Archive for Expressionism


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The Birth of the Horror Film: German Expressionism and The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari

Posted in Essays with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2009 by helenparker1212

“rarely before or since has a body of films exerted such a pull towards verbal paraphrase, in which epithets like ‘dark’ and ‘demonic’, ‘twisted’, ‘haunted’ and ‘tormented’ leap onto the page.”

(Elsaesser, 2000:19)

Robert Weine’s 1920 film The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari is unanimously agreed to be both a prime example of German Expressionist cinema, and also a seminal horror film. However, the film is also something of an enigma, combining as it does, a mixture of gothic, psychologically motivated narrative, and Expressionist set design. The film’s influence on the horror genre can certainly be attributed to this gothic narrative, but the influence of it’s Expressionist aesthetic has to be considered far more sceptically than it has been by past theorists. The question of why the Expressionist aesthetic influenced Film Noir so strongly, and not horror, has to be asked when considering the film’s legacy as horror.

This essay will attempt to address the legacy of the film within the horror genre, from its origins in Modernism, the Expressionist influence in its scenography and perspective, and the Gothic influence in its narrative and themes, specifically those themes which have helped formulate some of the iconic elements of the horror genre, such as the monster, the male anxiety, and the notion of the ‘other’.


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Does Avant-Garde Film Constitute a Coherent Body of work? – an Essay

Posted in Essays with tags , , , , , on February 19, 2009 by helenparker1212

“The idea of an avant-garde cannot, by its nature, be static or agreed. It is perhaps best understood as, in the philosophers’ term, an essentially contested concept, always open to dispute or redefinition.”

(Christie, 1998:453)

It has always been something of a trend in film academia to either make blasé definitions of ‘avant-garde’ film, or to blandly refute the possibility of doing so, as can be seen from the above statements. It is a ‘contested concept’, to say the least, and certainly ‘maddeningly obscure’, but that does not mean there are not definitive attributes that the ‘avant-garde’ school possesses, which other schools of film lack. The question of this essay is about coherence. But I posit that it is impossible to have coherence in experimentation, the two together are oxymoronic. What is possible though, are shared themes, shared tools, and shared ambiguities.

In this essay I will first attempt to rectify the common confusion in the academia between the Modernist movement and the Avant-Garde movement. I will explore the notions of Modernism and the Avant-garde, also known as High Modernism. I will then examine the division of the Avant-garde into to two different schools, the Narrative avant-garde; where I will look at Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1919); and the Non-Narrative Artistic avant-garde, where I will look at Dziga Vertovs’ Man With a Movie Camera (1929). I will then explore the claims of the importance of ‘auteur theory’ and modes of production in avant-garde filmmaking; for this I will be using David Lynchs’ Eraserhead (1977).

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