whimsical Maria, and guides him into the hallucinations of the Magic Theater, which seem to take him into Hell. Can humor, sin, and derision lead to salvation?
Max von Sydow (Harry Haller), Dominique Sanda (Hermine), Pierre Clémenti (Pablo), Carla Romanelli (Maria), Roy Bosier (Aztec), Alfred Baillou (Goethe), Niels-Peter Rudolph (Gustav), Helmut Förnbacher (Franz), Charles Regnier (Loering), Eduard Linkers (Mr. Hefte), Silvia Reize (Dora), Helen Hesse (Frau Hefte), Sunnyi Melles (Rosa (as Judith Melles))
This is one of my all-time favorite films. I gave it only 9 stars, however, because there are a few obvious problems with it. Some of the editing is imperfect, and there are a couple points that suggest some additional scenes were cut. Also, there are a couple dubbing flubs, especially in the Magic Theater section, and several scenes that are poorly lit. In all, it's obviously a low-budget effort. If you want a James Cameron film, go rent one of those.
Still, the screenplay is topnotch. It even IMPROVES on Hesse's story in places, and I like the ending to this film better than the book's. Not really a spoiler - the ending is not that big a departure; it just concludes with more emotional punch, and resolves the angst better.
Max Von Sydow is the PERFECT Harry Haller, Dominique Sanda at least has the perfect look for Hermine (although I admit she could have used a retake on a couple scenes), and Pierre Clementi handles the challenge of Pablo's character admirably - and obviously relishes the role.
I've seen the comment, both here and in reviews elsewhere, about the second half being some sort of druggie trip-fest. It's true that the tone changes, but that's in keeping with the original work. But it's far from being some sort of Deadhead dance party, which is the way some critics unfairly portray it. Yes, the Magic Theater sequence has cartoon backdrops. Get over it. Personally, I think that was an excellent choice.
I would love for this to come out on DVD. The fact that it hasn't is an indication of its obscurity, not its quality. For ****'s sake, Gigli is out on DVD, so that's a ridiculous argument. I'll stop now to avoid becoming insulting.
Степният вълк (Bulgaria (Bulgarian title)) • O Lobo da Estepe (Brazil) • Steppeulven (Denmark) • El lobo estepario (Spain) • Le loup des steppes (France) • A prérifarkas (Hungary) • Il lupo della steppa (Italy) • Wilk stepowy (Poland) • Степной волк (Soviet Union (Russian title))
dancing, suicidal thoughts, older man younger woman relationship, mozart, loneliness, kiss, jazz musician, dance lesson, classical music, lesbianism, female nudity, surrealism, death, part animation, based on novel, based on book, independent film
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