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The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt

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The Golden Age of German cinema began at the end of the First World War and ended shortly after the coming of sound. From The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari onwards the principal films of this period were characterized by two influences: literary Expressionism, and the innovations of the theatre directors of this period, in particular Max Reinhardt. This book demonstrates the con The Golden Age of German cinema began at the end of the First World War and ended shortly after the coming of sound. From The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari onwards the principal films of this period were characterized by two influences: literary Expressionism, and the innovations of the theatre directors of this period, in particular Max Reinhardt. This book demonstrates the connection between German Romanticism and the cinema through Expressionist writings. It discusses the influence of the theatre: the handling of crowds; the use of different levels, and of selective lighting on a predominately dark stage; the reliance on formalized gesture; the innovation of the intimate theatre. Against this background the principal films of the period are examined in detail. The author explains the key critical concepts of the time, and surveys not only the work of the great directors, such as Fritz Lang and F. W. Murnau, but also the contribution of their writers, cameramen, and designers. As The Times Literary Supplement wrote, 'Mme. Eisner is first and foremost a film critic, and one of the best in the world. She has all the necessary gifts.' And it described the original French edition of this book as 'one of the very few classics of writing on the film and arguably the best book on the cinema yet written.'


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The Golden Age of German cinema began at the end of the First World War and ended shortly after the coming of sound. From The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari onwards the principal films of this period were characterized by two influences: literary Expressionism, and the innovations of the theatre directors of this period, in particular Max Reinhardt. This book demonstrates the con The Golden Age of German cinema began at the end of the First World War and ended shortly after the coming of sound. From The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari onwards the principal films of this period were characterized by two influences: literary Expressionism, and the innovations of the theatre directors of this period, in particular Max Reinhardt. This book demonstrates the connection between German Romanticism and the cinema through Expressionist writings. It discusses the influence of the theatre: the handling of crowds; the use of different levels, and of selective lighting on a predominately dark stage; the reliance on formalized gesture; the innovation of the intimate theatre. Against this background the principal films of the period are examined in detail. The author explains the key critical concepts of the time, and surveys not only the work of the great directors, such as Fritz Lang and F. W. Murnau, but also the contribution of their writers, cameramen, and designers. As The Times Literary Supplement wrote, 'Mme. Eisner is first and foremost a film critic, and one of the best in the world. She has all the necessary gifts.' And it described the original French edition of this book as 'one of the very few classics of writing on the film and arguably the best book on the cinema yet written.'

30 review for The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt

  1. 4 out of 5

    Raúl

    Una magnífica panorámica por la historia del primer cine alemán en la que Lotte Eisner, una de las más grandes escritoras sobre teoría y análisis del cine, revisa a través de los recursos cinematográficos y estéticos utilziados en éstas las grandes películas del llamado expresionismos alemán. Imprescindible.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Printable Tire

    Another book read for my Weimar Cinema class. Almost an unsettling detachment from plots and a focus purely on aesthetics permeates this page. Like Kracauer, Eisner occasionally mentions films that aesthetically predict Nazi style but no judgement is made of them. She often partakes of loaded sentences like "The German spirit is one of darkness, and he is often attracted to the uncaring void of the universe." I made that one up but it seems like something she would write. I'm often interested in Another book read for my Weimar Cinema class. Almost an unsettling detachment from plots and a focus purely on aesthetics permeates this page. Like Kracauer, Eisner occasionally mentions films that aesthetically predict Nazi style but no judgement is made of them. She often partakes of loaded sentences like "The German spirit is one of darkness, and he is often attracted to the uncaring void of the universe." I made that one up but it seems like something she would write. I'm often interested in purely aesthetics too but I find her complete disinterest in plots to be alienating and frankly creepy. The book is mostly photographs and descriptions of the visual images of films, with little analysis and no thesis.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    Lotte Eisner's great book length study on German Expressionist films. She has the final word, with respect to this subject. Hell, she knew these people as well!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Twenty-five years ago I took a film theory class as part of my college degree, and was given a list of 9 books as required reading. Surprisingly, I got an A- for the class despite not reading any of them. I tried to start reading one or two of the books, but the subject matter was far too abstract for me to care about. Over time, I gave all the books away except for this one, and finally, last week, I pulled this one off the shelf and started reading. Much to my surprise, it wasn't a painful rea Twenty-five years ago I took a film theory class as part of my college degree, and was given a list of 9 books as required reading. Surprisingly, I got an A- for the class despite not reading any of them. I tried to start reading one or two of the books, but the subject matter was far too abstract for me to care about. Over time, I gave all the books away except for this one, and finally, last week, I pulled this one off the shelf and started reading. Much to my surprise, it wasn't a painful read. In fact, this has reignited a once fanciful interest in German Expressionist film, which I may now be able to better explore thanks to the technological miracle that is the internet. Hello German silent cinema, good-bye social life!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Aidan Rynne

    This is a rather essential guide to German Expressionism. Seeing as Eisner was in Germany when these films were being made and was still in contact with some of the filmmakers while writing this book there is an invaluable insight into the psychology and production of films which otherwise feel incredibly distant, even in the best history books. The historical aspect is certainly the most interesting part, especially when Eisner dives into the German Psychology which inspired Expressionism's dar This is a rather essential guide to German Expressionism. Seeing as Eisner was in Germany when these films were being made and was still in contact with some of the filmmakers while writing this book there is an invaluable insight into the psychology and production of films which otherwise feel incredibly distant, even in the best history books. The historical aspect is certainly the most interesting part, especially when Eisner dives into the German Psychology which inspired Expressionism's darkness. Towards the end, however, the book essentially turns into a collection of reviews. While this does get rather dry, especially as someone who is yet to see many of these films, there is still valuable criticism there which I would likely enjoy if I were familiar with the subject matter. As it stands I was able to make a pretty decent list of films to look out for...

  6. 5 out of 5

    David

    German Expressionist cinema is one of my favorite styles, which was most prevalent in the 1920's. Eisner's examination of this, and the influence from the great German stage director, Max Reinhardt is a must read for anyone interested in this topic.

  7. 5 out of 5

    zzzz

    i do love how eisner thinks caligari is the most overrated movie of all time

  8. 5 out of 5

    josep

    qué movida los alemanes

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dfordoom

    I’ve been reading Lotte Eisner’s The Haunted Screen which is regarded as one of the greatest books of film criticism. It’s about German cinema in the 1920s, and more especially about the German films in the Expressionist style. She points out that the roots Expressionist film did not magically come into being with Robert Wiene’s great 1919 film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. The roots of Expressionism can be traced back at least as far as Paul Wegener’s The Student of Prague, made in 1913, and beyo I’ve been reading Lotte Eisner’s The Haunted Screen which is regarded as one of the greatest books of film criticism. It’s about German cinema in the 1920s, and more especially about the German films in the Expressionist style. She points out that the roots Expressionist film did not magically come into being with Robert Wiene’s great 1919 film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. The roots of Expressionism can be traced back at least as far as Paul Wegener’s The Student of Prague, made in 1913, and beyond that to the theatre of Max Reinhardt. Even the lighting effects, which are such a feature of Expressionism, were influenced by this theatrical pioneer. German Expressionism was of course one of the biggest influences on American film noir of the 1940s, not surprising given that many of the best examples of film noir were made in Hollywood by German directors (Fritz Lang, Robert Siodmak, Billy Wilder), writers and actors (like Peter Lorre). The biggest problem with the book is that she talks about so many films that one can never hope to see, in fact many of them probably don’t exist any longer. She does give fascinating information about the filming of some of the great movies that do survive, however, movies like M, Metropolis, Faust, Nosferatu and Pandora’s Box. She seems to regard Murnau and Lang as the greatest of the German film-makers of that era, a judgment one can’t really argue with. She also has a very high regard for Louise Brooks, the brilliant American actress whose reputation rests entirely on her two German movies, Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, and she believes that Brooks’ contribution to the success of those films was immense. The book contains literally hundreds of photos, including countless photos of films now lost. An interesting and provocative book which will no doubt cause me to buy lots more silent movie DVDs that I can’t afford!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    The first major books on Expressionist cinema in Germany, and it remains pretty much the undisputed Bible on the subject. Eisner has an interesting way of analyzing her topic—films are grouped in ways that aren't always expected, and she approaches each film in a way that at first seems idiosyncratic, perhaps even a bit scattershot, but the elements she does end up focusing on always turn out to be enlightening and endlessly evocative. I didn't make it all the way to the end because I was lookin The first major books on Expressionist cinema in Germany, and it remains pretty much the undisputed Bible on the subject. Eisner has an interesting way of analyzing her topic—films are grouped in ways that aren't always expected, and she approaches each film in a way that at first seems idiosyncratic, perhaps even a bit scattershot, but the elements she does end up focusing on always turn out to be enlightening and endlessly evocative. I didn't make it all the way to the end because I was looking to familiarize myself with the topic more than study it in depth (and it becomes tedious after awhile to endlessly read about films one hasn't in fact seen), but my "to-watch" has grown ever-longer and I plan to return whenever I catch up with a few more of them.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    I understand that The Haunted Screen is basically the definitive account of German Expressionism, and I can see why that is so. Eisner's book is interesting and very intelligent. She talks about a wide variety of films, some readily available (Metropolis, M, Nosferatu: eine Symphonie des Grauens) and some that she might very well be making up . . . except there are film stills to prove it, so never mind. Anyway, they are currently obscure, is what I'm saying. I don't know if I bought everything I understand that The Haunted Screen is basically the definitive account of German Expressionism, and I can see why that is so. Eisner's book is interesting and very intelligent. She talks about a wide variety of films, some readily available (Metropolis, M, Nosferatu: eine Symphonie des Grauens) and some that she might very well be making up . . . except there are film stills to prove it, so never mind. Anyway, they are currently obscure, is what I'm saying. I don't know if I bought everything she said, but her perspective is refreshingly un-Hollywood. No one will ever convince me that Der blaue Engel is a good movie, though.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Great insight into German Expressionist Film

  13. 5 out of 5

    Maxim K.

    книга, которую нужно прочесть каждому кинокритику, чтобы осознать свое меcто в этой мире.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Emily Crawford-margison

    Awesome. And a lot of the key film references can be found on netflix instant streaming. I highly recommend The Hands of Orlac. =)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Max Nemtsov

    помимо прочих познавательных радостей, которые приносят книги вообще, эта подарила крайне уместный ныне афоризм Готфрида Бенна из "Искусства и власти" (1934): "Новая молодежь принадлежит власти..."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nemo Nox

  17. 5 out of 5

    Novocaines

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jil Sander

  19. 4 out of 5

    Artemy Kozlov

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jason Waldrop

  21. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  23. 4 out of 5

    Thommy

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dean

  25. 5 out of 5

    Billy

  26. 5 out of 5

    Klowey

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Long

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cullen Gallagher

  30. 4 out of 5

    Laura

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