German Expressionism

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A modernist film movement that developed in Germany in the first part of the 20th century, lasting roughly from 1919 until 1924. The best-known examples of German Expressionist film are: The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (director Wiene, 1919), Metropolis (director Lang, 1926), and Nosferatu (director Murnau, 1921). Contemporaneous with the tumultuous Weimar period and the rise of German fascism, its dark, anti-realist aesthetic was inspired by the pan-European movement of Expressionism in the arts, typified by such diverse figures as Gustav Klimt, Edvard Munch, and Vincent Van Gogh ; more locally, it took inspiration from the Munich-based der Blaue Reiter (the blue rider) group of artists and the Dresden-based die Brücke (the bridge) group, whose members included Franz Marc, Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Kirchner, and Fritz Beyl. Like Expressionist art, which was similarly influenced by psychoanalysis, its subject matter tends to be focused on ambivalent questions to do with sexuality and emotion, which it explores via supernatural and science fictional tales. German Expressionism was very influential on Hollywood, particularly film noir (many of the directors, including Lang, Lubitsch, and Murnau, migrated to the USA when the Nazis came to power in 1933).

Further Reading:

T. Elsaesser New German Cinema: A History (1989).

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

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