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Culture fact
Some of the rock band Queen's
music videos include clips
and reinacted scenes from
the early German films
and Metropolis.

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Culture fact
Under a copyright infringement
judgment awarded to Bram
Stoker's widow, all copies and
negatives of Murnau's Nosferatu
were to be destroyed. As a
result, a number of versions of
the film exist and it is unclear
which comes closest
to the original.

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German Film (9)

BROWSE GERMAN FILMS: Contemporary German films 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 | New releases | East German films
German film classics & collections 1 - 2 | German directors &actors | Documentaries | German movie soundtracks

GERMAN FILM INDEX (alphabetical)
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German Film Classics and Collections 2

Spies / Spione

Thriller (1929)
Director: Fritz Lang
Starring: Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Gerda Maurus

Black/white silent film
From the back cover: An international spy ring, headed by Haghi (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), uses technology, threats, and murder to obtain government secrets. As master spy, president of a bank, and music hall clown, Haghi leads several lives using instruments of modern technology to spearhead a mad rush for secrets — secrets that assert his power over others. Setting in stone for the first time many elements of the modern spy thriller, Spione remains remarkably fresh and captivating over 75 years since its first release. Lang carefully reveals the elaborate methods of the spies as they move through his unknown city, no doubt creating a mirror of troubled Weimar Germany. Made by Lang's own production company and, like M and Metropolis, written by Lang with his wife Thea von Harbou, Spione is "the Grandaddy of decades of intrigue epics. In its rigorous austerity it remains the most modern of the bunch." (Elliott Stein, Village Voice).

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Pandora's Box / Die Büchse der Pandora

Drama (1929)
Director: G.W. Pabst
Starring: Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner
Black/white silent film
REVIEW: G.W. Pabst's 1928 silent masterpiece Pandora's Box stars the luminous and highly photogenic Louise Brooks. She plays the irresistible Lulu, a cabaret star who entices, captures, and eventually destroys all men who cross her path. Her beauty and her fetching charm draw an assortment of repressed and lonely people; Schigolch, a boozy old man who pretends he's her father, Geschwitz, a countess who has also fallen for Lulu, and Schoen, a rich tycoon who carries on an affair with Lulu even though he's to be married. His short solution is to put Lulu in his son Alwa's vaudeville show. As Alwa, too, becomes trapped in Lulu's charms, Schoen's fiancée catches Lulu and Schoen in a backstage embrace. Lulu quickly takes her place as Schoen's bride, only to drive Schoen to suicide during their wedding party. Put on trial for murder, Lulu almost gets out of it by simply batting her eyes at the prosecutor. Still, she is found guilty, and Alwa, who has grown increasingly obsessed, causes a distraction to allow Lulu's escape from the courthouse. Alwa, Lulu, and Schoen become desperate fugitives, eventually ending up in London where Lulu finally meets her match: Jack the Ripper. Pandora's Box offers pure cinematic delights--Pabst's luscious photography, the tense drama of its story line, and most impressively and importantly, Louise Brooks, who gives a performance that is certainly one of the best in the history of cinema.
Review by Shannon Gee
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The Woman in the Moon / Frau im Mond

Sci-Fi (1929)
Director: Fritz Lang
Starring: Klaus Pohl, Willy Fritsch

Black/white silent film

SYNOPSIS: One of the first major films to dwell upon the possibility of space travel, Fritz Lang's Woman in the Moon (Frau im Mond) is, like many of its modern-day counterparts, more successful on a special-effects level than it is in terms of character development. The titular female, played by Gerda Maurus (one of the stars of Lang's 1928 classic Spies) joins an extraterrestrial expedition in search of gold on the moon. Among the many prescient aspects of the film is its use of a countdown before blast-off and its depiction of the effects of centrifugal force upon the lunar passengers. Willy Ley, later a leading light of the U.S. space program, served as technical adviser. Reportedly, Adolf Hitler was so overwhelmed by Woman in the Moon that he used the rocket depicted in the film as the prototype for the dreaded V1 and V2 assault missiles. Curiously unavailable during the "Sputnik fever" of the 1950s, Woman in the Moon rose back to the surface when it was excerpted in David Wolper's landmark 1960 TV documentary, The Race for Space.
~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

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Sci Fi / Drama (1927)
Director: Fritz Lang
Starring: Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich, Brigitte Helm
Black/white silent film
REVIEW: Fritz Lang's Metropolis belongs to legend as much as to cinema. It's a milestone of sci-fi and German expressionism. Yet the story makes minimal sense, and the "theme" belongs in a fortune cookie; to experience the film's pagan power, you have to see the movie. But for decades we couldn't, not really--not with so many versions, all incomplete, often in public-domain prints like smudged photocopies. This Murnau Foundation restoration changes all that. Some shots, scenes, and subplots may be lost forever, but intertitles indicate how they fit into the original continuity and the characters' individual trajectories. Most crucially, the images are crisp, vibrant, and three-dimensional instead of murky and flattened. The composite sequences (the Tower of Babel, a sea of lusting eyes) have been restored to their hallucinatory ferocity. And there's one moment when you can see a bead of sweat roll down a man's cheek--in medium long-shot.
Review by Richard T. Jameson
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Berlin - Symphony of a Great City / Berlin - Sinfonie der Großstadt

