“I only fell in love once with a movie actor. It was Conrad Veidt. His magnetism and his personality got me. His voice and gestures fascinated me. I hated him, feared him, loved him. When he died it seemed to me that a vital part of my imagination died too, and my world of dreams was bare.”
Quoted from one of the documents compiled in British Cinemas and Their Audiences by J.P. Mayer.
He had a lean, chiseled face that could’ve belonged to a regal nobleman, a sickly poet, or a sinister villain. His blue eyes could burn with the fury of a madman, or grow wide and distant as if trying to forget terrible secrets. But they could become warm and friendly too, especially if you were chatting with this tall, distinguished man about his greatest passion: dramatic acting. “I must have the dramatic, the ecstatic,” he told an interviewer in 1928, “something with great mental force.”
Known today for such horror classics as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Man Who Laughs, Hans Walter Conrad Veidt (nicknamed “Connie”) came from a quiet and sensible background. Continue reading
So if The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari took German Expressionism and ran with it, From Morn To Midnight took it, ran with it, jumped on a motorcycle and rode it screaming straight through a brick wall.
All a horror film need promise is horror — the unspeakable, the terrifying, the merciless, the lurching monstrous figure of destruction. It needs no stars, only basic production values, just the ability to promise horror. —Roger Ebert
When I was little, my family had this big book full of pictures of movie stars and scenes from classic films.
Some I knew–I loved The Wizard of Oz so much that once I watched it every day for a week, and I’d grown up with people like Jimmy Stewart and Lucille Ball. But at the beginning of the book, where the pictures of the silent film stars were (all I knew back then were a couple names, Chaplin and Mary Pickford) there was one still labelled “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919).”
This is the one.
You run into it time and time again when reading about film history: “German Expressionism, German Expressionism.” It pops up even more than “French New Wave,” another term that tends to make people’s eyes glaze over. Silent newbies and casual fans probably wonder: just what exactly was this movement that all the film historians go nuts for?
To answer that, we have to glance through a little art history, learn a bit of theater history, reflect on WWI and Germany, and get acquainted with how “the ghosts which haunted the German Romantics had revived, like the shades of Hades after draughts of blood.”
Or something like that. Bear with me, for there’s a lot of pieces to put together to get a good picture of German Expressionism. Continue reading