Happy October. For the season, I’m doing a TikTok series on the brief film movement that would be foundational to both the horror and film noir genres: German Expressionism.
Following the loss of World War 1, the German people were afflicted with malaise, alienation, terror, and grief. During the war, foreign film was banned and while inflation made the value of goods yo yo, Germans found value in spending what they had on entertainment. As they moved into the Weimar era, German filmmakers found their business flourishing and internationally appreciated. Through this rich business, the avant-garde and expressionists would assert their place in cinematic history.
Creators Fritz Lang, Robert Wiene, Henrik Galeen, FW Murnau, and many others, would be among the first to take cinema seriously. The German Expressionists advanced film technology for the sake of expression, for making films about psychological crisis, deep emotion, and intense aesthetics. As many of them had experienced war and disenfranchisement firsthand, German Expressionists dwelled on the contrast between light and darkness. They were more interested in showcasing and exploring emotions than they were objective reality. Hence the propensity for these films to depict horrors and tragedy.
As the Weimar era was one of great artistic innovation and advancement and progressive social dynamics, queers, Jewish people, women, and the fringes would find opportunity to express themselves. While this was happening, however, the specter of fascism was rising, feeding off of the suffering and resentment of gentile German citizens and redirecting them toward those who had found prevalence, particularly, of course, the Jewish community and queer folk.
Many directors and creators behind German Expressionism would flee Germany for the United States. There they would help perpetuate a new age of horror and film noir.
I write noir. My San Francisco private detective mystery, The Clear Case, publishes November 1st. My writing has always been heavily influenced by film; and in The Clear Case, it’s film noir. Without German Expressionism there would be no noir. And if there were no noir, there’d be no me!
So join me this October on TikTok to discuss four classic German Expressionist titles. It should get you in the mood for a season of horror and decay, ahead of the bleak, cold, looming winter.
Coming November 1st!
Private detective Mel Gance has never met a face he couldn’t read; that is until now, as hotel heiress Cecilia Le Cleur expressionlessly tells him about the case that will soak his favorite suit in blood and mark 1947 as the spring everything changed.