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August 18, 2008

Centripetal and Centrifugal Space in Film Noir 1939 – 1959

Centripetal and Centrifugal Space in Film Noir 1939 – 1959: Case Studies Double Indemnity and The Big Sleep

LA City Hall

L.A.s City Hall a signifier of Centripetal Space isn't usually represented in Films Noir


Some early 20th film criticism by critics such as Siegfried Kracauer (an architect by training) has considered film in relation to cities and alongside this the growth of modernity in which representations of the city were usually associated with modernity frequently in a very optimistic way. Dziga Vertov's elegy to the city in Man With a Movie Camera is perhaps the best example of this. (Try and avoid the version with the Michael Nyman soundtrack it wrecks the meanings of the film as they might have have been generated by contemporaries).

Film noir as a cinematic category runs counter to the tradition that modernity is progress and focuses upon the seamy undersideside of the city and frequently the spaces in the city which are ignored and which contain currents that continually undermine notions of progress and the city of light and enlightenment understood as the general aims of supporters of modernity. The cinema of Weimar Germany provides some good examples of this and I don't just mean the 'expressionist cinema' which was largely finished by 1923, but rather the German films that took some of the stylistic attitudes  but also explored various aspects of crime in the city. Fritz Lang's 'M' considered from the perspective of reading spaces of the city and also alternative types of surveillance is fascinating in this respect - Lang too was an architect by training. Joe May's 'Asphalt' is another. Then  French 'Poetic Realism' of the 1930s has also had both a stylistic and critical similarities to what became known as film noir. Film Noir's origins are irrevocably a cultural reverbaration of the upheavals of the European 30 Years War 1914-1945 with many of the core directors of 'noir' having had a European if not German background  such  as Lang, Wilder & Siodmak. In the case a of Siodmak and Wilder their noir sensibilities were a million miles away from the optimimistic ethnographis style of film People on Sunday celebrating everyday life in Berlin in 1929 which was released only weeks before the Great Crash which eventually brought Germany into the hands of the Nazis.

Since the 1970s the critical category of film noir has been much debated within film studies circles. The term originated from French film critics in the aftermath of World War II when the French market was flooded with American imports of films which were unavailable under Nazi occupation. Most of these films were originally generically marketed as something else in the United States[1] however, in a post-war mood these thrillers were experienced as doom laden and pessimistic, with resonances of the French poetic-realist cycle as well as the German expressionist cycle. In recent years it seems as though 'Noir' has been overwritten and although it was once a critically developed category neo-noir has become a style / sub-genre that is exploited by the industry with many variants such as 'tech-noir'.

The definition of film noir is highly contested [2], “film noir’ suggests Vernet (1993 p 26) ‘ is a collector’s idea that, for the moment, can only be found in books’ however, for the purpose of this article the aim is to explore the spatial hypothesis proposed by Dimendberg (2004) rather than to examine definitions of ‘noir’ itself and the reader will need to consult some of the well known writings about this. The films I have chosen as case studies are accepted by all critics as central to the group of films that have been constructed as ‘noir’ and therefore provide a good basis to develop debate around Dimendberg's ideas of the representations of space.

Dimendberg argues that film noir between 1939-1959 represented the spatial infrastructure of American cities through highly specific spatial configurations marking the reconstruction of the American city space from an early modern model of centripetal space to a more complex one based upon centrifugal space. Dimendberg defines these spaces in the following way:

Centripetal and centrifugal space, tendencies towards concentration and dispersal, recur and often overlap throughout film noir. (Dimendberg, 2004 p 18).

Two core films from the film noir cycle - Double Indemnity (1944) dir. Billy Wilder and The Big Sleep (1946) dir. Howard Hawks - will be used as case studies using a detailed textual analysis of the representations of space to explore Dimendberg’s hypothesis[3]. Both films are about Los Angeles (L.A.) and both involve the work of Raymond Chandler[4]. L.A. has been the subject of much scrutiny by critics from a range of academic backgrounds such as Frederic Jameson, Mike Davis and Edward Soja and has been seen as the archetypal post-modern city.

Centrifugal and Centripetal Space

Dimendberg locates the growth of centrifugal space as a tendency or process which started in the middle of the 19th century in the United States. This was made possible by new transportation systems that intersected with a desire to live away from the intensities of the centre. Dimendberg identifies centripetal tendencies as

“... a fascination with urban density and the visible – the skyline, monuments, recognisable public spaces, and inner-city neighbourhoods” (Dimendberg 2004 p 177)

whereas centrifugal space is bound up with:

immateriality, invisibility and speed’ (ibid).

The growth of cinema as an institution has been intimately bound up with the growth of modernity and the city as part of the built environment and culturally in terms of mass urban audiences[5].

The ‘film noir’ cycle is commonly thought to have started in 1941 with the Maltese Falcon many of the core films noir emerged in the years following Double Indemnity in the late 1940s such as Mildred Pierce (1945) Michael Curtiz (Austro-Hungarian), The Big Sleep, Sunset Boulevard (1950) Wilder (Austrian). Joan Copjec, it is worth noting,  is scathing about what she describes as the

“pop-psychological diagnosis of pot-war male malaise” (Copjec 1993b)

which many argue motivated the ‘film noir’ cycle. [6]

Developments in the American city since the 1940s have combined both centripetal and centrifugal tendencies. Los Angeles is particularly interesting for film noir primarily represented Los Angeles and to a lesser extent New York notes Dimendberg. The work of Mike Davies (City of Quartz) and the geographer Edward Soja during the 1990s examined the spatial reconfigurations occurring in Los Angeles. The core of the post-industrial city for Davis was a centripetal fortress of hi-tech offices with shopping and other recreational facilities entirely spatially separated from the surrounding areas of extreme urban deprivation. The workers in the shiny quartz offices travelled either from the centrifugal periphery where gated communities were designed in an authoritarian atmosphere to control the inhabitants, in places like Orange County or, from gated / securitised higher density communities in the city (Soja, 1993). Both at work and in private time the spatial reconfiguration of Los Angeles has been marked by the reduction of public space and the increase in fortified privatised space, as privatised mall culture replaces the American ‘Mainstreet’ of modernity[7].

LA 2005

LA downtown: A centripetal fortress in the City of Quartz

For Dimendberg the representations of the city in ‘film noir’ express the changing configurations very effectively, because many of these films relied upon location shooting. It was this relationship to realism first noted by the French critic Nino Frank which makes film noir so important in relation to the representation of urban space:

Today’s spectator is sensitive to nothing more than this impression of real life, of lived experience… (Dimendberg 2004,p 5)

The Representation of Space in Double Indemnity

In Double Indemnity the film opens with a sense of the modern as a car races through the streets to a modern office building with a night-porter and lifts. The car goes past workers repairing the tram system, a reflection on both the capabilities of the modern car and a reminder of how the public transport system had been undermined by vested interests several years previously. As a figure enters the building the viewer sees a huge empty hall where the administration of modern society is carried out as the character makes his way to an office and starts to record his confession on the latest recording technology.

Double Indemnity spanish House interior

Neff & Phyllis in the Spanish Interior: Double Indemnity

This space signifies a huge engine of centripetal economic forces. In a flashback narrative structure typical of film noir we are taken to a suburb of Los Angeles on the edge of the city. The house that Walter Neff is visiting is commented upon in both its style and price as a voice-over. It is in the popular Spanish colonial style which is very expensive, retro and tasteless redolent of ‘new money’. The difficulties of transportation to the ‘downtown’ are strongly signified as the daughter gets a lift from Walter Neff to go to meet her boyfriend in downtown LA. This provides clear evidence of the centrifugal nature of the place and the need to rely on private transportation.

Boss office Double Indemnity

Keys and Neff in the Boss's well upholstered office in Double Indemnity

Another core space of the film takes place in the modern office building of the insurance company that employs Neff. The space is strongly hierarchical ranging from the porters on the door to ways in which the internal space is divided to represent the power relations. Looking down on the main hall which is full of serried rows of typists the engine of repetitive monotonous capitalism is represented. Neff who is further up the pecking order shares an office space with another salesman. Neff’s line manager (Keys) has his own office from which he is responsible for checking the deals made and assessing any claims many of which are fraudulent. The chief executive of the company has a very large office and attention is drawn to this visually and in the dialogue. This is the architecture of centripetal capitalism, an intense hub of activity, yet its location is represented only indirectly by a brief view of the City Hall through the window of the Chief Executive’s office after Phyllis has been made an offer to settle her claim. This provides only tangential reference to the metropolis.

Double Indemnity Neff and Phyllis in the supermarket

Double Indemnity: Neff meets Phyllis in the supermarket in the anonimity of no-place

Other spaces represented in the film include the supermarket where Neff arranges to meet Phyllis. This is a space created by centrifugal forces for it isn’t a localised ‘Mainstreet’ it is a space full of strangers who are unlikely to recognise either Phyllis or Neff, otherwise it would be unsafe for them. It isn’t part of a city of ‘community’ or ‘collective memory’.

Neff’s own bachelor flat is an undistinguished dormitory area of the city. It has its own underground garage for residents with a supervisor who cleans the cars as well. This signifies the type of space best described as ‘mid-town’ for the aspirant social status of the occupants.

Other spaces which are represented is the cafe in which Neff meets Lola and also the view over the Hollywood Bowl which represents a centrifugal tendency in that the centre doesn’t have the ability to provide this entertainment. This kind of space would appear to require a car to access it.

There are several off-screen places referred to which are clearly thought of as provincial compared to the importance of L.A. itself. The passenger on the train comments that Palo Alto is a ‘nice little town’. The passenger himself comes from Medford, Oregon a town of perhaps 50,000 in those days. Trains and trams represent centrifugal forces for they were designed to serve centres either of the city itself in the case of the tram or in terms of travel from one central hub to another on the train.

