Someone had called my attention to the relatively dim-bulb intelligence level of Murnau's male protagonists-- not neccessarily the performers themselves, but the characters as written and woven in via Murnau's direction. And, beginning with the nearly childlike ignorance (glaring immaturity versus his wife's extreme emotional sophistication and 6th sense) of NOSFERATU's Hutter/Harker-character, there definitely seems to be a point worthy of exploration there. I wrote in reply (we were discussing Borzage's males as well.. not neccessarily the brightest lights).
"Interesting point you bring up about the degree of inherent Smarts in the typical Borz/Murnau lead.
Very interesting actually now that I think about it, and something I never actually considered. Like Dreyer's selfless, ever-wise female martyrs perishing in saintly fashion at the hands of hypocritical and egotistical men, there really does, upon reflection, to seem to be a thread running through the bulk of FW's work of dim bulb males.. and I wonder why. From his Hutter/Harker in NOS, his clerk in PHANTOM, SCHLOSS VOGELOD may be an exception.. though the hubby buried in his religious fog driving his wife to anguished infidelity/murder, tho not quite a lead, is indeed a disappointing-to-those-who-need-him and oblivious let-down of a male; both Jannings & Krauss (a let down to his wise, tuned-in wife) in TARTUFFE, Mephi (incarnation of the whole problem viz Murnau, not el diablo per se, but personification of the Problem Of The Base-Instinctual/Hormonally-Obsessed Male) and Faust (a weak, flat out let-down to Gretchen/Magruerite until the last, mostly-too-late moment) in FAUST.. SUNRISE obviously... CITY GIRL obviously... 4 DEVILS, tho lost, had the let-down male lead letting Gaynor down via his frivolousness. Then we get to TABU, which, interestingly, presents the least corrupt male in the "masterpiece canon" (save for Graf Oech/Pater Faramund-imposter in SCHLOSS)... and suffers greatly until paying with his life in the end for it.
Naturally being gay, and social extremely uncomfortable, Murnau had quite a bit of a hard time of it coming from hugely tradition-oriented Bavaria. Interesting that the life and world which rejected him and which he in turn rejected in his actual life-- that land of the hard-working, earth-tilling, sun-baked farmer working honestly for his daily bread, picketed down to the idea of earth, blood, bread, tradition, country, traadition, tradition, and more tradition-- was typically represented by him as The Better Way, the idealized form of life and hom.. this versus the urban world of the City Girl, personified by not only Livingston but by PHANTOM's whore/dream-girl, whatsername from CITY GIRL, the land Away From Home that Tartuffe himself personified, etc, which in theory would have been sympathetic to Murnau's identity and sexual disposition... at least more so than Bavaria.. this was represented onscreen as the land of plasticity, duplicitousness, etc.
Not neccessarily a good thing for FW himself, as Bavaria still was not home to him. All it really meant was that, for him, there quite simply was not a single place in the world he felt at home and could refer to as such. Even the South Seas, which no doubt held a charm for him until it very simply clarified itself in his head, being honest with itself (his head that is) as very nice, physically pleasant scenery for him to co-exist with the single place on earth which, though probably not always pleasant, welcomed him with comparative frequency and gave him comfort to at least some degree-- which was the inside of his head. But as that never satisfies as an end-all, he realized the quest had to go on, and so with the completion of TABU he was preparing, if memory serves, to leave the south seas.
We of course see that these men were let downs due to succumbing to the lures and snares in almost every case of some outside force... sometimes urban women (PHANTOM, SUNRISE, CITY GIRL, 4 DEVILS), sometimes relgion (SCHLOSS VOGELOD, TARTUFFE, FAUST in an upside-down, reversal of religion). Even when both mates are strong and fully resistant in emotional terms of their relationship and not subject to temptations via lust or religious hypocracy (TABU, to some degree NOSFERATU), then the one unbeatable force intercedes to take one member away from the other-- usually Death.
So via examination of Murnau's vision of a world that will not allow happiness to proceed uninterrupted, we find a variety of backgrounds, types of women, means of interference with the concept of contentment or happiness... but a consistency in the portrayal of the most important male being a let-down, either completely oblivious-- sort of dopey a la NOSFERATU or TARTUFFE-- or willfully ignorant/unattentive a la SUNRISE, FAUST, SCHLOSS. Psychoanalysis for weeks.