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Glossary: Expressionism

German Expressionism Art Literature Film Music

Expressionism in Film

Strongly influenced by Expressionist stagecraft, the earliest Expressionist films set out to convey through decor the subjective mental state of the protagonist. The most famous of these films is Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), in which a madman relates to a madwoman his understanding of how he came to be in the asylum. The misshapen streets and buildings of the set are projections of his own crazy universe, and the other characters have been abstracted through makeup and dress into visual symbols. The film's morbid evocation of horror, menace, and anxiety and the dramatic, shadowy lighting and bizarre sets became a stylistic model for Expressionist films by several major German directors. Paul Wegener's second version of The Golem (1920), F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1922), and Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927), among other films, present pessimistic visions of social collapse or explore the ominous duality of human nature and its capacity for monstrous personal evil.

Source:

"Expressionism" Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
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