Expressionism and Film
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Expressionism and Film, originally published in German in 1926, is not only a classic of film history, but also an important work from the early phase of modern media history. Written with analytical brilliance and historical vision by a well-known contemporary of the expressionist movement, it captures Expressionism at the time of its impending conclusion—as an intersection of world view, resoluteness of form, and medial transition. Though one of the most frequently-cited works of Weimar culture, Kurtz's groundbreaking work, which is on a par with Siegfried Kracauer's From Caligari to Hitler and Lotte Eisner's The Haunted Screen, has never been published in English. Its relevance and historical contexts are analyzed in a concise afterword by the Swiss scholars Christian Kiening and Ulrich Johannes Beil.

The Meaning of Expressionism
World View
Film and Expressionism
The Expressionist Film
Expressionist Elements in Film
Abstract Art
Style in Expressionist Film
Limitations of the Expressionist Film
Afterword by Christian Kiening and Ulrich Johannes Beil



Publié par
Date de parution 21 mars 2016
Nombre de lectures 5
EAN13 9780861969227
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 6 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0500€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Rudolf Kurtz
Edited with an afterword by Christian Kiening and Ulrich Johannes Beil Translated by Brenda Benthien
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue entry for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN: 9780 86196 718 6 (Paperback edition)
Cover illustration: Paul Leni.
Original title: Rudolf Kurtz: Expressionismus und Film .
Nachdruck der Ausgabe von 1926. Herausgegeben und mit einem Nachwort versehen von Christian Kiening und Ulrich Johannes Beil.
Z rich: Chronos 2007, second edition 2011 (Medienwandel - Medienwechsel - Medienwissen, vol. 2).
Published by
John Libbey Publishing Ltd, 3 Leicester Road, New Barnet, Herts EN5 5EW, United Kingdom
e-mail: ; web site:
Distributed worldwide by Indiana University Press,
Herman B Wells Library - 350, 1320 E. 10th St., Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.
2016 Copyright John Libbey Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.
Unauthorised duplication contravenes applicable laws.
Printed and bound in China by 1010 Printing International Ltd.
T his small book makes a text accessible to the English speaking reader that is not only a classic of film history, but also an important work from the early phase of modern media history. Expressionismus und Film by Rudolf Kurtz, which appeared first in 1926 in the Verlag der Lichtbildb hne in Berlin (with 73 reproductions, 5 colour plates and a cover illustration by Paul Leni) is a book by a well-known contemporary of the expressionist movement. Written with analytical brilliance and historical vision, it captures Expressionism at the time of its impending conclusion - as an intersection of world view, resoluteness of form, and medial transition. Though there exist translations into French and Italian (without the original illustrations), a long-desired translation into English has not been previously undertaken. The editors are grateful to film expert Brenda Benthien who enthusiastically translated the 1926 original as well as the afterword to the German reprint (2007) which appears here in a revised, slightly shortened and actualized form. They would also like to thank the National Centre of Competence in Research Mediality - Historical Perspectives (Zurich) for its financial support, the publisher of the German reprint (Zurich: Chronos) for providing the reproductions of the plates of the 1926 original, and John Libbey, who made it possible to give this book a new home. We are convinced that it has not lost its relevance after ninety years.
Zurich, Summer 2015 Christian Kiening and Ulrich Johannes Beil

