But in the movies I can dream. Dreams, he argued, satisfy unmet, repressed desires, of which modern human beings, cooped up in big cities and leading abstract, alienated lives, have a great many. Freud did not specifically write about the cinema, but his ideas about visual pleasure, dreams, and the unconscious have had a major influence on thinking about film and its function. It is probably not a coincidence that the German psychiatrist Otto Rank, one of Freuds followers, began a treatise on the psychological problem of the Doppelgnger the double with an invocation of Der Student von Prag.
Film, Rank argued, reminds us of dream techniques in more ways than one, expresses certain psychological facts and 16 17 18 Ewers, Der Film und ich, in Kino-Debatte, The film was largely successful on these terms, as a review in one journal noted: The film is not just capable of being a surrogate for this or that art it is much more a means for creating a self-sufficient and worthy art of a distinctive kind. To express it simply and clearly: film creates a bridge between painting and poetry both arts which we have until now thought of as divided by irreconcilable boundaries.
It[s] means go beyond those of painters, since it joins images with movement, and thus crosses over into the domain of drama; yet it does not inherit fully the domain of drama, since it lacks dialogue. As a screenwriter, Ewers asserted the films high-art status by immersing Der Student von Prag in the literary atmosphere of German Romanticism. For Ewers, film gave to ordinary people the Romanticism that they were lacking in ordinary life.
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The cinema, he argued a year before the film was made, is a feast for the eyes of our blind longing. And if you dont want to believe that our era is Romantic, then go to the movies. The masses want Romanticism and the movies give it to them. It also draws on a number of Romantic motifs: the act of selling part of oneself to an evil power harks back to the most famous German national legend, that of Faust, who sold his soul to the devil and was ultimately damned. The idea of a mirror image recalls Romantic motifs of the Doppelgnger or double, and people selling their shadow.
For instance, Adalbert von Chamissos celebrated Peter Schlemihl tells the story of a man who becomes separated from his shadow, and E. Harry Tucker, Jr. Kristin Thompson, Im Anfang war. Usai and Codelli, ; here, The Irish writer Oscar Wilde, whose primary works appeared shortly before the invention of cinema in , also wrote books and fairy tales based on similar motifs, such as his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and his story The Fisherman and His Soul.
In all such stories there is something distinctly threatening about being separated from ones mirror image or ones shadow. The separation suggests that somewhere there is an alternate self running around and committing crimes in ones own name, and that one can do nothing to stop it; one has literally lost control of oneself.
Frequently this loss of ones mirror image or ones shadow occurs because of a Faustian pact with an evil being, and one must pay for it, as the legendary Faust did, with the loss of ones soul. In the case of Der Student von Prag, the student Balduins double constantly torments and stalks him, and in the end the protagonist shoots his mirror image with his revolver, only to discover that he has actually killed himself. Psychologically, the Doppelgnger was always just a projection of the protagonist Balduins own evil tendencies.
The story thus revolves around narcissism, madness, magic, individual identity, violence, and suicide all common elements of German Romanticism. In making the film, Ewers and Wegener were demonstrating that film is just as capable as literature of dealing with Romantic motifs, and that film can play an important role in propagating the values of the German Kulturnation a nation based on notions of culture.
One critic, commenting ironically on the films premiere, conjured up the spirits of Ewerss literary predecessors as spectators: It was a real premire. A lot of tuxedoes. The poet sat in a private box, occasionally visible with very pretty ladies. A monocle gave its master the necessary bearing. Goethe, Chamisso, E.
Hoffmann, Alfred de Musset, and Oscar Wilde were also present. Very literary. The blood races through your veins in a highly satisfactory and ghostly way during this fantastic drama. Kracauer wrote the book in exile in Originally cited in Htte ich das Kino! Die Schriftsteller und der Stummfilm, ed. Due to their collective production, films reflect as Kracauer insists the collective mentality of a nation, the superindividual layer, much more directly than traditional arts.
Whereas contemporary literary authors, Freksa argued, were interested primarily in forcing upon viewers their own individual thoughts and morality, thus ensuring that literature was no longer the instrument of a universal cultural force like the poets of the Greek era, cinema allowed viewers to find their own vision, and thus it expressed a more generally applicable collective feeling. The people, Freksa claimed, have the age-old, purely artistic approach: they want the events, the experiences, what they can grasp in their hands and they want to create their own morality and ideas themselves.
Cinema allowed for this kind of freedom, Freksa believed, making it possible for ordinary people to see the amazing things that they know from novels or local legends. Such a reading might also point out that the protagonist Balduins actions are ultimately self-destructive, since the film ends in suicide; such a reading might infer from this the presence of a German national death wish.
Kracauer himself calls Der Student von Siegfried Kracauer, letter to Carl Mayer, 29 May Prag a dreamlike transcription of what the German middle class actually experienced in its relation to the feudal caste running Germany prior to the First World War. However, in positing the existence of a collective psyche, Kracauer has the support of Sigmund Freud, who argued in one of his most famous essays, Das Unbehagen in der Kultur Civilization and its Discontents, that there truly is something like a collective superego and collective psychic illnesses.
The process of civilization, Freud wrote, is one of uniting separate individuals into a community bound together by libidinal ties. Another way of looking at a film like Der Student von Prag is to focus on its formal elements and qualities and to ask what they have to say about the process of watching a film itself. A film, after all, is a visual event: it appeals to the eye.
Hence, it is entirely legitimate to ask in what ways a particular film deals with the visual, and with the act of looking. This aspect of film is particularly important for early film, since in the first decades of films existence cinematographers still had to educate audiences and themselves about the difference between reality and the illusion they were seeing on the screen. It is striking how predominant the problem of vision is in Der Student von Prag: after all, the entire film revolves around a mirror image and its presence or absence.
