Social change, destabilization, the rise of an authoritarianism that curtailed personal freedom and alternative thinking -- these were the conditions in Weimar Republic Germany during the heyday of the Expressionist movement in film. Spanning the years 1909-1924, theirs was a time... [more]
Social change, destabilization, the rise of an authoritarianism that curtailed personal freedom and alternative thinking -- these were the conditions in Weimar Republic Germany during the heyday of the Expressionist movement in film. Spanning the years 1909-1924, theirs was a time of revolution (in Russia and Germany), war (World War I), and reaction (the rise of National Socialism in Germany).
Anxious about the disintegration of their culture, filmmakers such as F.W. Murnau, Robert Wiene, and Ernst Lubitsch used cinema to create new forms of visual representation, exploring the possibility of reversing power relations through the look. The cinematic Expressionist movement in Germany is generally considered to be the classic period of German cinema; many Expressionist works are included in the canon of the world's greatest films. From Lubitsch's masterpieces 'Passion' (1919) and 'Deception' (1920), through Wiene's famous 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' (1919), to Murnau's brilliant 'The Last Laugh' (1924) and 'Nosferatu' (1922), there has rarely been a movement of such consistent inspiration and achievement.
Expressionism in cinema, as in the other arts, attempts to 'reappropriate an alienated universe by transforming it into a private, personal vision.' With that in mind, Expressionist cinema tried to deepen the audience's interaction with the film, combining technology and imaginative filming techniques in order to intensify the illusion of reality. The Expressionists practically reinvented the look of film with innovative and unusual editing rhythms, perspectivally distorted sets, exaggerated gestures, and the famous 'camera unchained' -- a new technique that allowed the camera to move within the scene, vastly increasing the accessibility of the character's subjective point of view. The Expressionists developed new habits of seeing, new ways to interpret the way people relate to social living and self-identification. The Expressionists supplanted reality with myth and fantasy in order to liberate visual perception from the other senses. Their goal: to liberate the mind of the individual from the oppression that rationalism imposed on an industrial society -- an oppression that became more and more powerful as the National Socialists grew in power. [show less]