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Hey all, I just wanted to post something I've been thinking of in terms of genre to explain film noir and how it's being influenced by some of the independent reading I've been doing, especially the essay 'Film Noir on the Edge of Doom' by Marc Vernet (1993) which most of this post borrows from. By now, most of us have come across the idea that film noir is a diffuse topic, and that no one really knows whether it is a style, a genre, a mode, a sequence or all of those things. Part of establishing a sense of what noir is is understanding its precursors, which we understand to be German Expressionism, hard-boiled detective fiction and Realism (especially of the French poetic flavor). However, when I look at early cinema, there is already a huge influence of German Expressionism--even more of an influence than it is in film noir. I don't know about anybody else, but in terms of style many film noirs don't really employ many of the motifs of German Expressionism other than the occasional dream sequence, a distant shot of someone framed by urban decor, the occasional shadow on a wall, a mirror image every once in a while, etc. See the amazing 'Two Seconds' (1932) with frequent noir player and brilliant actor Edward G. Robinson: Fritz Lang's 'M' anyone? THAT is German Expressionism. AND it's hard-boiled. But this is 1932 we're talking here. To me, this points to how the idea of a time period (1941-1958) of noir as a sequence is pretty arbitrary. Another aspect of noir is night shooting. It was cheaper to darken natural day light to shoot night scenes because in actual night shooting you need to light everything you want to show up on camera. Films noirs are noted for their rich, natural scenes of night because they would actually shoot at night. However, this wasn't anything new either. Many films employed night shooting in the 30's. This is from 'the Big Gamble' (1931): Most of the reading I have been doing has made me search for which element in film noir locates the sequence in the 40's and excludes the 30's. Part of what we think as the German influence doesn't really hold up. Sure, there is German Expressionism as an influence in film noir, but it cannot be a distingushing feature of it since it was already a part of hollywood filmmaking at least 15 years before in pulpy, hardboiled yarns (and in gothic cinema, too. Think of Tod Browning). This influence pre-dated the influence of the German emigres. We should also not that mostly all of the cinematographers for the majority of the essential works we consider noirs had been working in American cinema since the 1910's.