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Expressionism in the Cinema

Edited by Olaf Brill, Gary D. Rhodes

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From classical to contemporary narratives, this book redefines the expressionist aesthetic

One of the most visually striking traditions in cinema, for too long Expressionism has been a neglected critical category of research in film history and aesthetics. The fifteen essays in this anthology remedies this by revisiting key German films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Nosferatu (1922), and also provides original critical research into more obscure titles like Nerven (1919) and The Phantom Carriage (1921), films that were produced in the silent and early sound era in countries ranging from France, Sweden and Hungary, to the United States and Mexico.

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Editors’ Introduction
Section I: Expressionism in German Cinema
Expressionist Cinema: Style and Design in Film History, Thomas Elsaesser
Of Nerves and Men: Postwar Delusion and Robert Reinert’s Nerven, Steve Choe
Franjo Ledić: A Forgotten Pioneer of German Expressionism, Daniel Rafaelić
Expressionist Film and Gender: Genuine, A Tale of a Vampire (1920), Mirjam Kappes
‘The Secrets of Nature and Its Unifying Principles’: Nosferatu (1922) and Jakob von Uexküll on Umwelt, Steve Choe
Raskolnikow (1923): Russian Literature as Impetus for German Expressionism, John T. Soister
Section II: Expressionism in Global Cinema
The Austrian Connection: The Frame Story and Insanity in Paul Czinner’s Inferno (1919) and Fritz Freisler’s The Mandarin (1918), Olaf Brill
‘The rewakening of French cinema’: expression and innovation in Abel Gance’s J’accuse! (1919), Paul Cuff
Here Among the Dead: The Phantom Carriage (1921) and the Cinema of the Occulted Taboo, Robert Guffey
Drakula halála (1921): The Cinema’s First Dracula, Gary D. Rhodes
Le Brasier ardent (1923): Ivan Mosjoukine’s clind’œil to German Expressionism, Bernard McCarron
Nietzsche’s Fingerprints on The Hands of Orlac (1924), Phillip Sipiora
‘True, Nervous’: American Expressionist Cinema and the Destabilized Male, Robert Singer
Dos monjes (1934) and the Tortured Search for Truth, David J. Hogan
Maya Deren in Person in Expressionism, Graeme Harper
Author Biographies

About the Author

Olaf Brill is a German-based freelance writer and editor for film institutes, museums and festivals, including the German Film Institute – DIF, Frankfurt, the Filmmuseum Berlin, and CineGraph, Hamburg.

Gary D. Rhodes is Head of Film & Mass Media at the University of Central Florida. He is the author of Lugosi (1997), White Zombie: Anatomy of a Horror Film (2002), Emerald Illusions: The Irish in Early American Cinema (2012) and The Perils of Moviegoing in America (2012). Rhodes is also the writer-director of the documentary films Lugosi: Hollywood's Dracula (1997) and Banned in Oklahoma (2004). Currently he is at work on a history of the American horror film to 1915, as well as a biography of William Fox.


‘Whoever reduced Expressionism to German silent cinema so far, will be positively surprised by the multifariously told colourful mixture of international texts.’

- 35 millimeter Retro-Filmmagazin

The essays in Brill and Rhodes’ Expressionism in the Cinema not only extend the scholarship on Expressionist films, though that, in itself, would be ample contribution. They also capture the essence—the imagery, the irony, the worldview—that animates these films, and create thoughtful connections to wider social and cultural processes.

Cynthia Miller, Emerson College

'Expressionism in the Cinema is itself a production of variegated efforts. It is diverse. It is polytechnic. It ranges from the purely Expressionistic production to the margins of Expressionistic influence. It combines fine critical insights with imaginative intellectual linkages. In this manner, the authors do in fact achieve an authoritative appraisal of Expressionist cinema, both within and without Germany.'

- Andrew Thomas Croft, Forest Independent Primary Collegiate, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television

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