Phyllis on the railway Tracks

Phyllis on the railway tracks in Double Indemnity

Lola the step-daughter of Phyllis Dietrichson has also moved to Hollywood and there is precise reference made to the type of housing and thus the type of people who live there: it is a space of constrained circumstances for young hopefuls. This is also a centrifugal reference.

Los Angeles as represented by Double Indemnity is constructed as a space in which the individual to successfully negotiate the newly developing urban space must drive. That Neff’s flat has an underground garage shows that this is a modern residence built for a city which requires the car. The car itself symbolises the decentralisation of place.

Throughout the film there is recognition that space is becoming more abstract. The insurance industry is an example of a layer of abstract capitalism which creates ‘products’ out of nothing but the fear of the future. Neff knows the double indemnity clause included in expensive insurance policies is a cynical marketing tool which  for all statistical purposes is never going to happen.

Double Indemnity is a film which could have been scripted by Foucault. Keyes’ dismissing his superior’s argument relies upon the use of actuarial tables that cover every eventuality is an aspect of the new scientific methods of control which Foucault discusses[8]. Surveillance is a central theme throughout the film and the seemingly panoptic gaze -driven by statistics- which Keyes manages is seemingly far more effective than the surveillance system of the police who bought into the accidental death story. Capitalism is clearly more thorough ans scinetific in its investigations.

What makes Double Indemnity a film which is rooted in the representation of centripetal space is the marked lack of a significant centre. The downtown is only briefly seen through a car window and there is no significant landmark. This fits with Dimendberg’s comments on Crossfire (1949) and The Big Combo (1955) in which they are presented

‘…without the clearly delineated plaza, piazza, place, or Platz that traditionally provided a focal point for collective life in the large city… (Dimendberg 2004, p 89).

The most significant place in terms of monumentality is the Hollywood Bowl which is far from the centre and is only seen at a distance.

The Representation of Space in ‘The Big Sleep

In similar ways to Double Indemnity, the Big Sleep also represents the centripetal nature of contemporary LA. Whilst the spaces represented are different to those of Double Indemnity the lack of a defining central space means that this film too is focused upon the negotiation of spaces which are far from the centre. for example one shoot-out takes place in a country retreat as a signifier of space which is outside of the surveillance systems of the city.

There are several key spaces in which the action takes place. The house of the General signifies old money rather than the new money of Double Indemnity. Central places for the action are the out of town gambling club[9] and Geiger’s rented house which is used as a site of blackmail. Its exact location in the city remains obscure but it is not fully urbanised central space. Other places used are the two shops, the flat in older apartment building and run down office spaces, both Sam Spade’s and another one where a minor criminal is poisoned.

Outside Geigers Rented House

Outside of Geiger's house which was rented out.
Located in a non-specific suburb this is an example of centrifugal space

In both films cars function as significant spatial markers. Significant actions take place in them in both films. In Double Indemnity Neff develops a link with the daughter and in another car the murder takes place. In The Big Sleep the General’s chauffeur has been killed in his car, and Sam Spade falls in love with the General’s daughter in a car. The car then is a signifier of a space which is no-place. Notably some space is not represented in either film such as industrial space or working class or ethnically based places.

LA Gasholders undated

Above: an undated image of gasholders and an industrial scene in Los Angeles of the 1940s. This represents the industrialised aspects of LA not represented in the case study films

Space as Nodal

In both the films analysed space is represented as increasingly amorphous and abstract, lives appeared to be increasingly the negotiation of the space between a range of discrete nodes. Shopping space was represented as a modern node in Double Indemnity but we are never familiarised with its location, essentially the location is irrelevant. The shops represented in The Big Sleep are like the offices  inhabiting slightly run down marginalised areas - they sell second-hand and pornographic books – they aren’t the spaces of modernity like department stores. To some extent these are sites of nostalgia for Raymond Chandler, who was involved in the screenplays for both these films later moved away from LA itself. Chandler had sarcastically slighted it as a city which was losing its structure:

“Real cities have something else, some individual bony structure under the muck”. (Chandler cited Dimendberg, 2004 p 170.)

Dimendberg cites a response by Foucault to Rabinow who had noted that architects were no longer the ‘masters of space they once were or thought themselves to be’ (Rabinow cited Dimendberg 2004 p 174).The response which Foucault gave seems to fit perfectly with the above analysis of the representations of space within Double Indemnity and The Big Sleep. Foucault identified three ‘great variables’ which are territory, communication and speed all imbricated with each other in complex ways: “that exceed received understandings of the architectural and usefully define centrifugal space”. (Dimendberg 2004,157).

Given that films noir represent a dis-ease within society it is worth trying to situate the representation of L. A. within a broader framework of models of representation of the city itself. Boyer (1996) identifies three broad models of the city:

These representations of the city can be equated to the traditional, modern and contemporary periods. In many respects Los Angeles has largely missed out on the longer organic growth of this process model of city development.  In the 1870s L.A. was still a small town of little more than 5,000 people. The discovery of oil in 1892 turned L.A. into a boom town and by the middle of the 1920s it was producing nearly a quarter of the world’s oil. As well as this is was associated with the massive boom in film production as Hollywood became the world’s leading film-making place. Both of these industries are referenced in Double Indemnity. Oil is also the basis of General Sternwood’s fortune in The Big Sleep. The massive growth of industry in L.A. during the war meant it was the largest producers of cars outside of Detroit by 1950. It was also a huge centre of migrant labour, yet neither of these films make the slightest verbal or visual reference to these aspects of L.A. therefore the representations of urban space are very selective [10].

. Bunker Hill 1900

Bunker Hill 1900

L.A. is being represented as a city with little collective memory, and Chandler himself was becoming increasingly disenchanted with the city[11]. There is a hint of nostalgia in Double Indemnity when the man from Medford, Oregon says that they take their time to make sure up in Medford, when Keys is questioning him. Keys makes it very clear there is no time in L.A., underpinning Foucault's arguments, and indicative of notions of speed as one vital parameter of emerging city-space. While the city hasn’t existed as a city in the model suggested by Boyer, it seems to have entered the stage associated with the 'City of Panorama', yet only one panoramic view of the Hollywood Bowl was provided in Double Indemnity. The Hollywood Bowl itself shades into the next model of 'City as Spectacle', it appears as though the representations of the city are in transition between the two later types of city suggested by Boyer. Neither industry nor the diverse racial population are represented. In fact the city was founded by Afro-Americans. That was news to me and certainly doesn't appear in films noir as a part of the collective memory!

The City of Panorama

The city of panorama is described by Boyer as:

…the city of soaring skyscrapers and metropolitan extension, a spatial order that when seen from a birds-eye perspective that requested deciphering and reordering.” (p 41)

But this developmental process didn’t happen in Los Angeles in the way it had happened in other cities. The city hall completed in 1928 remained the tallest building in Los Angeles until 1964; height limitations were imposed because of the fear of earthquakes. At the time of the making of these case study films the City Hall was physically prominent and not ‘dwarfed’[12] by its surroundings. Yet this public monument, which was clearly centripetal in design, was specifically denied by the films  underscoring their centrifugal mode of the representation of space.

LA dowtown 2005

Above LA Downtown 2005

Los Angeles was never subjected to the disciplined vision of Le Corbusier; geology had contributed to its specific development because it has been built near a significant fault-line making earthquakes an ever-present danger. LA then is “celebrated as the prototypical contemporary place”. (Boyer p47):

Los Angeles fails to offer the traveller a series of city tableaux, framed sites ruled by the lines of perspectival space. A non-place, existing in a state of constant flux and interfaces becomes a new synthetic time-space…

City of Spectacle

The city of spectacle, argues Boyer, is a city of appropriations of historic styles, bounded by nodes within ‘an urban composition criss-crossed by highways and invisible electronic circuitry.’ (Boyer p 47). Spectacle here is linked to the work of Guy Debord and is related to the notion that vision is elevated in order to deceive[13]. By comparison Foucault, writing polemically against Debord, argued that contemporary society was based upon technologies of surveillance[14].

But Foucault’s opposition of surveillance and spectacle seems to overlook how the effects of these two regimes can coincide’. Crary (1994 p18)

Dimendberg’s arguments about the representations of urban space in films noir can’t really be fully justified on the basis of case studies of just these two films. It is also problematic that these films were both strongly influenced by Raymond Chandler who had his own particular perspectives on the nature of Los Angeles and the rapid urban changes it was undergoing. Some historical aspects of Los Angeles have been used as it is clear that its growth and the way urban space developed has been different to cities such as New York or Chicago and of course major European capitals.

Why such Pessimism about Los Angeles? Subjectivity & the Category of 'Noir'

There is an enigma of why there a pessimistic vision of LA created in these two films. Perhaps it is the critical construction of these films originally started by French critics -coming from a radically destabilised position- discussing them as 'noir' rather than as straightforward crime thrillers which has created a problem of analysis by distorting the field of vision?

Importantly both the films have redemptive aspects to them refuting accusations of ‘pessimism’. In The Big Sleep Sam Spade seems to have got his girl. another aspect of Sam spade is that he is honest at heart, he is trustworthy but he is also anti-bureaucratic. The audience can identify with him because the ends justify the means which sometimes means being unconventional to get to 'the truth'.  In Double Indemnity Neff recognises the power of true love and enables Zachette to reunite with Lola. Neff has failed to kill his substitute father figure Keys who forgives him in the closing scene. If a critical analysis can ignore for a moment the title of “film noir” and see these films as thrillers with specific target audiences the representation of Walter and Phyllis becomes one of two aspirants desperately trying to make it by taking short cuts rather than following the protestant ethic: lured by spectacle they become victims of surveillance technologies in the Foucaultian sense. The world of the Big Sleep is a different class world in which there are still people still trying to ‘make it by short cuts’ who all lose in the end. The world of the gambling club bears an indirect witness to the rapidly growing economy of LA. This is where the new money is being spent and the new upper-middle classes are emerging. Both films represent Los Angeles in a way that privileges the centrifugal over the centripetal and arguably represents spatially the roots of the postmodern city avant la lettre.


