A Historical Digression

Posted: June 7, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

cabinet-du-dr-caligari-03-gOne of the many fun things about studying film is learning about the times in which certain films were created. History plays an enormous part when it comes to understanding, for instance, why Citizen Kane is still considered by many to be one of the best films ever made, or why Night of the Living Dead was a landmark horror film. History matters, because history provides context.

In any year, in any era, popular culture is often a direct reflection of not only the fads, but also the social, political, economic, and cultural trends and taboo subjects. George Romero says that casting Duane Jones in Night of the Living Dead was never about ethnicity; rather, he says it was that Jones was simply the best actor who auditioned for the role. However, casting a black man as the male lead, in 1968, especially in a role where his character is more resourceful and more of a leader than his white counterparts made the movie socially relevant, whether that was the intention or not. With regard to Kane, one needs to understand that the story was a thinly-veiled hatchet piece against publishing tycoon and media tyrant William Randolph Hearst, in order to grasp the sheer audacity of Orson Welles’ undertaking.

In composing an upcoming series of articles on the German Expressionist movement of the 1920s, I realized that while I could identify a film from that time, I didn’t know much about what was happening in Germany that gave way to this highly stylized form of filmmaking (and theater, architecture, and painting as well). As it turns out, just about everything that was happening politically, economically, and socially, not to mention Germany’s position in global politics at the end of the first World War, were all direct contributors to this particular style of art and design. So now, as I dim the lights and cue up The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Nosperatu, Der Golem, and a few others, I will be able to better grasp the full vision the filmmakers intended, and the movies will be all the better for my impromptu history lesson.

The articles will be landing soon at Zombie Hamster


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