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Expressionism Art Movement In Relation To Film Essay, Research Paper

Expressionism art movement in relation to Film

In this essay, I will be looking at the art movement of expressionist style in relation to the development of German expressionism film. I will also be looking at how drawings and paintings have been bought to life within the use of film.

The expressionist movement began mainly around Dresden in Germany before the First World War I. This was the same year the organization group Die Bruche (The Bridge) was formed. The artists Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel, Ernst Kugwin Kirchner, and Karl Schmidt Rottluff, created freedom to learn with and from one other, it was no accident that they discovered the use of woodcuts. Woodcut lithography and posters were the main sources for expressionism, the group was eager to find forms that imitated nature, and to make visible to paper, through the use of bright and bold colours enhancing the shape and form. Colour, drawings and proportions were very important. Line and colours were often pronounced; colour and value contrast was intensified.

Between the year 1905 to 1911, the main influence for the artist came from Jugendstil (a german version of art Nouveau) Vincent Van Gogh, and especially Edvard Munch, this lead to Marc and Kandinsky to develop their own style and approaches to design.

The burst of energy in expressionism lead to the formation of the exhibition Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) organized mainly by the artist Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky (with the support of Mache). It was a sought of spiritual reality beyond the outward appearance of nature and explored problems of form and colour. They were previously members of the bruche community, but they decided to separate and organize his own group, because of the disagreement of the way Kandinsky worked.

The achievement of their exhibition in 1912, consisting only with forty-two paintings, became one of the most important documents of modern art. 1

A statement taken from their catalogue expresses the group s philosophy:

We wish to propagate in the small exhibition not one precise and special form, but

We intend in a variety of form representing to show how the inner wishes of the artist

Express itself . 2

With the prosperity of expressionism art it soon extended to German expressionism film, such as Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari (Dr Caligari Office) by Robert Wiene (1919). Created an outstanding work of expressionist art in a new medium, the weird mysterious story of a showman and his medium Caesar (Cesare). Caesar, whose action depends on the showman, is accused of murder, the showman turns out to be no other then Dr Caligari, a director of an insane asylum. There are several versions of the film including the most up to date version House on Haunting Hill (1999) by William Malone. The film s graphic quality nearly over shadows the horror story, with its theme of murder, hypnosis, somnambulism and mental derangement that gives a creepy horror genre. It was quite amazing how light is painted onto the scene to underline mood, oblique angles and staircases that grew, and the way narrowing a door, yarn when opened, captures the sound of expressionistic sound in silent film.

Metropolis (1926 1927) Is a film that battles the final conciliation of the upper and the underworld, the phrase (between the brain and the hand the heart must be the mediator). Is best described in the scene of the character when Maria is captures and used to make the robot Maria alive transforms into a robot, but the false Maria has no feelings, heart and soul.

Rudolf Kurtz, an interpreter of expressionist film describes these films where the plot Takes place entirely with the dark depths of the soul, that forcefully conveys a metaphysical conception like application of extraneous element on paintings. 3

Saying that the inner self-conscious allows you to paint with feelings and emotion.

The work of Marshall Arisman is best known for his frequent appearance Omni magazine, is often reminiscent with the Irish painter Frances Bacon. The positioning exotic textures such as metal surface against flesh has a surreal intensity, portraying disfigured or screaming faces, who attempted, the use of bizarre and sadistic subject matter, to shock the viewer into an awareness of cruelty and violence. In much of his later work he concentrated on a series of huge triptychs relating to the crucifixion, with mutilated male figures set in nightmarish sealed rooms. As in Three Studies for a Crucifixion (1962) (Fig 1), these pieces of work are similar to the films Eraserhead by director David Lynch. The scene of the premature baby, looks like one of the works of H. R. Giger how passionately painted hungry exo-skeletal invulnerable alien type figure, that you can see in his monster movie film Aliens (1979).