Catapano, Peter Film Philosophy December 2006: Review of Dimendberg, Edward. 2004. Film Noir and the Spaces of Modernity. Cambridge (Mass) Harvard

Downey, Dara. Film Philosophy December 2006: Dimendberg, Edward. 2004. Film Noir and the Spaces of Modernity. Cambridge (Mass) Harvard


Boyer, Christine. 1996. The City of Collective Memory. Cambridge (Mass): MIT

Castells, Manuel. 1996. The Rise of the Network Society. Oxford: Blackwell

Clarke, David B. Ed. 1997.The Cinematic City. London: Routledge

Copjec, Joan.Ed.1993.Shades of Noir. London: Verso

Copjec, Joan. 1993. The Phenomenal Nonphenomenal. Copjec, Joan.Ed.1993.Shades of Noir. London: Verso

Crary, Jonathan. 1994. Techniques of the Observer. Cambridge (Mass): MIT

Dimendberg, Edward. 2004. Film Noir and the Spaces of Modernity. Cambridge (Mass) Harvard

Jameson, Frederic. 1993. The Synoptic Chandler. Copjec, Joan.Ed.1993.Shades of Noir. London: Verso

Rykwert, Joseph. 2000. The Seduction of Place. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson

Vernet, Marc. 1993. ‘Film Noir on the Edge of Doom’. Copjec, Joan.Ed.1993.Shades of Noir. London: Verso

TV Documentaries

City of Quartz: by Mike Davis. Channel 4 TV documentary 1991.

Los Angeles the Postmodern City: by Edward Soja. Open University: Department of Geography. 1993.

[1] Vernet 1993 p 2 points out that ‘…recall that, by those in charge of publicity at the time of its release, Gilda and films like it at the time were presented as ‘romantic melodrama’.

[2] Vernet (1993, p 14) points to 5 problematic areas in the construction of film noir as a critical category. Elsewhere in the article he challenges the cinematic techniques used such as ‘expressionist lighting’. Vernet also points out that the original list of films noir by Borde & Chaumeton only had 22 films on it. Silver & Ward writing several years later had several hundred.

[3] Wilder was an Austrian émigré who was involved in making an ethnographically based film of the city People on a Sunday made in Berlin in the summer of 1929 when optimism abounded and the industrial economy in Germany (not the rural) was still expanding. Only a few weeks later the German economy entered into a dramatic downward cycle emanating from the Wall Street Crash of October 1929. Howard Hawks was an all- American established director and had made Scarface a key film in the 1930s American gangster cycle which represented the city very differently.

[4] There is not the space here to compare representations in film noir of L. A. and New York. Each city has its own specificities.

[5] It was in post-war Germany and Soviet Russia where representations of the city in relation to the underlying tensions and hopes for modernity were first explored. Metropolis (1926 released 1927) from Fritz Lang marked a transition from the anti-modern expressionist cycle representing the literal layering of city-spaces from the Elysian heights of the elites to the catacombs of the ancient city. Lang’s representation ended in a populist appeal for a more understanding society with mediators. Walter Ruttman an avant-garde artist brought out Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927). This represented the city as a space of rhythms in a documentary form but avoided social issues. Dziga Vertov’s far more political film Man With a Movie Camera (1929) celebrated the city space of modernity and identified it as a space of progress building a better future.

[6]This was the period when America underwent a period of rapid change. There were many tensions to overcome, the demobilisation of millions of service personnel and their re-employment, the re-settling of women who had been providing the industrial labour needed to run the war and as well as this the reconstruction of American cities which had an infrastructure that had been deteriorating rapidly because there had been a lack of investment because of war and the preceding depression. Nevertheless LA at this time was a boomtown which had done extremely well out of the war and it became a major beneficiary of the long post-war economic boom.

[7] Later the planner and geographer Manuel Castells would identify the construction of these cities as a fundamental aspect of Informational Society summed up in his ideas of ‘the space of flows’ and ‘timeless time’.

[8] Crary (1994) notes that Foucault as well as writing about new disciplinary regimes to create a modern subject coincide with the development of industrialisation he also describes the role of the newly constituted sciences in regulating the behaviour of subjects “crucial to the development of these new disciplinary techniques of the subject was the fixing of quantitative and statistical norms of behaviour”. (Crary 1994, p 15). Copjec (1993 b pp167-172) spends some time discussing the reference to actuarial tables in relation to Foucault

[9] Frederic Jameson (1993 p43) points out that Chandler frequently represents gambling clubs in his novels. These function as a subcategory of “ the gradual enlargement of the private club or casino into the whole closed enclave of the private development with its gates and private police”.

[10] Copjec (1993 b p 185) draws attention to the range of ‘social’ policies encouraging suburban expansion and ethnic and racial segregation which was mainly mandated by the Federal Housing Administration founded in 1934. The representations in the two case studies create a spatial absence perhaps linked to these policies.

[11] Jameson (1993 p 37) argues that Chandler is ‘the least politically correct of our modern writers’ and ‘faithfully gives vent to everything racist, sexist, homophobic, and otherwise socially resentful and reactionary in the American collective unconscious…”

[12] Rykwert (2000 p 132) makes similar points to Boyer in his chapter “Flight From the City: Lived Space and Virtual Space” although he doesn’t differentiate so precisely between the historical characteristics of each phase.

[13] “since the spectacle’s job is to cause a world that is no longer directly perceptible to be seen via different specialised mediations, it is inevitable that it should elevate the human sense of sight to the special place once occupied by touch; the most abstract of the senses, and the most easily deceived, sight is naturally the most readily adaptable to present day society’s generalised abstraction”. (Debord, cited Crary 1994 p 19)

[14] Our society is not one of spectacle but of surveillance… we are neither in the amphitheatre nor on stage but in the Panoptic machine.” (Foucault cited Crary 1994 p 17)

March 23, 2008

Fritz Lang (1890–1976)

Fritz Lang (1890-1976)

Return to Weimar Directors Hub Page  

Filmography for the Weimar Period

(Listing taken from the Deutsche Film Portal the links are different)

. Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse
. 1932/1933
. Le testament du docteur Mabuse
. 1932/1933
. Siegfrieds Tod
. 1931
. 'M'
. 1928/1929
. Frau im Mond
. 1927/1928
. Spione
. 1925/1926


Metropolis the different versions

. 1923/1924
. Der Film im Film
. 1922-1924
. Die Nibelungen (2 Teile)
. 1922-1924
. Die Nibelungen. 1. Teil: Siegfried
. 1922-1924
. Die Nibelungen. 2. Teil: Kriemhilds Rache
. 1921
. Das indische Grabmal (2 Teile)
. 1921
. Der Tiger von Eschnapur
. 1921
. Der müde Tod
. 1921
. Die Sendung des Yoghi
. 1921/1922
. Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler
. 1920
. Das wandernde Bild
. 1920/1921
. Kämpfende Herzen
. 1919
. Der Herr der Liebe
. 1919
. Die Frau mit den Orchideen
. 1919/1920
. Die Herrin der Welt. 8. Teil: Die Rache der Maud Fergusson
. 1919/1920
. Die Spinnen (2 Teile)
. 1919
. Die Spinnen. 1. Teil: Der goldene See
. 1919/1920
. Die Spinnen. 2. Teil: Das Brillantenschiff
. 1919
. Halbblut
. 1919
. Harakiri
. 1919
. Lilith und Ly
. 1919
. Pest in Florenz
. 1919
. Totentanz
. 1919
. Wolkenbau und Flimmerstern
. 1918/1919
. Bettler-G.m.b.H.
. 1918
. Die Frauen des Josias Grafenreuth
. 1918/1919
. Die Rache ist mein
. 1917
. Die Hochzeit im Excentric-Club
. 1917
. Hilde Warren und der Tod
. 1916
. Die Peitsche


A useful link to review of Gunning’s biography of Lang. Review by Anton Kaes

Senses of Cinema site Daniel Shaw on Fritz Lang

A useful Select Bibliography on Fritz Lang from the BFI.

October 19, 2007

Chronology of Important European Films

A Chronology of Important European Films  1918 - 2003


This page is work in progress. Many links have been made to in site or external reviews or places where the film can be purchased; films post 2003 are now being  added. Gradually in site 'hubs' are being developed for specific national directors so that clicking on an entry will allow the visitor to access the hub where links to more specialist information on the directors will become available. This is currently a long process and will take many months. The development plan for this aspect of the site work is to open up director based pages which will provide links to the currently best available relevant web sites based upon a Google search  of normally up to page 20.


The primary purpose of this entry is to allow visitors to start to make comparisons across national boundaries by gaining a more synoptic view of cinematic developments in parallel countries. This accords with the main cinematic purpose of the blog which is to contribute towards an understanding of European film history in the five major industrial countries of Europe since the end of the First World War.

Many directors worked in a number of countries and, as in any other cultural industry, there are plenty of crossovers becuase cultural workers such as directors and cinematographers are often chosen for specific skills or want to work in a different country to gain a more cosmopolitan experience. Visconti, for example started working with Renoir in France before the Second World War, Emeric Pressburger worked in Berlin before choosing to escape Nazism and coming to Britain. Cavalcanti worked in France and then Britain was brought up in Switzerland and was of Brazilian origin. Truffaut worked with Rossellini briefly. This is of course the tip of the iceberg and signifies the importance of cross-cultural influences within the growth of European cinema. A tradition that carries on to this day.   

