Expressionism and Film

Expressionism and Film

Rudolf Kurtz, edited by Christian Kiening and Ulrich Johannes Beil, translated by Brenda Benthien
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 03/21/2016
Format: Paperback 5 color illus., 85 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-861-96718-6
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Expressionism and Film, originally published in German in 1926, is not only a classic of film history, but also an important work from the early phase of modern media history. Written with analytical brilliance and historical vision by a well-known contemporary of the expressionist movement, it captures Expressionism at the time of its impending conclusion—as an intersection of world view, resoluteness of form, and medial transition. Though one of the most frequently-cited works of Weimar culture, Kurtz’s groundbreaking work, which is on a par with Siegfried Kracauer’s From Caligari to Hitler and Lotte Eisner’s The Haunted Screen, has never been published in English. Its relevance and historical contexts are analyzed in a concise afterword by the Swiss scholars Christian Kiening and Ulrich Johannes Beil.

Author Bio

Rudolf Kurtz (1884–1960) was a leading participant in the German Expressionist movement, contributing a multitude of essays, lampoons, reviews, and commentaries. From 1914 until his death he worked in the film industry, writing scripts and directing his own movies.

Christian Kiening is Professor of Germanic Studies at the University of Zurich, Director of the National Competence Centre for Research Mediality, and co-editor of Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte.

Ulrich Johannes Beil is Privatdozent at the University of Munich and Senior Researcher at the National Competence Centre for Research Mediality at the University of Zurich.

Brenda Benthien is an independent film scholar and critic. Her work has appeared in Variety, Filmecho/Filmwoche, the Berlin Film Festival Journal, and other publications.


“Expressionismus und Film is, without question, a seminal and an influential study, a monograph that has strongly impacted the essential works on classical German cinema, but, to this day, has remained inaccessible to English-language readers. I know that scholars, students, and cineastes will be very pleased to have this book available in a translation.”
 — Eric Rentschler, Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University

“Expressionismus und Film is a key text, the only book written on German Expressionist cinema during the era. Because Kurtz had access to filmmakers and to artists and critics in other fields, the volumeis something of a primary document itself rather than simply a monograph by a scholar or journalist. Of the German books on cinema written during the silent period, this is the one most obviously crying out for translation.”
 — Kristin Thompson, Honorary Fellow, Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin

“Rudolf Kurtz’s Expressionismus und Film (1926) [...] is to my mind one of the key texts, illustrating the reception of German Expressionism as an art movement in the cinema in Germany. Not only does Lotte Eisner quote extensively in her The Haunted Screen from this work, virtually all other writers in German about this period, too, have found it necessary to reference Kurtz. This translation of Kurtz’s book will certainly help to clarify the many misconceptions that have crept into Anglo-American definitions of German Expressionist cinema, where the term has often been used synonymously with all German 1920s cinema, rather than Kurtz’s narrow definition of an exclusively high art cinema with spiritual aspirations.”
 — Jan-Christopher Horak, Director, UCLA Film and Television Archive

“For English readers interested in silent German cinema, there are many discoveries to be made here.”
 — UCLA Film & Television Archive

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Table of Contents

The Meaning of Expressionism
World View
Film and Expressionism
The Expressionist Film
Expressionist Elements in Film
Abstract Art
Style in Expressionist Film
Limitations of the Expressionist Film
Afterword by Christian Kiening and Ulrich Johannes Beil

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