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Film / Tartuffe

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Tartuffe (German title: Herr Tartüff) is a German silent film directed by F. W. Murnau in 1925.

In modern-day 1920s Germany, a wealthy old man is being manipulated by his housekeeper into leaving his fortune to her rather than his grandson. In order to demonstrate to his grandfather how he's being used, the grandson shows him a movie based on Molière's Tartuffe. Most of the rest of the film is taken up with this retelling of Tartuffe, with the storyline about the disinherited grandson serving as a Framing Device.

Tropes in the modern-day frame story:

  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In the opening scene, the disinherited grandson turns to the camera and directly addresses the audience in his intertitles.
  • Framing Device: These scenes exist to frame the original Tartuffe story.
  • Show Within a Show: It's a movie about modern-day (1920s) characters watching a movie based on Tartuffe.
  • The Wicked Stage: The old man is disinheriting his grandson because he (gasp!) became an actor.

Tropes in the actual Tartuffe adaptation:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The story is pared down considerably, dropping most of the secondary characters. There is no Arranged Marriage plot with Mariane, who doesn't even exist in this version. Tartuffe is exposed before Orgon has finished signing over all his property to him, eliminating the need for Louis XIV's Deus ex Machina.
  • Adapted Out: It's easier to say who wasn't adapted out as this version only includes four of the play's characters: Orgon, Elmire, Dorine, and Tartuffe himself.
  • Genre Shift: Molière's original play is a farce, but this film plays it more as a straight domestic drama.
  • Male Gaze: We get some shots from Tartuffe's POV when he's leering at Elmire.
  • Not His Sled: Unlike in the original play, the Engineered Public Confession ploy doesn't work the first time. Tartuffe realizes what they're trying to do when he sees a Revealing Reflection of Orgon eavesdropping.