Uses For This Page 

This page should help a wide range of people who have an individual, academic or film programming interest in European cinema. First of all, my apologies to visitors who are disappointed because their country is not included in the list. I have chosen to focus on the five major industrial countries of Europe as my main area of research and development. All five are currently members of G8 the World's largest GDPs. Compared to the United States all these countries struggle to get a thriving independent film which has a large audience in its own country. This basic fact about issues of the cultural representation of a range of cultures is an important aspect of what can be termed cultural citizenship.

The definition of cultural citizenship is one which argues that people from different places are able to represent themselves to the rest of world. Out of the Western European countries studied here only France has managed to maintain a very powerful indigenous film culture largely because of its film policies which necessarily extend into the sphere of exhibition and distribution.

To develop more work on more European countries is beyond the scope of an individual blogger. This huge absence points the way to thinking about how to develop a much more powerful pan-European film culture which takes on board the need to develop audiences as well as exhibition, distribution and production systems. For those interested in current institutional initiatives please link here to the European Film Institutions page

Hopefully this blog and page will contribute to this greater idea. For any interested visitors the page should contribute to gaining an overview of European cinema as it has developed since World War I. This date has been chosen as it was a turning point in World history marking the transition of global power from European Empires to the United States although of course it took many decades to complete the transfer.  

The page should help those running film clubs and societies who are trying to work out their programming, it should also help students and those independently interested in European cinema to quickly develop ideas and themes which can then be followed up. 

Underwritten Films and Directors 

One reason for doing this undertaking was to discover which films / directors were underwritten on the web. Whilst most searches will turn up highly specialist articles in small academic journals which require users to be members of a subscribing university there are sometimes very few well informed and well written in depth articles about certain films and / or directors. As I gradually make my trawl  I will note here where there seem to be weak spots in web coverage. This might stimulate interest in the films and ensure that they still remain available.

Taviani Brothers: For most of the films I have been searching so far there is relatively little quality in depth material to recommend. They have made a lot of powerful films in Italy and deserve more serious web recognition. 

Francesco Rosi: This is another director who remains underwritten on the web. Again he has made a lot of important films about Italy frequently with a strong humanitarian / political edge. 

Luchino Visconti: Regarding his 1976 film L'Innocente there is little of any use on a Google search at present. The link I have goes to a Google sample of Henry Bacon's book - this is highly recommnded by the way. The English entries via Google on Senso are generally weak despite the importance of the film as recognised by Nowell-Smith and Dyer.

Rene Clair: Le Silence est d’or there is very little available in English on a Google search.

Guiseppe de Santis: One important point to note is the fact that Bitter Rice has not been available in the UK for a considerable period of time. This is surprising to say the least because not only is it seen as an important film in the canon of Italian neorealism but it was also one of the most commercially successful of the neorealist canon. 

The Chronology





Soviet Union / Russia

United Kigndom


Dulac: Le Bonheur des autres

Gance: Ecce homo

Gance: J’accuse

L’Herbier: Phantasmes

(Weimar Cinema  until the coming of Sound: An Overview)


Dulac: La Cigarette

Dulac: La fete espagnole

Lang: The Spiders

Lang: The Plague in Florence

Lubitsch: Madame Dubarry

Wiene: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari


Dulac: La Belle dame sans merci

Dulac: Malencontre

Gance (-1922) La Roue

Wegener: The Golem


Dulac: La Morte du soleil

Lang: Destiny

Murnau: Nosferatu


Dulac: Werther (Unfinished)

L’Herbier; Don Juan et Faust

Lang: Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler


Clair: Paris qui dort

Dulac: Gossette

Dulac: La Souriante Mme Beudet

Gance: Au secours

Lang: The Nibelungen


Dulac: La Diable dans la ville

Renoir: La fille de l’eau

Leni: Waxworks

Murnau: The Last Laugh

Eisenstein: Strike

Protazanov: Aelita


Clair: Le Fantome de Moulin Rouge

Dulac: Ame d’artiste

Dulac: La Folie des vaillants

Gance (-1927): Napoleon vu par Abel Gance

Gance(-1927) Autor de Napoleon

Gance (-1928) Marine

Lang: Metropolis

Wiene: The Hands of Orlac

Eisenstein: Battleship Potemkin

Kuleshov: The Death Ray


Clair: Le Voyage imaginaire

Dulac: Antoinette Sabrier

Gance (-1928) Danses

Fank: The Holy Mountain

Murnau: Faust

Murnau: Tartuffe

Kuleshov: By the Law

Pudovkin: The Mother

Vertov: A Sixth of the World

Hitchcock: The Lodger


Arrival of sound In USA

Dulac: Le Cinema au service de l’histoire (Compilation)

Dulac: Invitation au voyage

(Online screening available) 

Renoir: Charleston

May: Asphalt

Ruttman: Berlin Symphony of a City

Eisenstein: October

Pudovkin: The end of St. Petersburg

Shub: The End of the Romanov Dynasty

Shub: The Great Road


Dulac: Germination d’un haricot

Dulac: Le Coquille et le Clergyman

(See under Invitation etc for online screening) 

Dulac: La Princesses Mandane

Gance: Cristallisation

L’Herbier: L’Argent

L’Herbier: Un Chapeau de paille d’Italie

Renpoir: Marquetta

Renoir: La petite marchande d’allumettes

Lang: Der Spione

Pabst: Pandora’s Box

Pudovkin: Storm Over Asia

Shub: The Russia of Nicholas II and Lev Tolstoy


Bunuel: Un Chien d'Andalou & L'Age d'or

Dulac: Etude cinegraphique sur une Aaabesgue

Dulac: Disque 927

Dulac: Themes et variations

Renoir: Tire-au-flanc

Renoir: Le bled

Pabst: Diary of a Lost Girl

Siodmak et al: People on Sunday

Dovzhenko: Arsenal

Eisenstein: Old and New or The General Line

Kovinstev and Trauberg: The New Babylon

Protazanov: Ranks and People

Turin: Turksib

Vertov: Man With a Movie Camera

Asquith: A Cottage on Dartmoor

Hitchcock: The Manxman (His last silent film) 

Hitchcock: Blackmail


Cocteau: Le sang d’unpoete

Gance: La Fin du Monde

Gance: Autour de La Fin du Monde

Vigo: A Propos de Nice

Von Sternberg: Blue Angel

Dovzhenko: Earth


Clair: Sous les toits de Paris

Clair: Le Million

L’Herbier: Le Parfum de la dame en noir

Pagnol: Marius (Technically directed by Korda)

Renoir : On purge bebe

Renoir: La chienne

Vigo: Taris

Lang: M

Pabst: The Threepenny Opera

Sagan: Girls in Uniform

Vertov: Enthusiasm


Clair: Le Quatorze juillet

Gance: Mater dolorosa

Pagnol: Fanny (Technically directed by Allegret)

Renoir : La nuit du carrefour

Renoir: Boudu sauve des eaux

Dudow: Kuhle Wampe

Lang: Das Testament das Dr. Mabuse

Riefensthal: The Blue Light

Eisenstein: Que Viva Mexico!


Pagnol: Le Gendre de Monsieur Poirier

Pagnol: Jofroi

Renoir: Chotard et cie

Vigo: Zero de Conduite

(Nazi Film Genres)

Ophuls: Liebelei

Steinhoff: Hitler youth Quex

Zeisler: Viktor and Viktoria

Kuleshov: Velikii uteshitel' (The Great Consoler)

Korda: The Private Life of Henry VIII


Gance: Poliche

Gance (-1935) Napoleon Bonaparte

L’Herbier : Le Scandale

Pagnol: L’Article 330

Pagnol: Angele

Renoir: Madame Bovary

Renoir: Toni

Vigo: L'Atalante

Trencker: The Prodigal Son (1933-34)

Wegener: A Man Must go to Germany

Vasiliev Bros: Chapayev

Hitchcock: The Man who Knew Too Much


Gance: Le Roman d’un jeune homme pauvre

Gance: Jerome Perreaux, heroes de barricades

Gance: Lucrece Borgia

Pagnol: Merlusse

Pagnol: Cigalon

Renoir: Le crime de Monsieur Lange

Renoir: Toni

Riefenstahl: Triumph of the Will

Blasetti: Old Guard

Dovzhenko: Aerograd

Kosintsev and Trauberg: The Youth of Max

Cavalcanti: Coalface

Hitchcock: The Thirty-Nine Steps


Carne: Jenny

Gance: Un Grand amour de Beethoven

Renoir: Partie  de Campagne

Dzigan: We From Kronstadt

Eisenstein: Alexander Nevsky

Hitchcock: Sabotage


Carne: Drole de drames

Gance: Le Voleur de femme

Pagnol: Regain

Renoir: La Grande Illusion

Gallone: Scipio the African


Carne: Hotel du Nord

Carne: quai des brumes

Gance: Louise

Pagnol: La Femme du boulanger

Renoir: La Marseillaise.

Renoir: La bete humaine.

Froelich: Heimat

Reifenstahl: Olympia

Alessandrini: Luciano Serra Pilota

Asquith: Pygmalion

Hitchcock: The Lady Vanishes

Saville: South Riding


Carne: Le Jour se leve

Gance: Le Paradis perdu

L’Herbier: La Brigade sauvage

L’Herbier: Entente cordiale

Renoir: La regle du jeu

For contextual links  and more films see: British Cinema and Society: Chronology 1939–1951

British Cinema of the Second World War

Hitchcock: Jamaica Inn

Korda: The Four Feathers

Reed: The Stars Look Down

Woods: They Drive by Night


(French Cinema in the Second World War

Gance (-41): La Venus aveugle

Pagnol: La Fille du puisatier

Harlan: Jew Suss

Hippler: The Wandering Jew
(on arrival go to p 147) 

Mauder & Sessner :The Attack on Fort Eben-Ebel

Hitchcock: Rebecca


L’Herbier: Histoire de rire

Liebeneiner: I Accuse

Ruhman: Quax the Crash Pilot

Powell and Pressburger: The 49th Parallel


Carne: Les visiteurs du soir

Becker: Dernier atout

Gance (-1943): Le Capitaine Fracasse

L’Herbier: La Comedie du bonheur

L’Herbier: La Nuits fantastique

De Sica: The Children are Watching Us

Rossellini: L’uomo dalla Croce

Visconti: Ossessione

(Intro to Neorealism

(Thinkquest site "by student team on Neorealism

Cavalcanti: Went the Day Well?

Howard: First of the Few

Lean: In Which We Serve

Powell and Pressburger: One of Our Aircraft is Missing


Becker: Goupi main-rouges

Bresson: Les anges du peche

Carne (-1945) Les Enfants du paradis

Clouzot: Le Corbeau

Von Baky: Munchausen

Rossellini (43-44) : Desiderio

Arliss: The Man in Grey

Powell and Pressburger: The Life & Death of Colonel Blimp

Launder & Gilliat: Millions Like Us


Gance: Manolette

Eisenstein: Ivan the Terrible Part 1

Batty: The Battle for Warsaw (UK / Poland)

Asquith: Fanny by Gaslight

Clayton: Naples is a Battlefield (Documentary)

Lean: This Happy Breed

Olivier: Henry V

Powell and Pressburger ; A Canterbury Tale

Gilliat: Waterloo Road (Spiv)

Reed: The Way Ahead


(French Cultural Policy After WWII

Becker: Falbalas

Bresson: Les Dames du Bois du Boulogne

Carne:Les Enfants du Paradis

Harlan: Kolberg (1943-45)

Rossellini: Roma citta aperta

Eisenstein: Ivan the TerriblePart 2

Arliss: The Wicked Lady

Boulting: Journey Together

Crabtree: They Were Sisters

Lean: Brief Encounter

Powell & Pressburger: I Know Where I’m Going


Carne: Les Portes de la nuit

Cocteau: La Belle et La Bete

L’Herbier: Au petit bonhuer

Staudte: The Murderers are Among Us

De Sica: Shoeshine

Rossellini: Paisa

Crichton: Hue and Cry (Ealing Comedy)

Jennings: A Defeated People

Lean: Great Expectations

Powell & Pressburger: A Matter of Life and Death


Clair: Le Silence est d’or

Lamprecht: Somewhere in Berlin

Rossellini: Germany Year Zero

Boulting Bros: Brighton Rock (Spiv)

Cavalcanti: They Made Me a Fugitive (Spiv)

Hamer: It always Rains on a Sunday (Melodrama / Social Real)

Powell and Pressburger: Black Narcissus


Cocteau: L’Aigle a deux tetes

Cocteau: Les Parentes terribles

Renais: Van Gogh (Short)

Tati: Jour de fete

De Santis: Bitter Rice

De Sica: Bicycle Thieves

Visconti: La Terra Trema

Asquith: The Winslow Boy

Lean: Oliver Twist

Powell & Pressburger:The Red Shoes

Reed: Fallen Idol


Becker: Rendez-vous de juillet

Melville: Les enfants terribles

Melville: Le Silence de la mer

Rossellini: Strombli: Terra di Dio

Reed: The Third Man

Cornelius: Passport to Pimlico

Hamer: Kind Hearts and Coronets

Mackendrick: Whisky Galore


Carne: La Marie du port

Clair: La Beute du diable

Cocteau: Corolian (Short)

Cocteau: Orphee

Genet: Un Chant d'amour

Resnais: Gaugin (Short)

Resnais: Guernica (Short)

Antonioni: Cronaca di un amore

De Sica: Miracle in Milan

Fellini : Variety Lights

Rossellini: Franscesco guillare di Dio

Lee: The Wooden Horse

Deardon: The Blue Lamp (Social Problem Films)

Odette (Biopic / War)


Bresson: Le Journal d’un cure de campagne

Cocteau: La Villa Santo-sospir

Staudte: The Subject (GDR banned FDR)

De Sica: Umberto D

Fellini: The White Sheik

Visconti: Bellissima

For contextual links and more films see: British Cinema and Society: Chronology 1951–1964

Boulting: High Treason (Anti-Communist)

Boulting: The Magic Box

Crichton: The Lavender Hill Mob

Mackendrick:The Man in a White Suit


Becker: Casque d’or

Pagnol: Manon des sources

Tati: Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot

Antonioni: I vinti

Rosi:Camicie rosse (Red Shirts)

Rossellini: Europa ‘51

Asquith: The Importance of Being Earnest 

Lean: The Sound Barrier

Frend: The Cruel Sea (War)


Carne: Therese Raquin

Clouzot: Wages of Fear

Gance: La 14 juillet 1953

L’Herbier: Le Pere de madamoiselle

Antonioni: La signora senza camelie

Fellini: I vitelloni

L. Anderson: O Dreamland (Social Real)

Cornelius: Genevieve

Crichton: The Titfield Thunderbolt (Comedy)

Gilbert: The Cosh Boy (first Brit X Rated Film) 

Reed: The Man Between (Anti-Communist)


Becker: Touchez pas au grisbi

Carne: L’Air de Paris

Gance: La Tour du Nesle

Varda: La Pointe courte

Kautner: Ludwig II

Kautner: The Last Bridge

Fellini: La strada

Rossellini: Viaggio in Italia

Rossellini: Fear

Visconti: Senso

Hamilton: The Colditz Story (War)

Asquith: The Young Lovers


Clair: Les Grands Manoeuvres

Clouzot: Les Diaboliques

Dassin: Rififi

Renais: Nuit et Brouillard (Short)

Antonioni: Le amiche

Fellini: Il bidone

De Sica: Two Women

Anderson: The Dambusters (War)

Mackendrick: The Ladykillers (Comedy)


Bresson: Un Condamne a mort s’est echappe

Gance: Magirama

Resnais: Toute la memoire du monde (Short)

Fellini: Le notti di Cabiria

Risi: Poor but Beautiful

Chukrai: The 41st

Romm, Mikhail: Murder on Dante Street

Romm, Mikhail: Ordinary Facism

Gilbert: Reach for the Sky (War)

Together (1956) Lorenza Mazzetti

(Free Cinema) 

Momma don't Allow Karel Reisz  and Tony Richardson

(Free Cinema) 


Clair: Porte des lilas

Malle: Lift to the Scaffold

Melville: Bob le Flambeur

Truffaut: Les Mistons (short)

Resnais: Le Mystere de l’atelier (Short)

Rivette: Le Coup du berger (Short)

Reitz & Dorries: Schicksal einer Oper . (57-58)

Antonioni: Il grido

Visconti: White Nights

Kalatozov: Cranes are Flying

Boulting: Lucky Jim

L. Anderson: Everyday Except Christmas (Free Cinema)

Lean: Bridge on the River Kwai (War)


Becker: Montparnasse 19

Carne: Les Tricheurs

Chabrol: Le Beau Serge

Malle: Les Amants

Resnais: Le Chant du styrene


Tati: Mon Oncle

Rosi: La sfida (The Challenge)

Abuladze: Someone Else’s Chidren

Gerasimov: And quiet lows the Don


Bresson: Pickpocket

Cocteau: Le Testament d’ Orphee

Gance (-1960): Austerlitz

Resnais: Hiroshima mon amour

Truffaut: 400 Blows

Reitz: Baumwolle (Doc)

Rosi: I magliari (The Weavers)

Rossellini: Generale Della Rovere

Chukrai: Ballad of a Soldier

(British New Wave)

Boulting: I'm Alright Jack

Boulting: Carlton-Browne of the FO

Clayton: A Room at the Top

Greville: Beat Girl 

Hamer: School for Scoundrels

Reed: Our Man In Havana

Richardson: Look Back in Anger (Social Real)

Reisz: We are the Lambeth Boys (Free Cinema)

Thompson: Tiger Bay


Becker: Le Trou

Carne: Terrain vague

Clement: Plein Soleil

Godard: A Bout de souffle

Godard: Le Petit soldat (released 1963)

Rivette: Paris nous appartient

Truffaut: Tirez sur le pianiste

Lang: The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse

Reitz: Krebsforschung I & ii. (doc short)

Antonioni: L’avventura

Fellini: La dolce vita

Visconti: Rocco and His Brothers

Tarkovsky:The Steamroller and the Violin

Dearden: The League of Gentlemen

Green: The Angry Silence

Powell: Peeping Tom (Thriller/Horror)

Reisz: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Social Real)

Gilbert Sink the Bismark (War)


Clair: Tout l’or du monde

Godard: Une Femme est une femme

Truffaut: Jules et Jim

Resnais: L’Annee derniere a Marienbad

Varda: Cleo de 5 a 7

Kluge: Rennen (Short)

Reitz: Yucatan (Short)

Antonioni: La notte

Fellini: Boccaccio ’70 (episode)

Pasolini: Accattone

Rosi: Salvatore Giuliano

Chukrai: Clear Skies

Dearden: Victim (Social Real)

Richardson: A Taste of Honey Social Real)


Bresson: Le Proces de Jeanne D’arc

Godard; Vivre sa vie

Marker: La Jetee

Melville:Le Doulos

Oberhausen Manifesto: New German Cinema directors

Kluge: Leher im Wandel (62-63) (short)

