Hoffmann, intoxicated with wine and his passionate love for Stella, the dancer, tells the stories of his three great loves:
The tempter, assuming the identity of Coppélius, embroils Hoffmann in a love affair with Olympia, who is, in fact, an ingeniously made automaton. To Hoffmann, viewing her through magic glasses, she is the most enchanting living being he has ever seen. But the moment the glasses break, the magic vanishes and Coppélius destroys the illusion formed by Olympia.
In Venice, the tempter, now in the form of Dapertutto, uses Giulietta, the most famous courtesan, to steal her lover’s soul. In the case of Schlémil, the pledge is his shadow, in Hoffmann’s it is his reflection. Hoffmann kills his rival Schlémil in a duel in order to obtain the key to Giulietta’s apartment. But when he fails to find his beloved, he hurls the key at the blank mirror, smashing it and breaking the evil spell.
Hoffmann loves Antonia, a beautiful woman gifted with a divine voice, who is held prisoner by her father. He forbids her to sing because he is afraid that as a consumptive she will suffer the same fate as her dead mother, a famous singer. The tempter, now assuming the form of Dr. Miracle, feigns the voice of Antonia’s mother in order to persuade her to sing. Her voice joins that of her dead mother in a ghostly duet: Antonia collapses and dies.
Translated from: Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin 1951, Programm,
United Kingdom 1950/51, 120 min
Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger