The impact of_german_expressionist_films exam prep
German Expressionist Films and their impact upon theModern Film Industry
Expressionism began as a movement in art in Weimar, Germany during World War 1. The movement affected many types of artistic medium including architecture, painting, music, literature and sculpture. Expressionist artists attempted to portray the disparity of their surroundings in artistic form.
What stylistic and ideological comparisons can you draw between Kollwitz , Lang & Weine?
At the beginning of World War 1, foreign film companies dominated the industry. By the end of World War 1, the German Film Industry flourished. It was propelled by a population desperate for a diversion from their daily struggles.
UFA (Universum Film Aktiengelleschaft) became a leader in the German Film Industry. Created by German government in 1917 as a WWI propaganda arm, by consolidating most of Germany‘s commercial studios After a 1921 merger with Decla-Bioscop, "with government, industrial and banking support," UFA enjoyed a near- monopoly Produced many great and influential works during the Weimar Republic years (1919-1933 approx.) Through many incarnations, UFA still exists today UFA produced many German Expressionist films which were destined to become classics. Many of the films, which achieved infamy outside of Germany, are still recognized and watched today.
• Because of the deteriorating post-World War I economy in Germany, filmmakers were unable to create films which could compete with the grandiosity of Hollywood pictures.• By using the elements of expressionism, German filmmakers developed their own style of filmmaking which incorporated symbolism to expose deeper meanings and emotions.
German Expressionist films were made during the silent film era. They contained sounds and music as opposed to dialogue. For many of the silent films, a piano player was hired to play as live accompaniment.
• Expressionism manipulated sound, lighting and stage design to reveal emotions and realities in an abstract manner.• Stage sets were very artificial and were made to appear as “paintings come to life”. All realism was removed from sets in order to allow them to become symbols of specific emotions and conditions.• Angular structures were utilized to exploit stage design and influence the mood of a picture.
“Mise-en-scene” is a French term used to describe the technique of story telling through stage design and cinematography. “Mise-en-scene” is used in Expressionist films to contribute to the design aspect.
• Expressionism conveyed a tone of dissonance by effectively abolishing normal relationships between objects and focusing upon the abstract.• Expressionist techniques aimed to conjure feelings of mystery, alienation, disharmony and destabilization.• Plots incorporated dream sequences, flashbacks and distorted chronology to promote instability.
• Expressionist actors engaged in harsh and amplified movements that were often stiff or jerky to represent inner turmoil.• Overstated costumes and makeup contributed to an actor’s ability to portray inner realities and tumultuous emotions.
• The technique of “chiaroscuro” was employed in expressionism. Chiaroscuro is an artistic technique in which light and darkness are manipulated to achieve a heightened illusion of depth.• Expressionist directors contrasted light and dark to create shadows and other effects which were intended to portray and arouse emotion.
In order to put forth the abstract, it was necessary for the Expressionist filmmaker to obliterate nature and eradicate the natural world. Expressionist filmmakers believed landscapes should emit a soul and should be considered as significant as a character in the film.
• Mainstream and popular films of the period were focused upon action, adventure and romance.• Expressionist films developed themes based on insanity, madness, discordance and betrayal.
• Since its origin, many films have been labeled as works of Expressionism.• The “Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” a German horror classic directed by Robert Weine, best personifies the Expressionist film genre.
This scenedemonstrates theeffect createdthrough theExpressionisttechnique of usingangular structuresto help representa disjointed moodand a nightmarishatmosphere.
• The “Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” employed the Expressionist technique of using dream sequences and flashbacks to twist reality and warp chronology.• The unnatural and exaggerated character of Cesare carried out frightening acts during the dream sequences.
Cesare’s movements were stiff and robotic. His makeup was excessiveand overdone. Some of the shadows in this scene were created by wallpaintings to enhance contrast between light and dark.
Director, RobertWeine, waspraised for hiseffective useof expressionisttechnique and forhis set designsand scenery.
True to expressionistform, the plot of“The Cabinet ofDr. Caligari”includedmurder, sleepwalking,threatsand madness.
Designed by theExpressionistBahaus School,the films’ sets werecontorted and artificial.The distorted designsHelped to develop theatmosphereOf disorientation.
Expressionist elements (particularly sinister plots, horrific events, and chiaroscuro lighting) continued to be highlighted in German cinema throughout 1920’s and into the 1930’s.
“Nosferatu”,directed by F. W.Murnau,became a vampireclassic whichfeatured manyexpressionistelements.
Expressionismand the use ofshadows becamebecamewidely associatedwith the film “Nosferatu”.In some Expressionistfilms, silhouettes wereused in place of shadow.
• Though the harsh and contrived unnatural environments of the original Expressionist films began to fade, Expressionist themes were integrated into films during the 1920’s and 1930’s.• Artistic control over light and scenery were exercised to set the expressionist mood.
“Metropolis”,directed by Fritz Lang,used ExpressionistElements to depict afuturisticcity.
In keeping withExpressionistconcepts, Langportrayed womenin the unnaturalForm of machines.
• During the period of Expressionist filmmaking in Germany, other notable directors included Paul Wegener, Karl Heinz Martin, Leon Brinsky and George Wilhelm Pabst.
• When the Nazi party came to power in Germany, many filmmakers felt it necessary to leave the country. They emigrated to America and integrated Expressionism into American cinema.• Expressionist films became successful in America and largely impacted the American film industry.
• American Horror films and Film Noir were two American film genres that were heavily influenced by Expressionism.• The silent film “The Phantom of the Opera,” starring Lon Chaney incorporated many Expressionist elements.
• German filmmakers such as Karl Freund, designed dark sets for use in American classic films such as Universal Studios 1931 release of “Dracula”.• German directors, Fritz Lang and Otto Preminger, expanded Expressionist themes into American crime dramas which further spread the influence of Expressionism.
• Alfred Hitchcock had worked in Germany in the 1920s. He became greatly influenced by Expressionism which became evident in many of his films.• Hitchcock’s early British films and his black and white films of the 1950’s were permeated with Expressionist techniques. The Expressionist influence can be seen in his color films of the 1960’s as well.
Hitchcock employed the use of shadow and light. He directedhis actors to over-exaggerate their facial movements to betteremphasize their inner emotions in “The Lodger”.
The exploitation of light and shadow assisted in expressing this film’sinterwoven themes of guilt and deceit.
In addition to traditional Expressionist elements, Hitchcock engaged theuse of whirling camera movements to create a dizzy and disorientingeffect for his audience. In contrast to his earlier films, “The Wrong Man”was based upon a true story.
Hitchcock relied heavilyon theuse of shadows andsilhouettesin the movie “Psycho”.He also represented the darkemotionality of NormanBates by maintaining a bleakenvironment and contrastinglight and darknessthroughout the film.
In his movie, “The Birds”, Hitchcock manipulated sound as wasdone in the early German silent films. The sound effects contributed to theto the turmoil in the movie and added to the chaotic atmosphere.
Hitchcock’s use of color in “Marnie” provoked and conveyed afrenzy of emotion. His use of artificial backgrounds and highlystylized sets reflected the influence of Expressionism.
Alfred Hitchcock was exceedingly popular and many other filmmakers copied his techniques. Because he was mimicked by so many other directors, Hitchcock inadvertently acted as a vehicle to propel the influence of expressionism more widely into filmmaking than ever before.
Many analysts believe that Expressionist media often contains an underlying and ambiguous social critique. In the science fiction movie, “Blade Runner”, directed by Ridley Scott, poetic speeches contained vague political themes and ideologies.
• In the manner of Expressionism, Ridley Scott incorporated dark shadows, hazy lighting and odd camera movements into the film.• In addition to the parallels to movie “Metropolis”, “Blade Runner” imitated sequences from other German Expressionist films. Bladerunner’s emphasis on the degraded, alienating city resembled that of many expressionist "street films" taken together. Some propose that “Bladerunner” was a remake of Langs Metropolis.
Similar to the earlier Expressionist film, “Metropolis”,“Bladerunner” portrayed a futuristic city as bleak and dark.
Ridley Scott contrasted light and dark and used straightangles and silhouettes. Images in the movie were reminiscent of“Nosferatu”.
Tim Burton is a modern-day director for whom the influence of Expressionism is evident in many of his films.
The painted backdrops used in “Beetlejuice”mimic those seen in “The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari”.
Burton’s depiction of Gotham City in his movie “Batman Returns” was also compared to Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”. The angular building designs and severe looking city squares of Gotham City bore resemblance to Lang’s futuristic city.
• The urban design of Gotham city resembled a dream or nightmare- like landscape. A variety of architectural styles including Expressionism were borrowed from in the creation of the city.
Expressionist themes permeated the opening montage of this film and were familiar to the silent Expressionist films of the 1920’s.
Critics have compared the likeness of Weine’s“Cesare” to Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands”.
In addition to the direct influence of emigrated German filmmakers, filmmakers in other countries were impressed with expressionist style and techniques. They incorporated the style into their own films which expanded the influence of Expressionism to international films from the 1930’s to the films of today.