Antonioni: L’eclisse

Bertolucci: La commare secca

Pasolini: Mama Roma

Taviani Bros: A Man for Burning

Visconti: The Leopard

Tarkovsky: Ivan’s Childhood

Lean: Lawrence of Arabia (War)

Schlesinger:A Kind of Loving (Social Real)

Dr. No (Spy)

Forbes: The L-Shaped Room (Social Real)


Godard: Le Mepris

Franju: Judex/Nuits Rouge

L’Herbier: Hommage a Debussy

Resnais: Muriel

Fellini: 8 1/2

Taviani Bros: Outlaw of Matrimiony

Rosi:Le mani sulla città (Hands Over the City

Anderson: This Sporting Life

Brooks: Lord of the Flies

Losey: The Servant

From Russia with Love (Spy)

Schlesinger: Billy Liar (Social Real +)

Richardson: Tom Jones (Literary Adaptation)


Gance: Cyrano et d’Artagnan

Godard: Bande a part

Rouch / Godard / Rohmer et al.: Paris vu par

Antonioni: il deserto rosso

Bertolucci: Before the Revolution

Pasolini: The Gospel According to St. Matthew

Rosi:Il momento della verità (The Moment of Truth

Visconti: Sandra

Kosinstev: Hamlet

Lester: A Hard Day’s Night (Swinging Sixties)


Carne: Trois chambres a Manhattan

Clair: Les Fetes galantes

Gance (-1966): Marie Tudor

Godard: Alphavile

Godard: Pierrot le fou

Kluge: Yesterday Girl (65-66

Schlondorff: Der junge Torless (65-66)

Bellocchio: Fists in the Pocket

Fellini: Juliet of the Spirits

Pontecorvo: The Battle For Algiers

Boorman: Catch Us if you can (Swinging Sixties)

Furie Sidney J: Ipcress File (Spy)

Lester: The Knack (Swinging Sixties)

Polanski: Repulsion (Horror)

Ritt: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (Spy)

Scheslinger: Darling (Swinging 60s)

Loach: Up the Junction


Bresson: Au hazard Balthazar

Godard: Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle

Resnais: La Guerre est finie

Reitz: Mahlzeiten (Mealtimes). (66-67)

Pasolini: The Hawks and the Sparrows

Tarkovsky (released 1971) Andrei Rublev

Anderson (Michael): The Quiller Memorandum

Antonioni: Blow Up (Swinging Sixties)

Hamilton: Funeral in Berlin

Narizzano: Georgy Girl


Polanski: Cul de Sac

Reisz: Morgan: a Suitable Case for Treatment

Zinneman: A Man For All Seasons


Bresson: Mouchette

Gance: Valmy

Godard: La Chinoise

Godard: Week-End

Pagnol: Le Cure de Cucugnan

Resnais: Loin du Vietnam (Part of a collective work)

Herzog: Signs of Life

Kluge: Artists at the Top of the Big Top: Disoriented

Pasolini: Oedipus Rex

Taviani Bros: The Subversives

Rosi: C'era una volta(Once Upon a Time)

Visconti: The Outsider

Askoldov: The Commissar

Losey: Accident

Loach: Poor Cow


Carne: Les Jeunes Loups

Renais: Je t’aime, je t’aime

Rohmer: Ma nuit chez Maude

Herzog: Fata Morgana (68-70)

Syberberg: Scarabea

Bertolucci: Partner

Fellini: Histoires extraordinaires (Episode)

Pasolini: Theorem

Taviani Bros: The Magic Bird

Taviani Bros: Under the Sign of Scorpio

Anderson: If

Lester: Petulia

Reed: Oliver

Richardson:Charge of the Light Brigade (Swinging Sixties)

Donner: Here We go Round the Mulberry Bush


Bresson: Une Femme douce

Costa-Gravas: 'Z'

Gance (-1971): Bonaparte et la Revolution

Melville: L'armee des hombres

Fassbinder: Love is Colder Than Death

Herzog: Even Dwarfs Start Small (69-70)

Kluge: The Big Mess (69-70)

Sanders-Brahm: Angelika Urban, Verkauferin, verlobt (Doc)

Wenders (69-70): Summer in the City

Fellini: Fellini Satyricon

Pasolini: Pigsty

Pontecorvo: Qiemada

Rossellini: Acts of the Apostles

Visconti: The Damned

Hamilton : Battle of Britain

Attenborough: Oh what a Lovely War

Loach: Kes

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie


Carne: La Force et la droit

Melville: Le Circle Rouge

Rohmer: Le Genou de Claire

Fassbinder: The American Soldier

Bertolucci: The Conformist

Bertolucci: The Spider’s Strategem

Fellini: I Clowns

Pasolini: Medea

Pasolini: The Decameron

Rosi:Uomini contro

Rossellini: Socrate

Motyl: White Sun oft he Desert (Red Western)

Roeg: Performance


Bresson: Quatre nuits d’un reveur

Losey: The Go-Between


Fassbinder: The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

Herzog: Aguirre: Wrath of God

Sander: Does the Pill Liberate Women? (Doc).

Syberberg: Ludwig: Requiem for a Virgin King

Wenders: The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty

Wenders: The Scarlet Letter

Antonioni: China

Fellini: Roma

Rosi: Il caso MatteiThe Mattei Affair) (

Visconti: Ludwig

Tarkovsky: Solaris

Kubrick: A Clockwork Orange


Fassbinder: Fear Eats the Soul

Sander: Male Bonding

Wenders: Alice in the Cities

Bertolucci: Last Tango in Paris

Fellini: Amacord

Moretti: La sconfitta

Rosi: Lucky Luciano

Roeg: Don’t Look Now

Anderson: O Lucky Man


Bresson: Lancelot du lac

Renais: Stavisky

Rivette: Celine and Julie Go Boating

Fassbinder: Fox and His Friends

Herzog: The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

Syberberg: Karl May

Moretti: come parle,frate?

Pasolini: Arabian Nights

Taviani Bros: Alonsanfan

Visconti: Conversation Piece

Mikhalkov: At Home Among Strangers, A Stranger at Home


Schlondorff & von Trotta: The Lost Honour of Katerina Blum

Wenders: False Movement

Wenders: Kings of hte Road

Antonioni: The Passenger

Pasolini: Salo

Rossellini: The Messiah

Mikhalkov: A Slave of Love

Tarkovsky: Mirror

Monty Python and the Holy Grail


Carne: La Bible

Renais: Providence

Fassbinder: Chinese Roulette

Fassbinder: Satan’s Brew

Herzog: Heart of Glass

Herzog: Stroszek ((76-77)

Reitz: Stunde Null (Zero Hour)

Sanders-Brahm: Shirin’s Wedding

Syberberg: Our Hitler (76-77)

Bertolucci: 1900

Fellini: Il Casanova di Frederico Fellini

Moretti: Io sono un autarchico

Rosi: Cadaveri eccellentiIllustrious Corpses) (

Visconti: L'Innocente (The Intruder)


Bresson: Le Diable probablement

Kluge: The Patriot (77-79)

Schlondorff / Fassbinder / Kluge/ Reitz et al : Germany in Autumn

Schlondorff: The Tin Drum. (1997098)

Von Trotta: The Second Awakening of Christa Klages

Wenders: The American Friend

Taviani Bros: Padre, Padrone

Mikhalkov: Unfinished Piece for a Mechanical Piano

Jarman: Jubilee



Fassbinder: The Marriage of Maria Braun

Herzog: Nosferatu

Fellini: Prova d’orchestra

Moretti: Ecce Bombo

Olmi : Tree of Wooden Clogs

Mikhakov: Five Evenings

Harvey: Eagle’s Wing

Parker: Midnight Express


Schlondorff: The Tin Drum

Schlondorff / Kluge / Aust von Eschwege : The Candidate. (79-80)

Von Trotta: Sisters or the Balance of Happiness

Bertolucci: La luna

Fellini. Prova d'orchestra

Rosi: Cristo si è fermato a EboliChrist Stopped at Eboli) (

Taviani Bros: The Meadow

Konchalovsky: Sibiriade

Menshov: Moscow Does not Believe in Tears

Mikhalkov: Several Days in the Life of I.I. Oblamov

Tarkovsky: Stalker

Monty Python’s Life of Brian


Renais: Mon oncle d’Amerique

Fassbinder: Lilli Marleen

Herzog: Woyzeck

Reitz: Heimat (80-84)

Sander: The subjective Factor (80-81)

Sanders-Brahm: Germany Pale Mother

Antonioni: Il mistero di oberwald

Fellini: City of Women

Roeg: Bad Timing


Fassbinder: Lola

Fassbinder: Veronika Voss

Syberberg: Parsifal (81-82)

Von Trotta: The German Sisters

Bertolucci: Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man

Moretti: Sogni d'oro

Rosi: Tre fratelliThree Brothers) (

Taviani Bros: Night of the Shooting Stars

Mikhalkov: Kinsfolk

Reisz: The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Hudson: Chariots of Fire

(Start of Heritage Cinema?

Gregory’s Girl


Fassbinder: Querelle

Schlondorff / Kluge / Engstfeld: War and Peace (82-83)

Von Trotta: Friends and Husbands

Wenders: The State of Things

Antonioni: Identificazione di una donna

Anderson (Lindsay): Britannia Hospital 

Greenaway: The Draughtsman’s Contract


Bresson: L’Argent

Renais: La Vie est un roman

Herzog: Fitzcarraldo

Reitz & Kluge: Biermann -Film (short).

