The film style German Expressionism was introduced in the 1920’s and was heavily influenced by the confusion and social destruction of Germany post-World War one. The German Expressionist cinema dominated horror and the artistic genre during the silent era and influencing various directors like Dan Gilroy and Tim Burton. This essay will explore the elements of German Expressionism, its history and primarily explore a key modern contemporary western film that has been influenced by German expressionism, Tim Burton’s 1990 film Edward Scissorhands.
German expressionism began in the early days of film, at the beginning of the twentieth century (Cinemablography, 2015). During the period of economic and social change, filmmakers in Germany found it difficult to compete with the big-budgeted, mass production of Hollywood so instead they developed their own style by incorporating symbolism to expose deeper meanings and emotions. This was an experiment of bold new ideas and artistic styles. Two key, most recognizable expressionist films that are mainstream in the modern cinema are F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927).
German Expressionist films were characterized by highly stylized sets and acting style (Wikipedia, 2015) through the use of various filmic techniques. These filmic techniques include contrasted the light and dark to create shadows and other effects which were intended to portray and arouse emotion and the use of chiaroscuro lighting is employed to manipulate light and darkness to achieve the illusion of depth. Another significant technique of German expressionism is the use of extensive sets, often inspired by the Expressionist art on which this form of cinema is based.