Explore the meaning and legacy of German Expressionist film. Expressionism as a movement in Germany covered many different creative media - such as visual art, literature and theatre, as well as its influence on the world of cinema. Its visual style and themes represent in many ways the personal and social conflict felt in Germany at the time, and as expressed by Klinge & Klinge (1983, p.106), to find answers, artists turned inward, to project human emotion through their films. This resulted in a collection of dark, mysterious horror films, the style of which has made a great impact on filmmakers since the period, and right up to the present day. An early expressionist film that embodies most of the characteristics associated with the movement is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene, 1920), and I shall be looking at this film in particular detail -with reference to other Expressionist films and those influenced by them - to understand further the techniques used in making the film and the meaning behind them. In order to understand the meaning behind the movement, it is vital to consider events previous to the period. From the unification of Germany in 1871, Europe suffered from civil unrest at the balance of powers within the continent, and WW1 (1914-1918) caused devastation and Germany suffered under the Treaty of Versailles (1919), which ended the war. A common theme in German Expressionist film is that of authority, or more specifically, the idea of tyranny (Kraucauer, 1947). In The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Caligari uses his hypnotic power as a means of control of Cesare, who he makes commit murder. This idea of being under power which cannot be fought against may well be an analogy for Germanys treatment, and in their view, oppression, during the war years. In the end of the film, however, it is made clear that Francis is seemingly delusional, with the tyrannical figure of Caligari triumphing. In writers Hanz Janowitz and Carl Mayers original script, this did not happen, and the story exposed the madness inherent in an obsession with authority (Klinge & Klinge, 1983). However, Wiene made the directorial choice to change this ending, so authority triumphed. This message was not followed in other expressionist films, such as Nosferatu (Murnau, 1922), where the films tyrannical antagonist is finally defeated.
The aesthetic movement of Expressionism gained prominence during the early twentieth century, and had a profound impact on the arts - especially theater, painting, sculpture, and film. Expressionism was particularly popular between 1910 and 1920, and the movement ushered in a rebellion against the established Impressionist style that had previously dominated the fine arts. Whereas Impressionism concentrated on the artists interpretation of a given subject, Expressionism was rooted in the artists own state of mind or vision. Expressionists infused their subjects with a rich emotional quality through a concentration of systematized symbols. The movement was largely inspired by Nietzsches philosophy of art, which held that the artistic impulse inspired a wondrous vitality - a reawakening of the senses - in the artist himself. In other words, the artist breathes in the basic gestures of creation, which are then expressed in his work. Developed during a period of history that saw Germany undergo severe social, political, and economic dislocation following the countrys defeat in World War I, German Expressionism conveyed a feeling of chaos through the usage of darkly violent images that reflected the state of mind of both the artist and society in general. Art became an action, and the human gestures being portrayed became a reflection of the artists personality and sensibility. The artists medium was thus transformed into a vehicle for social and political critique. The works were driven by activist impulses and colored by the emotional registers of the revolutionary spirit. While Expressionist painters were predominantly inspired by Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, and thus paid special attention to color and symbolism and employed exaggerated imagery, German Expressionism focused on the more sinister aspects of the human psyche. German Expressionism conveyed a feeling of darkness, eccentricity, madness, paranoia, and obsession. German Expressionists often focused on the criminal underworld, infusing their works with a surreal, eerie atmosphere, anti-heroic characters, and elements of evil and betrayal. They also utilized geometric shapes, and often examined the contrast between the city and the country. They did not aim to offer a realistic portrayal of the world, but rather strove to elicit a powerful, authentic emotional response from their audiences. Deliberately dream-like, their images were filled with distorted lines and shapes, and often included intensely sexual - even orgiastic - scenes.
Section A - International Film StylesYour answer should be based on a minimum of two films and focus on one of the following:German and/or Soviet Cinema of the 1920sNeo RealismSurrealismNew WavesEither,Explore in detail the use of a particular micro feature in your chosen international filmstyle.Discuss some of the factors that contributed to the development of your chosen internationalfilm style. Discuss characteristic features of casting and/or performance, exploring how far thesefeatures contribute the overall effect of the films you have studied. What is the relationship between visual style and the subject matter of the films you havestudied? 
International Film StylesQuestions 3 and 4• A knowledge and appreciation of the importance of the relevant historical, political, social, cultural and artistic contexts.• A specific understanding of the chosen films and their stylistic features – and of the relationship of these chosen features to thematic preoccupations.• An understanding of what is distinctive – and innovative – in the films studied.