Schlondorff: Swann in Love

Von Trotta: Rosa Luxemburg

Moretti: Bianca

Mikhalkov: A Private Conversation

Tarkovsky: Nostalgia

Gilbert: Educating Rita

Leigh: Meantime

MacKenzie: The Honorary Consul

Local Hero

Potter: The Goldiggers

Eyre: The Ploughman’s Lunch


Renais: L’amour a mort

Reitz: Heimat Part 1

Syberberg: die Nacht (84-85)

Rosi: Carmen

Taviani Bros: Chaos

Joffe: The Killing Fields


Varda: Sans toi ni loi

Lanzmann: Shoah

Kluge: The Blind Director

Sanders-Brahm: Old Love (Doc)

Schlondorff: Death of a Salesman

Moretti:La messa e finita

Bernard: Letter to Brehznev

Frears: My Beautiful Laundrette

Lean: A Passage to India


Barri: Jean de Florette

Berri: Manon des sources

Resnais: Melo

Sanders-Brahm: Laputa

Cox: Sid and Nancy


Ivory: Room With a View

Jordan: Mona Lisa


Herzog: Cobra Verde

Kluge: Odds and Ends

Wenders: Wings of Desire

Olmi: Long Life to the Lady!

Rosi: Cronaca di una morte annumciata (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)

Taviani Bros: Good Morning Babilonia

Mikhalkov: Dark Eyes

Little Dorrit

Ivory: Maurice

Frears: Prick up Your Ears

Wish You Were Here

Robinson:Withnail & I


Von Trotta: Three Sisters

Greenaway: Drowning by Numbers

Leigh: High Hopes

Sammy and Rosie Get Laid


Wenders: Notebook on Clothes and Cities

Fellini: Intervista

Moretti: Palombello rossa

Greenaway: The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and Her Lover

Julien: Looking for Langston


Von Trotta: Return

Fellini: La voce della luna

Moretti: La cosa

Rosi: Dimenticare Palermo (To Forget Palermo)

Taviani Bros: The Sun also Shines at Night

Mikhalkov: Autostop

Leigh: Life is Sweet

Minghella: Truly, Madly, Deeply


Carax: Les amants du Pont-Neuf

Jeunet & Caro: Delicatessen

Pialat: Van Gogh

Wenders: Until the End of the World

Mikhalkov: Urga: Territory of Love

Loach: Riff Raff


Reitz: Heimat Part 2

Rosi: Diario napoletano (Neapolitan Diary)

Ivory:Room With a View

Ivory: Howard’s End

Neil Jordan : The Crying Game


Kassovitz: Cafe au Lait / Blended

Kieslowski:Three Colours: Blue

Kieslowski: Three Colours White (Co-pro)

Muller: The Wonderful Horrible life of Leni Riefenstahl

Von Trotta: Il Lungo Silenzio

Wenders: Far Away so Close

Taviani Bros: Fiorile

Mikhalkov: Anna 6-18

Leigh: Naked

Loach: Raining Stones

Potter: Orlando


Chereau, La Reine Margot

Kieslowski: Three Colours Red (Co-pro)

Von Trotta:die Frauen in der Rosenstrasse

Von Trotta: The Promise

Wenders: Arisha, the Bear and the Stone Ring

Moretti: Caro diario

Moretti: L'unico paese al mondo

Mikhalkov: Burnt By the Sun

Chada: Bhaji on the Beach

Newall: Four Weddings and a Funeral


Kassovitz: La Haine

Mimouni: L’Appartement

Wenders: Lisbon Story

Antonioni ( +Wenders) : Beyond the Clouds

Boyle: Shallow Grave

Winterbottom: Butterfly Kiss


Wenders: Lumiere de Berlin

Moretti: Opening day of 'Close-Up'

Rosi: La tregua (The Truce)

Taviani Bros: Chosen Affinities

Boyle: Trainspotting

Herman:Brassed Off

Lee: Sense and Sensibility

Leigh: Secrets and Lies

Minghella: The English Patient


Kassovitz: Assassin (s)


Wenders: The End of Violence

For contextual links and more films see: British Cinema and Society: Chronology 1997–2010

Boyle: A Life Less Ordinary

Madden:Mrs. Brown

Potter: The Tango Lesson

Prasad: My Son The Fanatic

Ramsey: Kill the Day

Winterbottom: Welcome to Sarajevo


Von Trotta: Mit 50 Kussen Manner Anders

Moretti: Aprile

Taviani Bros: You Laugh

Mikhalkov: The Barber of Siberia

Kapur: Elizabeth

Leigh: Career Girls

Ritchie: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Sofley: Wings of a Dove


Twyker: Run Lola Run

Benigni : Life is Beautiful

Jordan: The End of the Affair

Leigh: Topsy Turvey  

Michell: Notting Hill

O'Donnell: East is East


Rozema: Mansfield Park


Chabrol:Merci pour le Chocolat.

Chereau: Intimacy

Godard: Histoire (s) du cinema

Haneke: Code Unknown(French co-pro) 

Ozon: Water Drops on Burning Rocks

Frazzi & Frazzi:The Sky is Falling

British Directors Hub Page

Pawlikowski: The Last Resort


Denis: Trouble Every Day

Godard: Eloge de l’amour

Haneke: The Piano Teacher

Jeunet: Amelie

Ozon: 8 Women

Tavernier: Laissez-Passer

Hirschbiegel: Das Experiment

Moretti: The Son’s Room

McGuire: Bridget Jone’s Diary

Winterbottom: 24 Hour Party People

Loach: The Navigators


Breillat: Sex Is Comedy

Philibert: Etre et avoir

Dilthey: Das Verlangen (The Longing)

Sokhurov: Russian Ark

Chadha: Bend it Like Beckham

Greengrass:Bloody Sunday

Hüseyin: Anita and Me

Mackenzie: Young Adam

Leigh: All or Nothing

Loach: Sweet Sixteen

Ramsey: Morven Callar


Rohmer: Triple Agent

Becker: Goodbye Lenin!

Reitz: Heimat Part 3

Bellocchio: Good Morning Night

Frears : Dirty Pretty Things

Hodges: I'll Sleep When I'm Dead 


Leigh: Vera Drake

Loach: Ae fond Kiss

Gleenan: Yasmin

Pawlikowski: My Summer of Love

Potter: Yes


Haneke: Caché

Rothemund:Sophie Scholl

Weingartner:The Edukators

Dibb: Bullet Boy

Frears: The Queen

Mireilles: The      Constant Gardner

Winterbottom: A Cock and Bull Story

Wright (J): Pride and Prejudice

von Donnersmarck:The Lives of Others

Arnold: Red Road

Loach: Wind That Shakes the Barley

Meadows: This is  England

Williams: London to Brighton

Winterbottom: The Road to Guantanamo


Broomfield: Ghosts

Corbijn: Control

Gavron: Brick Lane

Kapur: Elizabeth the Golden Age  

Loach: It's a Free World

Winterbottom: A Mighty Heart

Winterbottom: Genova

Wright: Atonement

2008 Assayas: Summer Hours

Davies: Of Time and The City

Herman: The Boy in Striped Pajamas

Leigh: Happy-Go-Lucky

Maybury: The Edge of Love

Meadows: Somers Town

March 30, 2007

Spione, 1928: Dir. Fritz Lang

Spione, 1928: Dir. Fritz Lang

Spione DVD Cover

Eureka DVD Cover for Spione


This post is currently what I'm describing as a 'phase one' post. A synopsis and contextual and critical comments will be added at a later date. Through the webliography below this post thus serves to act as a resource page. This will allow prospective course members and other visitors to conduct some basic research into the relevant film. For further research you may also consuly the relevant bibliography. Please use the bibliographies tag in the sidebar to access this resource. 


At the time of writing the following sites I consider the best researched academically or else are present because of the quality of their links. This is searched down to page 30 of Google. Overall it appears as though Spione is very underwritten.

BFI Magic of Lang Link

BFI Lang filmography

BFI dtabase entry on Spione

BFI Sight & sound Article by Thomas Elsaesser on Lang:

Senses of Cinema link to Fritz Lang Article by Daniel Shaw

Link to site about Fritz Arno Wagner  one of the leading Weimar cinematographers who did the cinemaphotogrphy for Spione:

At the time of writing the following sites I consider the best researched academically or else are present because of the quality of their links. This is searched down to page 10 of Google.

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler, 1922: Dir. Fritz Lang

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler

Dr Mabues the Gambler

Eureka DVD Dr. Mabuse the Gambler


The film and DVD are divided into two parts. The first DVD is 155 minutes long with the second being 115 miutes long. The DVD material is licensed from Transit films who painstakingly reconstructed the film as well as possible. Transit are the firm behind many of the German Weimar films which Eureka are distributing in the UK. The quality is very good. The newly commissioned soundtrack is very effective and goes well with the film unlike say the Michael Nyman soundtracked version of Man With a Movie Camera for example. The subtitling isn't up to the standards of many of the Eureka films with a clearly literal translation from the German which is certainly apparent to native English speakers.

On the matter of translation, the film is marketed in the UK under the title of Dr. Mabuse the Gambler. This is not the best translation of the title for although Mabuse makes plenty of money targeting wealthy gamblers he is anything but a gambler, rather he is a 'control freak'. The meaning of term 
as player is far more appropriate, for Mabuse likes to play with people as much for the power and the pleasure in it as for the money. I shall thus refer to the film as player / gambler to emphasise this tension in meaning. 

The film was originally from the Dekcla Bioskop group  Uco-Film GMBH of Berlin. It was produced by Erich Pommer.

Director: Fritz Lang

Screenplay: Thea von Harbou German version) & Fritz Lang (not accredited)

Director of Photography : Carl Hoffman


Dr. Mabuse: Rudolf Klein-Rogge 

Rudolf Klein-rogge

State Prosecutor von Wenke: Bernhard Goetze.

