TCF112/German Silent Film

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Germany After World War I

  • 1919: World War I ends.
  • Country plunged into financial and social chaos.

German Silent Film

  1. Historical/Mythological Films
  2. Expressionist Films
  3. Kammerspielfilm

Historical/Mythological Films

Influenced by theatrical producer Max Reinhardt.

  1. Huge architectural sets.
  2. Careful period costuming.
  3. Chiaroscuro lighting.
  4. Large casts and movement on stage.

Expressionist Films


Expressionist paintings influence films. See examples of Expressionist art.

  1. Style distorted to express the artist's inner torment.
  2. Fascination with death, disease, illness, depression, melancholy, etc. . . .

Expressionist Cinema Characteristics

E.g., The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Robert Wiene, 1919.

  • Subject matter/Content
    • Theme
      • Horror, dark fantasy, the Gothic.
      • Illness, death, insanity.
  • Visual Style
    • Mise-en-scene
      • Set design, lighting, costume design (props), blocking (actor movement).
        1. Sets express inner state of characters
        2. Lighting stylized to express inner states
        3. Performance Style/Blocking--jerky gestures express inner torment
    • Cinematography
      • Such as focus, framing, camera movement, film stocks
        1. Stationary camera
        2. Long shots (few close-ups)
        3. Minimal editing


Kammer = chamber/room Spiel = play Kammerspiel = chamberplay

Inspired by producer Max Reinhardt's work in the theater.

  1. Intimate stories about everyday people.
  2. Camera movement.
  3. Lack of intertitles.