Brief HistoryGerman Expressionism is an important but sadly overlooked fieldin the history of art in the twentieth century. It was verycomplex, different, off-beat and probably the most depressiveand emotion exploiting of all art forms. German Expressionismwas not just in movies, but also overall generally in drama, stagetheater, paintings, dance, and many other artistic movements.In the beginning the term “Expressionism” was used to show thattheir interpretation of Art was different from other peoples. Buteventually the phrase would eventually start to be given toanyone showing a disturbing point of view or showing somemental illnesses in their work according to critics. Basicallyanything that was different from other movies started to becalled Expressionism.
Brief HistoryPopular themes were madness, betrayal, insanity, and suchtopics as they appealed to an intellectual fan base and eventuallyby the 1920s, German film industry had become very popular inEurope and encouraged film movements across the world to startexperimenting with different ideals and emotional states. In fact,the influenced crossed the oceans over into America when Hitlercame into power, because all the Expressionist actors, directors,producers, went to America. So this was a very influentialmovement as well.But the artists involved in Expressionism never concernedthemselves with what the term might mean, which is why itcontinued to evolve and take upon different new meanings untilit effectively became an umbrella term. The main idea wasalways artistic expression. In fact, many expressionists hadvoluntarily joined the first World War in the hope that it wouldinspire them and their art and create social change as well. Bythe end of the 2nd World War, there were 3 main schools inExpressionism.
However, it was before the 2nd WorldWar when their downfall started.When Hitler came in power, hepreferred old Greek and Roman styleart which showed racial superiority.Expressionists were deemed anti-German and a threat to Germanculture and racial superiority, andmany fled to America where theycontinued to further develop their art.By this point, Expressionism had wentfrom personal to social to politicalthemes and was now a very diversegenre that would influence Film Noirand New Hollywood in the future.
INFLUENCE It is no question that German cinema from 1910 to 1940 was far ahead of American cinema and other cinemas in Europe and worldwide. Along with German expressionist films, it was the number of German immigrants to America as well as to other countries, who helped develop film techniques and provide more intellectual strength to film movements. British Alfred Hitchcock was also influenced by the Expressionist movement, using their techniques and direct homages in several of his films as well as acknowledging the influence in interviews. Hitchcocks film making in turn influenced far more film makers and shows the Expressionists overall reach in terms of film influence.
INFLUENCE Tim Burtons dark characteristics in his films are also influenced by German Expressionism. Stylistic elements from German Expressionist films are very common regardless, being seen in everything from Batman movies to films like Shutter Island.
INFLUENCE Some of the more influencial films of the movement was Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. That film set the tone for many of the features of the movement. That included evil characters in the plot who usually had madness and obsessions, with the story told from very subjective angles. And instead of high and mighty buildings and artificial lifestyles, it showed dark and gritty urban underworld and lifestyles of people. Areas were structures with angled archways, staircases, windows, connected together in strange ways to create different atmospheres – with shadows being used often.
INFLUENCE Other famous films include Nosferatu which created the horror genre, and Metropolis which created the science fiction genre. Also, today most films have unconventional plot lines, heroes, and a lot of other things that one can attribute to the German Expressionist movement.
Reasons for Downfall Though the ideas still stand the test of time due to their universal appeal to people of all generations and times, the portrayal of the other side of life and that everything is not happy and things are bad, the specific movement of German Expressionism died mostly due to politics. Hitler and his Nazi party deemed the expressionists as immoral, people who haddestroyed art and culture, unpatriotic people, and the fact thatmost Expressionists were Jews did not help matters either. The ideas of the Expressionists as a result started to spread out farther and farther to other areas instead of Germany duringHitlers regime and the tone became more and more political in nature.
Reasons for Downfall Some of the potential was not fulfilled because of the limitations of technology at the time. If you compare Science Fiction and Horror of today to German Expressionism you see both the big influence, but also the limitations of German Expressionists. The ideas were great but were just not ready for mass consumption at the time. But from a purely artistic and creative perspective they are timeless just for the same reasons. With limited things they still managed to stretch limits of human imagination with their works.
GERMAN EXPRESSIONISMDesigned by: JAMAL AKHTAR Submitted to : ZIA AHMAD