The protagonist Balduin becomes obsessed with the actions of his Doppelgnger, 29 30 31 Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, trans. Norton, , Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, Certainly Der Student von Prag is, among other things, a demonstration of films considerable technical possibilities, even at this early stage of film history: it is possible to make mirror images appear or disappear in a movie.
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The films star Paul Wegener noted three years after the making of Der Student von Prag: When I made my first movie three years ago, I did it because I believed I had an idea that could not be carried out in any other art form. I recalled trick photographs where a man played cards with himself or a student crossed swords with himself. I knew that this could be accomplished through dividing the pictures surface, and I said to myself: that must be possible in cinema, and here one could show E.
Hoffmanns fantasies of the Doppelgnger or the mirror image in reality, thus producing effects impossible in any other art form. The entire world of film is a Doppelgnger world that gives its viewers an extraordinary feeling of reality, and it can induce confusion, madness, and even self-destruction or so, at least, many critics feared in films first few decades. Cinemas figures become separated from the actors who play them and ultimately lead an independent existence, continuing to move about the screen even long after the actors who played them are gone.
All of these problems are reflected in Der Student von Prag, and they echo the various arguments made in the Kino-Debatte about the power and danger of film as a medium. The evil deeds of the protagonists mirror image might then be seen to reveal a deep underlying anxiety about the power of film to make people do things they wish they wouldnt do.
This is a debate that, in various forms, is with us to this day. Ewers, Geleitwort zu Der Student von Prag, Many of them, such as Lubitsch, Lang, and Dietrich, ultimately wound up in Hollywood, either before or soon after the Nazi ascension to power put an end to the Weimar Republic in January of Weimar classics like Murnaus Nosferatu or Langs Metropolis continue to have an impact on world cinema today, and Weimar Expressionism and the Weimar detective film ultimately mutated in the United States into film noir in the s and s, often under the leadership of directors who had gotten their start in Germany in the s: people like Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, or Robert Siodmak.
The development of German cinema in the Weimar period was closely connected to political and economic events. In general, Germanys cultural strength in the s stood in marked contrast to its political and military weakness. The Weimar Republic, which put an end to the Kaiserreich empire that had lasted from German national unification under Kaiser Wilhelm I in to the end of the First World War in , was the first German democracy. From the very beginning, it was characterized by profound political instability.
The Weimar Republic began with a humiliating national defeat Germanys military defeat at the hands of England, France, and the United States, in which over two million German men lost their lives and many millions more were wounded and ended in exhaustion and chaos in a kind of republican suicide, when the aged aristocratic war hero President Paul von Hindenburg, who had never been a strong proponent of German democracy anyway, handed power to Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party.
Weimar history is generally divided into three periods. This initial period of Weimar history culminated in the great inflation of , in which the German currency, the Reichsmark, lost virtually all of its value, and many ordinary citizens saw their life savings disappear; it ended with the American-assisted stabilization of the currency at the end of The second period of Weimar history, , was a period of relative political and economic stability in which the German economy recovered and even began to prosper. During this period, antagonisms between the left wing and the right wing diminished somewhat, and the political center grew stronger; Germany also entered into treaties of friendship with many of its former enemies.
Finally, the period witnessed Germanys rapid slide into economic and political chaos; it ended with Hindenburgs appointment of Hitler as Chancellor of the Reich on January 30, This third period of Weimar history saw the onset of the world economic crisis known in the United States as the Great Depression, a massive rise in unemployment in Germany over six million by and increasingly violent and open street fights between the growing National Socialist German Workers Party NSDAP the Nazi partys official name and the Communist party, which was dominated by the newly formed Soviet Union.
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Paradoxically, the economic history of the German film industry more or less precisely mirrored the political and economic history of the Weimar Republic, but in a negative way. When Germany as a whole was doing well economically and politically i. What at first seems counterintuitive turns out to make eminent economic and political sense. In the early years of the Weimar Republic, when the German currency was relatively worthless, the German market was not attractive to foreign filmmakers, and therefore the German film industry faced little economic competition.
Moreover, the very weakness of the German currency gave German filmmakers an advantage when competing abroad: a movie like Robert Wienes Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari , made at a time of tremendous economic and political turmoil in Germany, was an economic and artistic success in the United States and elsewhere.
schertourrilirans.tk With the stabilization of the German economy in , the German market became an attractive target for foreign particularly American producers, and the German film industry went through years of financial crisis in which even prestige projects like Fritz Langs Metropolis turned into financial flops. Finally, with the onset of the worldwide economic crisis in The political turmoil und uncertainty that so often characterized the Weimar Republic are well reflected in its films, from Das Cabinet des Dr.
Caligari through F. In many of these films, particularly in Metropolis, one sees large groups of people stricken with uncertainty and fear and sometimes openly rebelling against the established political order. Many of the most important films of the Weimar Republic show established authority as problematic or even crippled. Cinema thus gave expression to a very real sense of change and insecurity that persisted throughout the Weimar Republic. At the same time, for many high-culture critics, cinema itself became associated with unwanted cultural or political change, and with the very masses who presumably represented a threat to the established order.
Many of the same criticisms of cinema as an art form for the uneducated masses that had been leveled prior to continued to be leveled at cinema in the years of the Weimar Republic. In , for instance, the conservative critic Wilhelm Stapel warned that cinema was contributing to the radicalization of the despised masses: Under the influence of cinema a new kind of psychological type is growing up among us.
A kind of person who thinks only in crude generalizations, who lets himself be sucked without resistance from impression to impression, who no longer has the ability to make clear, self-determined judgments. The kind of person who already caused calamities during the revolution, and who will grow and grow, remaking culture including political culture in his own image, as more generations go through the psychological wringer of the cinematic apparatus.