Colour Plate I. Walter Reimann, design for Caligari (Ufa-Decla Film).
The Meaning of Expressionism
World View
1 Art
Visual Arts
Music (by Walter Harburger)
Applied Arts
2 Film and Expressionism
Set Design
3 The Expressionist Film
From Morn till Midnight
The House on the Moon
Expressionist Elements in Film
4 Abstract Art
Viking Eggeling
Hans Richter
Walter Ruttmann
Fernand L ger
Fernand Picabia
5 Style in Expressionist Film
Set Designers
6 Limitations of the Expressionist Film
7 Perspectives
Afterword by Christian Kiening and Ulrich Johannes Beil
List of Illustrations
NB: In the original edition, the table of contents is placed after the dedication to Jannings and the foreword by Kurtz. Kurtz s occasional misspellings of names have been tacitly corrected throughout the text.
The Man
The Artist
The Friend
The aphoristic nature of this work can be explained by my desire to allow its methodic disposition to prove useful to readers with as wide
a range of experience as possible, without overloading the work textually. I am indebted to Walter Harburger, who wrote the chapter on music, as well as Hans Richter and Heinrich Fraenkel, for their friendly assistance. And last, but not least, to my publisher, who provided the stimulus for the work, and made possible its rich illustration.
C atchwords are coined without their exactly meaning anything. People form them like technical acronyms, making them up out of the first letters of words. Wumba [ Waffen- und Munitionsbeschaffungsamt ] and Priteg [ Privat-Telefon-Gesellschaft ] are merely suggestive sounds with no content, which can easily be remembered.
If the catchword catches on though, a strange process begins. It takes on colour, meaning, content from the activities to which it refers. The more things it stands for, the more strongly it grasps the public imagination; the longer it remains in use, the more clearly certain characteristics can be extracted from it. If the catchword should manage to make emotional associations come alive, then its meaning becomes more comprehensible through use. Words such as Classicism , Romanticism , or Biedermeier are by now well-characterized historical descriptors.
The same is true of the much-debated word Expressionism . When first used at the young painters conventicles, it was a rallying cry against the prevailing Impressionism - a term which itself was coined in much the same way. At first there was no particular programme associated with the word: it arose from a feeling rather than definable thought. But the movement arose at a favourable point in history, and the label stuck. People who use the word Expressionism today are convinced that they have conveyed a certain intellectual point of view.
There is no clear definition to be found in the significant body of literature on Expressionism. Psychologists, aestheticians and historians of the phrase dwell more on atmospheric descriptions than on rational definitions. Perhaps the difficulty lies in the fact that Expressionism covers a wealth of phenomena, which only appear uniform by virtue of their confrontation with the Impressionistic point of view which they commonly oppose.
T he term Expressionism arose in connection with works of fine art. However, our scope would be too narrow if we looked for its defining properties exclusively in the works of painters. If we to concern ourselves with something larger than just the playful experiments of a clique, we must recognize the face of this movement in a certain type of modern man.
Expressionism never aspired to be less than a kind of world view . Works of art do not take shape at the discretion of individuals; they are formed of historic necessity. If Expressionism is to be considered a historic movement, it must bear the hallmark of a particular generation - though its character has also weakened, in accordance with the lives and professions of its representatives.
The problem becomes most apparent when we consider the origin of the word. Expressionism did not protest against painterly details; it demanded a revision of the entirety of human behaviour. Impressionistic man attempted to develop a maximum amount of sensitivity, to capture the momentary impulse, the joy and fate of the instant. It was a matter of sensitive skin, of nuance, of sensibility . The fleetingness of the impulse stood in inverse relation to the magnitude of the response.
It is the task of historiography to redefine the characteristics of this generation, based on the intellectual activity of the human race to around 1910. Impressionists are sensitive, introspective natures, their emotional lives finding expression in the masterful painting of Manet, their consciences shaped by the characters in the dramatic world of Ibsen. Out of the shadows that cast their reflections on the soul, Strindberg s ghostly diorama takes shape, hovering between world angst and mortal fury. [Karl Gottfried] Lamprecht, in his Deutsche Geschichte [ German History ], attempted to explain the behaviour of this type as resulting from Reizsamkeit [ sensibility ], which is just a Germanization of the word Impressionism . Richard Hamann, in his work on Impressionism [1907] - which wanders through the depth and width of various branches of culture - undertakes to flesh out this type with richer details. Generally speaking, impressionist man is characterized by his belief in the omnipotence of psychology. Empathy and understanding are the bulwarks of his world of understanding, and even metaphysics becomes a function of psychological deliberation.

Figure 1. Pablo Picasso, Nude ; 2007 ProLitteris, Zurich.
The antithesis to this focus may be found in Expressionism. The new painters want to get away from the time-bound, away from the moment, away from impression and toward creation. It goes without saying that it s unfair nowadays to simply write off impressionist art as lacking creative purpose. But fairness requires the consideration of the morals of history, rather than of active history as it s happening, in catastrophes and explosions.
Expressionism seeks not to passively accept; it seeks to create. This new direction heralds an attitude of the will. The expressionist philosophy unleashes forms of reality - though not by taking them from somehow photographable everyday life. The accentuation of the creative is the new embodiment of the European soul. A new type is emerging in art, taking the place of the reflection and the paradoxy of impressionist man. We see it in the machi

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