german expressionism and film noir themes

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  1. 1. What is German Expressionism? They were films which used asymmetrical camera angles, atmospheric lighting and high contrast between dark and light. After World War I, the German film industry was mostly dominated by imported film from countries such as Sweden. Some formal elements of German Expressionism mise-en- scene were: chiaroscuro lighting (extreme contrast of light and dark which creates shadows), preoccupation with mirror, glass and other reflective surfaces and finally the way that humans react to non-human things. The thematic ideas of German Expressionism would be the madness, insanity and betrayal. An important director that I have studied is, Fritz Lang. Fritz Lang had a very interesting life. He was born in a Jewish family, however when Lang was ten his mother Catholicism. That is one of the reasons to why he was an Anti-Nazi. In 1915 he has joined the army to fight in the World War I. However a year later he got severely injured and that is when he started writing different film scenarios. Due to him being an Anti-Nazi, he moved to America. Due to him being German, he received class B movies, which tend to be low budget crime dramas. The German Expressionism started in Germany and when German people were trying to move away from Germany due to Hitler, they have brought it to America. German Expressionism reflected Film Noir. Cinema has evolved as the following: German Expressionism Film B class Film Noir Modern Horror
  2. 2. What is Film Noir? Film noir is a movie genre which sets out the mood, style, point of view or tone of a movie. All movies have a femme fatale character, an eager detective willing to solve the case, however he doesnt have enough clues to help him. This type of movie has canted camera angles, deep-focus shots and high contrast lighting. Film noir was applied by a group of French critics to American thrillers and detective films which were made during the period of 1944-1945 during the World War II. When Hollywood went noir, this was a way to reflect the weary and wised-up current of mid-century America. During this period women would often find themselves doing jobs that men would normally do. This is why in Film Noir the women would turn out to be the villains. This also reflected the change in the society, as men would have to be in war and women were left behind. As this happened women wanted their independence and become equal to men as their can do their jobs. Some of the themes that Noir used were: fear, lack of trust, blackness, loss, despair and paranoia. All of these reflect the sadness that the war left behind. This links to why there were very few noir films which has happy endings. The storyline of a film noir would tend to be non-linear and twisting. One common narrative would be that the hero would be suffering from amnesia. The thematic sense of the film noir was to show the dark and inhumane side of human nature which was showed through the doomed love, the emphasis of the unhealthy, seamy and shadowy sadistic sides of what a human could experience. German Expressionism has influenced film noir, because both types of film were trying to show the sadness and loss that occurred after the war but also the change in society as women had rights and were seen differently in the society then were before the war.
  3. 3. What are the influences? German Expressionism and Film Noir have played an important part in the development of the horror that we know today. There are movies that use the effects that film noir used. There are horror films today which use a canted camera angle in order to add more effect to a chasing scene. As mentioned in the previous slides, film noir is showing the change in society but also the loss that occurred during the World War II. In the movie Edward Scissorhands (1990), there are hints of German Expressionism. The movie is about a young man who has been living in a scary looking house where no one has dared to enter and has been taken into care by a woman who has taken care of him and introduced him into the society. There were two sides of people. Some that liked him and some that didnt. Furthermore this movie is trying to show the way that society sees un-human things, which they thought Edward was. The setting that Edward is found in dark and cold. Hints of the film noir genre can be seen in the movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012). The scenes are mostly set in the dark and there are always silhouettes coming out of the bushes or wherever they were hiding. Deep focus shots are used within this movie in order to emphasise a conversation or for the viewer to see the facial expressions of the characters while a conversation is taking place. There are movies which use low-key lighting in order to show the darker side of people but it could also show that they are upset. This type of lighting also comes from the German expressionism. There are horror themed movies which have paranoia, madness as well as psychosis which is from the German Expressionism era when people were under Hitlers control,, they were helpless and ended up feeling powerless and unable to do anything to stop the madness that was taking place. This is used in slasher movies because madness can take control of people and have them end up being unpredictable characters and could end up being the killers. Even in the movies today, we could spot the Film Noire influences. There are movies which use the femme fatale character.