FILM 1701 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Diegesis, Thea Von Harbou, Stimmung

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Published on 17 Apr 2013
York University
FILM 1701
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Week 5: German Expressionism
German Expressionism
German post-WWI culture
-romantic obsession with mythic past
-determinist culture: the fate of human beings is pre-determined
-predetermined by what?
-social forces (in which case, fight for social change)
-metaphysical forces (harsh universe, human nature, Fate)
-nihilism, obsession with tragedy and despair
-German obsession with doom and "Gotterdamerung"
-cultural pessimism (lost mythic past)
1. Expressionism:
express "the morbid psychological state of the protagonist in terms of visual images"
Reaction against realism and naturalism (which emphasize objective, external reality)
parallel movements in painting, music, theatre
Q: what kind of subjective world is expressed?
obsession with morbidity, death
disturbed mental states
"soul in search of itself"--psychological and metaphysical
strong link between sex/creation and death/destruction
influence of Freud’s idea of the unconscious)
"deep and fearful concern with the foundations of the self."
Q: how was it achieved on screen?
stylized, artificial, unnatural diegetic world
high contrast lighting (chiaroscuro)
emphasis on mood "Stimmung,": emotion over story
studio filmmaking: CONTROL over light and setting
the creation of a world, not discovering one in reality.
-Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)(dir. Robert Weine, sc. Hans Janowitz, Carl Mayer; art dir:
Hermann Warm, Walter Röhrig, Walter Reimann)
distorted view of space
stylized and artificial
exaggeration of gesture, line, dimensions
painted sets delivered this look, not camera angle or lighting
-Metropolis (1926) (dir. Fritz Lang, sc. Thea von Harbou)
2. Kammerspielfilm: "instinct film"
oppressiveness of ordinary life
inevitability of fate causing ruin in disintegrating society
characters determined by a "destructive and uncontrollable impulse"
unlike expressionism, films are
more realistic
less supernatural in subject matter
Q: how was it achieved on screen?:
less dependant on sets
emphasis on camera framing, movement, angle, lighting
still bound to studiolittle location shooting
e.g., The Last Laugh/Der Letzte Mann (1924) (dir. F.W. Murnau, sc. Carl Mayer, prod. Erich
Pommer, cinematography Karl Freund, art dir, Walter Röhrig, Robert Herlth)
3. Strassenfilme: "Street film"
more realistic films, dealing with ordinary people
characters less defined by 'instincts'
deal specifically with economic issues, esp. inflation
"die neue Sachlichkeit" (The New Objectivity)
social objectivity still conditioned by the world view of expressionism: "cynical,
resigned, disillusioned, accepting 'life as it is'"
e.g., Pandora’s Box (1929) (Dir. G.W. Pabst)