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2.3.2020 – Lily on German Cinema

While I haven’t had a German student come to my tutoring hour yet this semester, I’ve been working on a project that interests me. it’s my last year at UIC, so I began to work on my Honors College Capstone. I work with German film and last night, I read a fantastic book on Weimar Cinema and shell-shocked postwar culture. The book is entitled Shell Shock Cinema by Anton Kaes. If  you have any interest in German film, the films released during the Weimar Republic – especially those touched upon in the book, such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Metropolis, which stands today as one of the most influential sci-fi films of all time – are a fantastic place to start your film analysis journey!

My favorite German film of all time is probably The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Released in Germany in 1920 and directed by Robert Wiene, this film tells a “story within a story,” as Francis recounts what had happened to him in a sequence that is mainly a flashback with occasional cuts back to Francis. Caligari was a keystone film in the world of German expressionism. The audience is led on a journey where they feel as if they are observing the movie through a peephole, almost as if they were some sort of warden observing their prisoners in their cells. The film combines its use of camera movement (or the lack of it) with its jagged, distorted scenery to instill in the audience the sense that there is no freedom to move. We can only see through the lens that is given to us; we are not allowed outside the world of Caligari.

There’s a wide, wide world of German cinema out there. From Caligari, to classic “homeland films” like Sissi, to sci-fi marvels like Metropolis, there is something for every viewer, from the first-time watchers to the long-time film fans. The most interesting thing about German film is how the atmosphere of Germany affected the film’s messages; as Germany’s cultural climate changed, so did its cinema.