George Grosz, who produced drawings and paintings quite deliberately means of political argument, devoted his time to his own private studies he drew a lot and was inspired from Japanese woodcuts, and drawings from Simplicissimus magazine. However since the movement to Berlin, Grosz, almost became obsessed like Kirchener and Nolde before him, he fell under the spell of big the city and the pleasure of night clubs, music halls, bars and brothels. His drawing became more dramatic testimonies of sex and violence that lead him to produce an oil painting called Metropolis, in 1917, could this piece be the source inspired for the director Fritz Lang to use this for his film?

When looking at the painting (fig 2) the man seen in the center of the painting with the cigar in his mouth clearly represents the character Joh Fredersen, who owns the city Metropolis in the film. The clothing that he is wearing suggests a high society and wealthy man. The facial expression on his face shows power and greed. The other male characters on the top left could be his son Freder and the female could portray Maria, the nudity of the character could also be seen has the most powerful character. The colours rich blues and red have been used to symbolize the richness and royalty of the characters. The structure of the narrow edged buildings seen in the background colour red reinforces the destruction of the building, and there is a certain kind of movement within the painting, suggesting that they are running away from someone or something. Since the painting was produced a decade before the film was premiered, it seems to have a similar narrative to the film.

Abstract expressionism such as the artist Jackson Pollock and Mar Rothko, tries to express basic emotions throughout, vivid colours, bold forms and spontaneous methods. By dripping and flinging paint onto canvases is an effort to show personal perception and feelings, not all work seems expressive, but believed the spontaneity of the artists approach to their own work could draw from the release of creativity of their unconscious minds.

The artist Edvard Munch who painted the famous Scream (1893) had such powerful imagery that tells the narrative childhood of his inner trauma, he painted this painting when his mother and sister died of tuberculosis. At this point he was very angry and the build up of tension provoked him to paint this painting. Looking at the painting you can see the violent use of colour, the scene set over the bridge gives it unbalance feel with a twist. The line and colour pronounced; colour and value contrasts were intensified. Tactile properties were achieved through thick paint, and loose brush stroke with bold contour drawing. You could almost feel the sickness within the stomach, building up, as has it explodes onto this large canvas with movement. When looking closely to the mask like face, the film Scream (1997) cones to mind, how there is a very close resemblance to the gloomy mask, and could the director Wes Craven, got his inspiration from this painting?

The style of expressionistic movement seemed to have a great impact in Germany between 1905 to 1914 before the war, but a greater and stronger of expressionism had developed after the war. Only a few young artists who came back from the war accomplished the movement more sucessfully with feelings and emotion. Could it be the experience of the war, which triggered the mind somehow to make them more expressionistic? The development of various arts leaves an important question: unanswered why was expressionism confined basically in Germany? The visual artist such as Ganguin, Van Gogh and especially Edvard Munch left indelible marks, especially on the early graphic works.


Coates Paul, German Cinema, Expressionism of Horror, Cambridge University Press, 1991

Elger Dietmar, Expressionism: a revolution in German art, Benedikt Taschen Publication, 1988

Eisner Lotte, The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in German Cinema, California Press, 1969

Goro Robert, German Expressionist Prints and Drawings, Prestel Publcation, 1989

Roters Eberhard, Berlin 1910 1933, Rizzoli New York Publication, 1982

Golleck Rosel, Documents of the Twentieth Century Art, New York Viking Publication, 1974

Kurtz Rudolf, Expressionism to Film, Zurich Press, 1965

Fate Vincent, Infinite Worlds, The Wonderland Press, 1997

Nolde Emil, Emil Nolde, 1867 1956, Northbrook Collection, Video, 1980

Internet Web site: http://www.german-expressionism.freeserve.co.uk/index.htm



1 Golleck Rosel, Der Blaue Reiter, 1896 1914, p 274

2 Golleck Rosel, Documents of the Twentieth Century Art, New York Viking, 1974

3 Eberhard Roters, Berlin 1910 1933, Rizzoli New York, 1982, p178

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