Robert Wiene, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Available on YouTube
F.W. Murnau, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922)
Available on YouTube
Karl Grune, The Street (1923)
Available only w/o music & French subtitles on YouTube
In this lecture, Jason Lieblang discusses some aspects of the social, political, and cultural history of the Weimar Republic in Germany and expressionism in cinema. He then focuses on vision in the three films noted above.
Please see this Mediasite link for the video with the sides attached (the embedded video below does not have the slides).
- It is often said of early German horror films that their effect on the spectator consists in their evocation of what Freud calls “the uncanny.” Discuss Caligari and/or Nosferatu as embodiments of “the uncanny.”
- While Caligari & Nosferatu are easy to explain as works of Expressionist cinema, Mabuse & The Street are less clear-cut in this regard. Discuss the influence of Expressionism as you see it embodied by Mabuse and/or The Street.
- Caligari, Nosferatu & Dr. Mabuse are all monsters, and monsters represent what we—perhaps without our being conscious of it—fear. Discuss one or two of these monsters in terms of what they communicate about the fears of the Weimar Republic period.
- Discuss what Dr. Mabuse tells us about urban space, both interior and exterior. What, in particular, does it reveal about 1920s Berlin?
- Discuss the representation of gender in one or two of this week’s films. Remember that “gender” doesn’t have to just be about men and women, but gender identity and/or performance as well.
- It has been argued that Expressionist cinema is German Romanticism reinvented through the medium of film. Based on your exposure to German Romanticism in this course, what evidence do you see in Caligari and Nosferatu in support of this claim?
- Discuss some of the ways in which one or two of this week’s films are concerned with questions of vision and visibility (choose one or two films to talk about).
- Analyze the thematic significance of the mise-en-scène—the arrangement of actors, lighting, props, costumes, etc. within the frame—of one of the films assigned for this week. Focus on no more than two or three scenes in the film.
- Discuss the contribution that the narrative frame (the scenes at the beginning and the end) makes to the theme in Caligari.
- Discuss the ways in which written text is incorporated into one or two of the films. For example, you could talk about the intertitles, or when written text is superimposed on the screen.
- Silent films do not have as much dialogue as films with synchronized sound, and must communicate meaning in other ways. Analyze the ways meaning is expressed visually in one or two of the films.