Explorations

Weimar Classics and Film Theory


This page suggests ways in which theoretical texts from The Promise of Cinema might be aligned with classic films of the Weimar Republic. Viewing these films through the lens of theory helps us to tease out and illuminate the underlying theoretical projects and aesthetic questions that animate these works. In this way, the emphasis of analysis shifts from questions of plot, characters, the director’s style, and overall meaning, to the exploration of film-theoretical, film-historical, and conceptual questions (i.e. questions of filmic representation, perception; intermediality, media specificity, technology, spectatorial manipulation, self-reflexivity, etc., as well as the film’s historical moment and discursive force field).

The listed texts are meant to assist in the endeavor to study films analytically, and in turn, many of the films point to the larger theoretical issues that they indirectly, and often unawares, address and work through – theoretical issues that are still debated today. (For examples, see our lexicon of media concepts).

All listed texts are merely suggestions and could easily be augmented with further titles. We invite you to explore different pairings. For a list of films beyond the canon, click here.


THE BASIC CANON


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920)
  • Bernhard Diebold, Expressionism and Cinema (1916, no. 189)
  • Gertrud David, The Expressionist Film (1919, no. 190)
  • B., Expressionism in Film (1920, no. 191)
  • Ernst Angel, An ‘Expressionist’ Film (1920, no. 191)
  • Oskar Kalbus, The Muteness of the Film Image (1920, no. 219)
  • Robert Wiene, Expressionism in Film (1922, no. 195)
  • Joe May, The Style of the Export Film (1922, no. 129)

Alternative Films: Nerves (1919); From Morning to Midnight (1920); Genuine (1921)


The Golem: How He Came into the World (Paul Wegener, 1920)
  • Berthold Viertel, In the Cinematographic Theater (1910, no. 32)
  • Albert Hellwig, Illusions and Hallucinations during Cinematographic Projections (1914, no. 16)
  • Friedrich Freksa, Theater, Pantomime and Cinema (1916, no. 48)
  • Bernhard Diebold, Expressionism and Cinema (1916, no. 189)
  • Paul Wegener, On the Artistic Possibilities of the Motion Picture (1917, no. 88)
  • Oskar Kalbus, The Muteness of the Film Image (1920, no. 219)
  • Hans Pander, Intertitles (1923, no. 221)
  • Béla Balázs, The Educational Values of Film Art (1925, no. 54)

Alternative Films: Warning Shadows (1923); Wax Works (1924)


Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922)
  • Hans Hennes, Cinematography in the Service of Neurology and Psychiatry (1910, no. 233)
  • Osvaldo Polimanti, The Cinematograph in Biological and Medical Science (1911, no. 234)
  • Carl Hauptmann, Film and Theater (1919, no. 49)
  • Hugo von Hofmannsthal, A Substitute for Dreams (1921, no. 176)
  • Albin Grau, Lighting Design in Film (1922, no. 220)
  • Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau, My Ideal Screenplay (1924, no. 223)
  • Eugen R. Schlesinger, Kulturfilm and Cinema (1924, no. 243)
  • Rudolf Kurtz, Limitations of the Expressionist Film (1926, no. 197)
  • Henrik Galeen, Fantastic Film (1929, no. 200)

Alternative Films: Phantom (1922); Secrets of a Soul (1926);


The Last Laugh (F.W. Murnau, 1924)
  • Oskar Diehl, Mimic Expression in Film (1922, no. 50)
  • Friedrich Sieburg, The Magic of the Body (1923, no. 52)
  • Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau, My Ideal Screenplay (1924, no. 223)
  • Guido Seeber, The Delirious Camera (1925, no. 226)
  • Karl Freund, Behind My Camera (1927, no. 229)
  • Emil Jannings, Miming and Speaking (1930, no. 60)
  • René Fülöp-Miller, Fantasy by the Meter (1931, no. 187)

Alternative Films: Backstairs (1921); Shattered (1921); Destiny (1921); Joyless Street (1925)


The Holy Mountain (Arnold Fanck, 1926)
  • Arno Arndt, Sports on Film (1912, no. 11)
  • Siegfried Kracauer, Mountains, Clouds, People (1925, no. 42)
  • Riefenstahl, How I Came to Film . . . (1926, no. 55)
  • Lotte H. Eisner and Rudolf von Laban, Film and Dance Belong Together (1928, no. 58)
  • Béla Balázs, The Case of Dr. Fanck (1931, no. 29

Alternative Films: The Blue Light (1932); Storm over the Mont Blanc (1930); Ways to Strength and Beauty (1926); S.O.S. Iceberg (1933)


Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)
  • Béla Balázs, The Revolutionary Film (1922, no. 158)
  • Fritz Lang, Kitsch – Sensation – Culture and Film (1924, no. 90)
  • Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau, My Ideal Screenplay (1924, no. 223)
  • Willy Haas, Why We Love Film (1926, no. 149)
  • Siegfried Kracauer, The Klieg Lights Stay On (1926, no. 159)
  • László Moholy-Nagy, film at the bauhaus: a rejoinder (1926, no. 206)
  • Fritz Lang, Looking towards the Future (1926, no. 228)
  • Eugen Schüfftan, My Process (1926, no. 269)
  • Film-Kurier, Film in the New Germany (1928, no. 123)
  • Carl Laemmle, Film Germany and Film America (1928, no. 136)
  • Ernst Toller, Who Will Create the German Revolutionary Film? (1928, no. 166)

Alternative Films: Die Nibelungen (Siegfried; Kriemhild’s Revenge, 1924); Faust (1926)


Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (Walter Ruttman, 1927)
  • Yvan Goll, The Cinedram (1920, no. 20)
  • Robert Breuer, The Film of Factuality (1927, no. 199)
  • Walter Ruttmann, How I Made My Berlin Film (1927, no. 207)
  • Colin Ross, Exotic Journeys with a Camera (1928, no. 24)
  • Walter Ruttmann, The “Absolute” Fashion: Film as an End in Itself (1928, no. 208)
  • Siegfried Kracauer, Abstract Film (1928, no. 209)
  • Erich Burger, Pictures-Pictures (1929, no 27)
  • Albrecht Viktor Blum, Documentary and Artistic Film (1929, no. 45)
  • Lotte H. Eisner, Avant-garde for the Masses (1929, no. 216)

Alternative Films: Asphalt (1929); Melody of the World (1929)


Further titles will be added soon.