Tag Archive: German Expressionism


HAMLET directed by Laurence Olivier (1948)
HAMLET directed by Franco Zefferelli (1990)

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How about this as a summary of Shakespeare’s most famous play turned movie?:

“This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.”.

If that seems too reductive, how about this:

“A guy comes home from school to discover that his father’s dead. To top it all off his mother is horsing around with his uncle. Add to that, the ghost of the old man comes back to tell him that it was his uncle who knocked him off so he could run off with the Queen. The guy goes off his nut”.

The first is Laurence Olivier’s voiceover before the main action begins.

The second is from an interview with Mel Gibson included in the extras on the DVD of Zefferelli’s film.

Frankly, neither really cuts the mustard but both are obviously aiming to pitch the story in an accessible fashion. Continue reading

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THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI directed by Robert Wiene (Germany, 1920)

Dr Caligari and Cesare the somnambulist

Cesare seizes the maiden.

One of the great things about You Tube and other online streaming sites is that cinema history is always just a click away.

Most silent classics are freely available, including this groundbreaking and highly influential work. I’ve seen so many clips and stills from it but I don’t ever remember watching it in its entirety.

This film is important because it launched the German expressionist film movement and established a stylised look that became blueprint for countless noir movies.

Made in just three weeks, the stylised jagged sets and dramatic lighting effects make this a highly theatrical production. It lays waste any notion that cinema has to contain reassuring messages or serve any higher moral purpose. Continue reading

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