Expressionist Movement in World War I: Anti-German Propaganda in American Films

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  • Topic: Film, Movie projector, Joan of Arc
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  • Published : April 24, 2011
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Choose any 3 film movements that we've covered to date and discuss (a) the historical forces that influenced the film movement and (b) the major contributions associated with that particular film movement (c) while discussing a major director and film associated with each movement.

The expressionist movement was historically influenced by the First World War. During the 1st world war the German films were not doing well at all compared to other film industries of the world. When the United States entered into the war the anti German propaganda started to greatly come in effect. German saw United States as an enemy because Germans were perceived the bad guys in American films. This movement was a drastic measure taken to defend against the anti-German propaganda that was produced. It was this measure that had the UFA (Universal Film A.G.) formed by the German High Command. The purpose of the UFA was to promote Germany through direct screen propaganda and inform audiences of German culture and German education. We studied one of the most known influential films during this period of time. That film was Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr Caligari). This film was released in 1920. This movie was based on the story by Hans Hanowitz and Carl Mayer. This film was also known as starting the expressionist film movement. The expressionist type of director/filmmaker basically can construct a landscape that is artificial but still inspiring and bold. The German filmmakers were able to do this in a studio and had total control over the amount of detail that they had. It started to be seen as more realistic than expressionistic. This couldn’t have been done without German painter-architect designers mainly because the realistic studio was just an array of artists working together. The story dealt with expressionism dealing with insanity. This story was supposed to portray the revolt against an insane authority and this was represented by the main character Dr Caligari. Throughout the film you find out that the doctor has been dealing with his own psychosis and by the end of the movie he can now helps his own patients since he now is better. There may have been some underlying messages with this movie when it was first made to represent Germany fighting against the insane authority of the United States in the war. By the end of the movie the watcher can begin to realize that there is in fact nothing wrong with Germany at all, it just appears to be that way. The phrase it’s all in your head” comes to mind. Even today this kind of ideal did not go away. In 2001 there was a movie named Enemy at the Gates directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. The movie itself deals with a German and Russian sniper basically playing cat and mouse during the battle of Stalingrad. The reason I reference this movie is because of the use of propaganda to raise people’s spirits and to make a turning point in the war. When there was propaganda released that there was a “hero” the Germans had no choice but to send in their best sniper to answer to the propaganda of the present one. The style is still used even in today’s movies. The surrealism film movement started in the early 1920’s. This movement was well known for its writings done by the surrealistic members and its use of visual artwork. Paris, France was the main city that took advantage of this movement. This movement was very much dependent on the French invention of photography mainly because French painters excelled in changing shapes and colors and could turn them into anything they wanted for their purpose. The point of this was to reflect the specific volume, tone, moods and structures of life. The artists of the movement realized that the moving of pictures had the capabilities of changing specific shapes, images, lights etc and they then could design their own kind of art. This is what was referred to as “tricks with time, juxtaposition, transition, and form”...
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