German Expressionism

An analysis of German expressionism from the First World War to the end of the silent film era.

This paper argues that German expressionist cinema is the product of socio-cultural conditions in World War I and interwar Germany. It uses the history of Germany during this period in order to explain expressionist style, obsession with themes involving science, in particular psychoanalysis and overt depictions of anti-authoritarian and anti-bourgeois attitudes. Two films are used heavily to proof the influence of socio-cultural conditions, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (Robert Weine, 1919) and “Nosferatu” (F.W. Murnau, 1922).
“Although contemporary critics viewed the distorted scenery of Caligari as a physical representation of the disturbed mind of the film’s protagonist, Francis (Friedrich Feher), the writers intended it to represent the collective conscious of a Germany torn by war and instability (Kracauer 70). Supporting the latter claim is the fact that the framing story does not restore a normal perception of the world, but continues to be punctuated by expressionist elements; the psychiatric hospital is reminiscent of expressionist architecture, with three staircases running upwards from arched doorways, and the actors maintain their expressive acting styles with overemphasized facial movements. Since the framing story acts to remove the viewer from the supernatural tale told by Francis, in order for it to be a visual representation of his mind, logically it should restore the world to one resembling ?reality,? or the way that the average spectator would view their own external world.”