German expressionism was formed to break away from the film conventions of other movements in Europe and Hollywood. It was described as being different, knocking down the norms of European and Hollywood cinema conventions. At the time of its birth it was experimental, daring, challenging and artistic. The exploration of new ideas through the supernatural was particularly interesting as it tackled various subjects such as madness, insanity, betrayal and other intellectual topics. German Expressionism challenges the conventions and norms of realism. It goes against it completely choosing to explore the emotional reality of a subject rather than the surface.
Characteristics of Expressionist Cinema include:
– Bio-mechnical acting
– 2 dimensional simple sets, high contrast lighting, distorted shadows/ silhouettes
– The use of continuity, editing, shot transitions
– Fantasy/ Horror narratives or framed stories set in the past
The German expressionist film movement was very short lived. It dies out in the 1920s. However, the themes of Expressionism were integrated into later films of the 1920s and 1930s, resulting in an artistic control over the placement of scenery and light to enhance the mood of a film.