GERMAN CINEMA AND GERMAN SOCIETY
The German cinema of the 1920s, with its morbid subject matter and extreme stylization, has encouraged film researchers to treat the films as reflecting larger social trends. In a controversial study, Siegfried Kracauer has argued that the films of the era after World War I reflect the German people's collective psychological desire to submit themselves to a tyrannical leader. Using this argument, Kracauer interprets many German films as prefiguring Hitler's rise to power in the early 1930s. See his From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1947). In his study, however, Kracauer ignores all the imported films German audiences were seeing in the 1920s. Moreover, he gives equal interpretive emphasis to popular films and to films that few people saw.
Noël Carroll criticizes Kracauer and offers an alternative view of German Expressionism in his "The Cabinet of Dr. Kracauer," Millennium Film Journal 1/2 (spring/summer 1978): 77–85. Paul Monaco seeks to improve on Kracauer by employing the criterion of popularity; see his Cinema and Society: France and Germany during the Twenties (New York: Elsevier, 1976). Tom Levin provides material for a further study of Kracauer's work in "Siegfried Kracauer in English: A Bibliography," New German Critique 41 (spring/summer 1987): 140–50.
RESTORING METROPOLISOne of the most popular German films of all time is Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927). It has served as inspiration for many other movies and has influenced popular ideas about what future cities would look like. But it has remained an elusive masterpiece to reconstruct. For example, the so-called restored version of 1984, released with a pop-music score by Giorgio Morodor, was actually missing well over an hour of footage. Those portions of the film were not believed to exist anywhere.
Researchers persisted in their quest. In the late 1990s, archivist Enno Patalas discovered a print of excellent visual quality. He outlines the history of the restoration of this film in "The City of the Future—A Film of Ruins: On the Work of the Munich Film Museum," in Michael Minden and Holger Bachmann, eds., Fritz Lang's Metropolis: Cinema Visions of Technology and Fear (Rochester: Camden, 2000), pp. 111–22. Patalas also published a script of the film with photos and drawings filling in the lost scenes. See his Metropolis in/aus Trümmern: Eine Filmgeschichte (Berlin: Bertz, 2001).
In 2008, the Museo del Cine archive in Buenos Aires announced that it had discovered a nearly complete print of the full release version of Metropolis. That may sound like an odd place for a version to surface, but Lang's films were very popular in South America during the 1920s. The copy was in poor condition, but careful restoration promised to yield a nearly definitive version of Lang's epic. For links to many online stories about the discovery, including our blog entry summarizing events, see http://daily.greencine.com/archives/006330.html.
EXPRESSIONISM, NEW OBJECTIVITY, AND THE OTHER ARTS
German culture of this era has received an enormous amount of attention. John Willett has written several overviews. His Art and Politics in the Weimar Period, 1917–33 (New York: Pantheon, 1978) relates German culture to the international scene. Willett offers an excellent introduction in Expressionism (New York: World University Library, 1970); The Theatre of the Weimar Republic (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1988), also by Willett, deals with late Expressionism, political theater, and the rise of Naziism.
Other overviews of the arts of this period are Peter Gay's Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider (New York: Harper & Row, 1968) and an anthology edited by Paul Raabe, The Era of German Expressionism (London: Calder & Boyars, 1974). Calder & Boyars has also published a series of translations of German Expressionist plays. For an introduction to both Expressionist and New Objectivity theater, see H. F. Garten, Modern German Drama (New York: Grove Press, 1959). Several representative German Expressionist plays are available in An Anthology of German Expressionist Drama: A Prelude to the Absurd, ed. Walter H. Sokel (New York: Doubleday, 1963).
For an English-language introduction to New Objectivity, see Neue Sachlichkeit and German Realism of the Twenties (London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1979).