Cedarburg Art Museum Film Studies

Proposal: The Art of Film: Horror & German Expressionism

Still from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Still from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

On the website Rotten Tomatoes, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is rated 100 percent. In fact, the “landmark of cinematic artistry” is the site’s fifth-best movie of all time. Site critics say:

“Arguably the first true horror film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari sets a brilliantly high bar for the genre—and remains terrifying nearly a century after it first stalked the screen.”

German Expressionist film comprises a mere 30 works made in the 1920s and early 30s. Many were masterpieces of true genius, and together they still influence filmmakers everywhere. The horror genre in particular bears hallmarks set by German Expressionist filmmakers.

Still from Nosferatu
Still from Nosferatu

Vampires have never been more chilling than Max Schreck’s Count Orlok in F.W. Murnau’s 1922  Nosferatu, the first film based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Turner Classic Movies says Nosferatu is “one of the most foreboding and influential horror films in the history of cinema.” The late critic Roger Ebert wrote:

“To watch F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu is to see the vampire movie before it had really seen itself. Here is the story of Dracula before it was buried alive in clichés, jokes, TV skits, cartoons and more than 30 other films.”

Screenings of restored versions of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu are cornerstones of “Part 3: Horror and German Expressionism” in the proposed four-week, six-session, course The Art of Film: Wonders of Early Film.

The Art of Film proposal PDF 182kb

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