Philipp Humm’s journey to filmmaker is an unusual one. Having been chief executive of Vodafone Europe, T-Mobile USA and in senior roles at other firms, including Amazon, he left the upper echelons of the corporate world for more artistic pursuits and is now making “The Last Faust.”
The first and second parts of Goethe’s “Faust” have never been filmed and are rarely staged, not least because of the 14-hour performance time. But Humm has adapted the German classic, with intertwining stories linking the first two parts, into a 120-minute film set in contemporary times. It centers on the CEO of Silicon Valley firm Winestone Inc., played by Martin Hancock. His character is hellbent on emulating God and creating life, and enters a pact with Mephisto (Glyn Dilley), who comes in the form of a hedge fund trader. Gretchen (Yvi Mai) is a young intern at Winestone’s tech firm.
If Winestone sounds familiar to Weinstein, it’s deliberate and speaks to the modern relevance of Goethe’s interpretation of the German legend of the man who sells his soul to the devil. “Look at the story of Gretchen. It is basically an older man, Faust, who is very successful and falls in love, in the original Goethe text, with a 14-year-old old girl,” Humm says. “It’s basically full exploitation of a position of power. There is some love from her side and from his side, but nevertheless it is an exploitation of his position of power, which is why I thought then the name for the company to be Winestone Inc.”
“There were so many people I could see being Faust who I knew from tech and Silicon Valley companies”
Familiar with the first part of the Faust tale, Humm said that upon reading the second part, the contemporary relevance sank in. “It is basically portraying a society that takes technology as a religion – everything is about technological progress.”
The businessman-turned-filmmaker said he immediately saw parallels with the world in which he previously lived. “When I read that and understood the depths, there were so many people I could see being Faust who I knew from tech and Silicon Valley companies.”
The feature is narrated by Steven Berkoff, who Humm says has the “depth of Kafka and the cinematic presence appropriate for Hollywood.”
It effectively has two parts, one filmed on stage and with almost 40 different scenes, and in which Goodfellow narrates and relates his story – “he is the glue between the scenes,” Humm.
Having homed in on what he considered the parts of Goethe’s “Faust” that are most important for modern society, he wants his production to bring the story to a new audience. “We will appeal to a young and broader audience because we are tackling a very relevant subject for today’s society in a way that will resonate with them,” he said. “We are democratizing Faust.”
Speaking about the transition from the corporate to creative world, he says he needed to find the courage to make the leap. “At one point in time I said, ‘OK, fine, is this really what I want to do with my life?’” The answer was evidently no, and “The Last Faust” is in the latter stages of post-production.
Humm, who part-funded and directed the film with Dominik Wiescherman, is aiming for a release in 2019.