It goes without saying that the experience of World War 1 was harrowing for all sides involved. For Germany, the aftermath of the war left them particularly sinister, as they had accrued an immense amount of war debt and their economy faced a severe depression. But out of this came German expressionism which would become influential to the genres of horror, science fiction and fantasy in and out of Germany. Hollywood in particular would see the plots of films and the techniques of filmmaking in both the silent and classical periods influenced by German expressionism.
German expressionism was an example of art imitating life. As Philip C. DiMare, professor and author, states, “Philosophically, expressionism is sometime interpreted as the artistic voice of a defeated and demoralized nation, or linked to a German national character that was unprepared for the strains of twentieth century society.” In film, this artistic voice of Expressionism meant out of ordinary camera angles and movement, contrasting light particularly with shadows, unrealistic sets that often are symbolic all to create an uneasiness and air of mystery all to similar to the current state of Germany. To further describe expressionism, Lottie Eisner, German-French Film Critic notes
the movement’s Gothic themes (the fantastic, the doppelganger)as well as its remarkable formal elements: high contrast and chiaroscurolighting, skewed and irrational visual design (especially in corridors and staircases),
“geometric grouping” of crowds and landscapes, exaggerated gesture and costume,
and the moving camera.
As discussed in lecture, these elements helped to bring unconscience fear to the surface.
The impact of expressionism can be seen in Hollywood, as Harry M Benshoff states in his essay, “A History of the (Western) Horror Film, “The impact of German Expressionist style on the classical Hollywood horror film was profound, and is still being invoked by auteur
directors from Guy Maddin to Tim Burton.” We see the impact begin of expressionism begin to unfold in the Classical period of Hollywood, particularly with Universal