Documentary (1927)
Director: Walter Ruttmann
Black/white silent film
REVIEW: The title says it all: this is a visual symphony in five movements celebrating the Berlin of 1927: the people, the place, the everyday details of life on the streets. Director Walter Ruttman, an experimental filmmaker, approached cinema in similar ways to his Russian contemporary Dziga Vertoz, mixing documentary, abstract, and expressionist modes for a nonnarrative style that captured the life of his countrymen. But where Vertov mixed his observations with examples of the communist dream in action, Ruttman re-creates documentary as, in his own words, "a melody of pictures." Within the loose structure of a day in the life of the city (with a prologue that travels from the country into the city on a barreling train), the film takes us from dawn to dusk, observing the silent city as it awakens with a bustle of activity, then the action builds and calms until the city settles back into sleep. But the city is as much the architecture, the streets, and the machinery of industry as it is people, and Ruttman weaves all these elements together to create a portrait in montage, the poetic document of a great European city captured in action. Held together by rhythm, movement, and theme, Ruttman creates a documentary that is both involving and beautiful to behold. The original score by Timothy Brock is lyrical and dramatically involving, complementing the mood and movement marvelously. Also included is the avant-garde short Opus 1, an abstract study in animated shapes and movement.
Review by Sean Axmaker
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Drama (1926)
Director: F. W. Murnau
Starring: Eric Barclay, Hans Brausewetter
Black/white silent film
REVIEW: F.W. Murnau's last German production before leaving for Hollywood is a visually dazzling take on the Faust myth. Pushing the resources of the grand old German studio UFA to the limits, Murnau creates an epic vision of good versus evil as devil Emil Jannings tempts an idealistic aging scholar with youth, power, and romance. The handsome but wan Swedish actor Gosta Ekman plays the made-over Faust as a perfectly shallow scoundrel drunk with youth, and the lovely Camilla Horn (in a part written for Lillian Gish) is the young virgin courted, then cast aside, by Faust. The drama falters in the middle with a tedious courtship and bizarre comic interludes, but the delirious images of the opening (Jannings enveloping a mountain town in his dark cloak of evil) and the high melodrama of the climax (Horn desperately clutching her baby while crawling, abandoned and lost, through a snowstorm) triumphs over such shortcomings. The sheer scale of Murnau's epic and the magnificent play of light, shadow, and mist on his exquisitely designed sets makes this one of the most cinematically ambitious, visually breathtaking, and beautiful classics of the silent era.
Review by Sean Axmaker
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The F.W. Murnau Collection

Director: F.W. Murnau
Black/white classics.
1. Nosferatu (1922)
2. The Last Laugh / Der letzte Mann (1924)
3. Faust (1926)
4. Tabu (1931)
5. Tartuffe / Herr Tartüff (1926)

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German Horror Classics

Black/white silent horror film classics. 1. Nosferatu (1922)
2. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari / Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari (1920)
3. Waxworks / Das Wachsfigurenkabinett (1924)
4. The Golem / Der Golem (1920)

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Horror (1922)
Director: F. W. Murnau
Starring: Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schröder
Black/white silent film
REVIEW: As noted critic Pauline Kael observed, "... this first important film of the vampire genre has more spectral atmosphere, more ingenuity, and more imaginative ghoulish ghastliness than any of its successors." Some really good vampire movies have been made since Kael wrote those words, but German director F.W. Murnau's 1922 version remains a definitive adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Created when German silent films were at the forefront of visual technique and experimentation, Murnau's classic is remarkable for its creation of mood and setting, and for the unforgettably creepy performance of Max Schreck as Count Orlok, a.k.a. the blood-sucking predator Nosferatu. With his rodent-like features and long, bony-fingered hands, Schreck's vampire is an icon of screen horror, bringing pestilence and death to the town of Bremen in 1838. (These changes of story detail were made necessary when Murnau could not secure a copyright agreement with Stoker's estate.) Using negative film, double-exposures, and a variety of other in-camera special effects, Murnau created a vampire classic that still holds a powerful influence on the horror genre. (Werner Herzog's 1978 film Nosferatu the Vampyre is both a remake and a tribute, and Francis Coppola adopted many of Murnau's visual techniques for Bram Stoker's Dracula.) Seen today, Murnau's film is more of a fascinating curiosity, but its frightening images remain effectively eerie.
Review by Jeff Shannon
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The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari / Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari

Drama / Horror (1920)
Director: Robert Wiene
Starring: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt
Black/white silent film
REVIEW: A milestone of the silent film era and one of the first "art films" to gain international acclaim, this eerie German classic from 1919 remains the most prominent example of German expressionism in the emerging art of the cinema. Stylistically, the look of the film's painted sets--distorted perspectives, sharp angles, twisted architecture--was designed to reflect (or express) the splintered psychology of its title character, a sinister figure who uses a lanky somnambulist (Conrad Veidt) as a circus attraction. But when Caligari and his sleepwalker are suspected of murder, their novelty act is surrounded by more supernatural implications. With its mad-doctor scenario, striking visuals, and a haunting, zombie-like character at its center, Caligari was one of the first horror films to reach an international audience, sending shock waves through artistic circles and serving as a strong influence on the classic horror films of the 1920s, '30s, and beyond. It's a museum piece today, of interest more for its historical importance, but Caligari still casts a considerable spell.
Review by Jeff Shannon
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GERMAN FILM INDEX (alphabetical)
<< BACK | BROWSE GERMAN FILMS (chronological): | NEXT>>

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