At a ritzy Berlin hotel, the portly concierge (Jannings) parades and preens in his moustaches and uniform like a royal sentry, relishing the respect he receives from patrons and passers-by. But when a coldhearted new manager (Unterkircher) takes over, he demotes the aging doorman to a humiliating post as a washroom attendant, wreaking havoc on the man's self-esteem and social standing in the community.
Considered a monumental achievement at the time of its release, Murnau's poignant, expressionistic study of shame will resonate with anyone who has ever felt snubbed or undervalued. Janning's is wonderful as the pride-wounded gateman who resorts to stealing a uniform to maintain his dignity and the aura of authority he once wielded. But Murnau's signature visual style is the main feature of this wonderfully dreamlike and psychologically acute movie. Utilizing the mobile camera of cinematographer Karl Freund, Murnau's fluid opening shot alone is worth discovering. See it, and find out who gets "The Last Laugh."