Below ihn confrontation with Klein-Rogge's Mabuse 

Klein-Rogge confronted by Goetze

Dancer Cara Carozza:  Aud Egede Nissen (Norwegian)

Below surrounded by flowers after her nightclub performance 

Cara in Dr Mabuse


The first part is called "A portrait of out time: The Player/Gambler". Certainly it refers to the post-war mayhem which occurred in Germany and also many other parts of Europe in the aftermath of World War One. It must be remembered that there were attempts at social revolution or at the very least serioius industrial strife in many countries outside of Germany in the early 1920.  As Lutticken below comments, the plot is 'meandering'. This is largely because it is more of a filmed series of separate stories which are held together after the first act through the character of the state prosecutor. For those who don't have the time to take all the film in one sitting (who has nowadays?) then it can very successfully be watched as a series of 'acts' which are more akin to watching 'Life on Mars' or some other TV series which is linked by an underlying thread.

Some episodes seem disassociated from others. The first act centered upon creating and exploiting a Stock Market rumour had little to do with the illegal gambling episodes which dominate much of the rest of the first part of the film. Similarly the forging of dollars using blind people to package them seems dissociated from the key plot. Rather it is a passing reference to certain types of illegality and allowed a wry comment on the state of European currencies of the time against the successful Amercian economy but it isn't developed further. Another theme which isn't developed is the pyschoanalytic aspect of the work. Clearly a reference to Freudian ideas by then becoming more widely known. Freud of course had access to many of the Viennese upper middle classes particualrly dealing with hysteria which Freud comes to understand and a societal and gender issue. For Lang it provides some sort of excuse for Mabuse to gain access to the Countess' mansion although the audience would have largely forgotten the presentation Mabuse made presumably to gain a reputation amongst the well off who were his primary target. 

It is this aspect of the representation of the upper-middle classes which is of interest and might have influenced Kracauer's analysis of the film in his From Caligari to Hitler. There are many displaced and slightly confused upper class people who seem to have plenty of money but no real sense of purpose. There is a class idenity which seems to have ben fragmented by the war and subsequent relovuitions and uprisings.  It is this vacuum which Mabuse is exploiting mercilessl. It is as though the elites are behaving like Ostriches. We don't see them represented as industrialists or leaders politically or socially. The State prosecutor seems to be acting as an isolated representative of the new social order struggling to gain legitimacy. The analysis provided by Kracauer which is quoted below is focusing on Mabuse as a tyrant, and when Mabuse talks of excercising will to play with people you could start to agree with Kracauer. But Mabuse seems to like playing for the sake of playing, it is his raison d'etre. One could almost see it as a self-parody of cinema itself with the incessant round of different costumes to 'entrtain' people.

Unlike tyrants who need to be seen as a part of their superior charisma Mabuse goes to extreme lengths not to be seen. Only a few close associates know exactly what he looks like. Mabuses' secret of creating mayhem is based upon invisibility. There are similarites there with 'M'. No the problem is legitimacy and an apparent problem of social anchoring. The presence of Mabuse requires an absensce of legitimacy. It is again a theme which Lang returns to in 'M' and is perhaps a preoccupation of von Harbou as a scriptwriter.  Interesting of course that she stays in Nazi Germany where Hitler for a short time at least seemed to have solved the legitimation crisis. Like Mabuse 'M' too can strike fear into citizens through invisibility. Ironically it is the blind who make 'M' visible. 

What the Web Critics Say:

There is some interesting material available on the web on the whole of the Mabuse cycle, not least from Thomas Elsaesser one of the leading critics on German cinema. I have extracted the relevant section of the article however it is well worth going on to read the whole thing as Elsaesser is reviewing the case often cited against Lang of being rather reactionary. It will make viewing the film in the light of these comments interesting. 

Here Thomas Elsaesser (Sight and Sound 2000) puts the case for the Dr Mabuse trilogy as a radical critique of surveillance culture.

Plot Synopsis

Dr Mabuse was Lang's breakthrough film in Germany, as well as an early example of a marketing ploy in which the serialised novel and the film became each other's mutual selling points. Announcing itself in its title as a "portrait of its time" (part one: The Gambler) and "of its men and women" (part two: The Inferno) it was loosely based on motifs from Norbert Jacques' tabloid opus, peppered up with topical material by Lang and his then wife, the successful novelist and Germany's top screenwriter Thea von Harbou. The four-hour film starts at a furious pace, with a meticulously timed train robbery leading to a stock-exchange fraud. It then concentrates on Mabuse hypnotising a young American industrialist into running up large debts at gambling, after which the master criminal wins the favours of an aristocratic lady, drives her husband to suicide and eventually kidnaps her. Time and again outwitting the public prosecutor by a mixture of brutality, practical jokes and agent provocateur demagoguery, Mabuse is finally cornered in his secret hideout and either goes mad or feigns insanity when he is finally captured.

Social References to the destabilised Weimar Republic

The film is said originally to have had a pre-credits sequence depicting street battles from the 1919 Spartacist socialist uprising in Berlin, the assassination of foreign minister Walther Rathenau and other scenes of disorder masterminded by Mabuse ("Who is responsible for all this? - Me" was apparently the first intertitle). Although this opening is now lost or was never made, the various scams Mabuse is involved in (industrial espionage, stock-exchange fraud, forged banknotes) as well as the felonies he perpetrates (he runs a lab manufacturing cocaine, his gang controls gambling and prostitution and plots assassinations) all vividly point to the immediate post-World War I era, especially to Germany's raging hyperinflation between 1921 and 1924 and its black-market economy that pauperised the middle classes while creating a new urban subculture of war profiteers, Mafia-like racketeer organisations and vigilante units recruited from the growing army of the unemployed. The political references were not lost on contemporary reviewers or the censors, and even today Mabuse's several disguises seem taken out of a catalogue of Weimar types familiar from the drawings of Otto Dix and George Grosz: stockbroker in a top hat, derelict drunk in a housing tenement, Jewish peddler at the street corner, bearded rentier in a flashy limousine, industrialist with monocle and moustache, pimp, psychiatrist, the hypnotist and opium-smoking Tsi-Nan-Fu in a gambling den.

Elsaesser's comments are interesting but need to be considered a little bit cautiously for at times he seems to be waxing poetic and eliding a lot of years together when there were dramatic differences between them.  Firstly the film premiered on April 27th 1922 in Germany. Inflation whilst high was by no means near the extraordinary levels it was to reach in the latter part of 1923. By July 1922 notes Richard Evans $1 US cost 493 marks. In November 1921 $1 cost 263 marks:

In the period up until the middle of 1922, economic growth rates in Germany were high, and unemployment low. ... The German economy managed the transition to a peacetime basis more effectively than some European economies where inflation was less marked." (Evans Richard, 2003, p 104)

The film itself was being made when conditions were still ostensibly OK although, as Evans points out, they were built on sand. Below Elsaesser notes that Mabuse was at least in part a reference to Hugo Stinnes who was an industrial magnate who was very successful after World War 1. Unsurprisingly Stinnes held right-wing views and in 1919 he joined with Alfred Hugenberg to establish the German Nationalist Party (DNVP). Where Elsaesser rails against the profiteers it is worth reminding readers that the remarkable success of the German post World War 1 film industry was founded on this high level of inflation. UFA like other successful entrepreneurial businesses was able to borrow cheaply in marks and pay the money back later with the same number of marks but which had become devalued through inflation. Furthermore the successful 'art' type films which we watch today were aimed at international audiences. As a result the hard currency could buy a lot of marks to reinvest in the next production. This was why Hollywood films had a hard time entering the German market prior to the Dawes plan of 1924 and the currency stabilisation. 

Mabuse was taken to be modelled on Hugo Stinnes, a steel magnate who from humble beginnings amassed a fortune and occupied a key position in the post-World War I rearmament industries (illegal, according to the Treaty of Versailles). But Mabuse also doubles as a Houdini-like vaudeville artist, passes himself off as a soul doctor from Vienna and even has a dash of the Bolshevik agitator in the Karl Radek mould. The final showdown was modelled on the famous shoot-out between the police and the 'Fort Chavrol' bankrobbers from a barricaded house in the Parisian banlieue in 1921. In short, Lang's "portrait of its time" gathers up a fair number of contemporary references.

Elsaesser usefully comments on the post Second World War discourse about Germany in which Siegfried Kracauer's From Caligari to Hitler played an important role when it came to discussing the role of culture in Weimar Germany.

It was after World War II that Dr Mabuse in the eyes of the critics took on a less topical and more overtly metaphoric mien. As indicated, Kracauer ties virtually every significant trend in his diagnostic psychogram of Weimar veering towards totalitarian madness to one of Lang's films:

"[Dr Mabuse] succeeds in making of Mabuse an omnipresent threat that cannot be localised, and thus reflects society under a tyrannical regime - that kind of society in which one fears everybody because anybody may be the tyrant's ear or arm."

Lang later argued back, pointing out that if he had predicted the rise of Hitler in his films, then Kracauer was pinning the blame for the bad news on the messenger.

                              Mabuse at the Pontoon Club

Elsaesser's comments below seem very pertinent. He ties Mabuse into the trend for 'expressionism' and recognises it in a self reflexive cinematic moment as a mechanism for creating audience. In some senses Mabuese's comment " Everything today is make-believe", resonates with a society which was struggling to reinvent itself. The defeat in the war saw the collpse of the political system which had been forged by Bismarck and had provided the cornerstone for Germany's successful rise to being the World's second largest economy. The Versailles Treaty saw the loss of 10% of Germany's population and 13% of its territory. The Saarland was 'lopped off' (Evans), and the Rhineland was under occupation for most of the 1920s. Germany was literally a shadow of its former self. A metaphor which could easily be read into the expressionist films of the time. Evans is less keen to emphasise a black market economy in the post war years than to emphasise the growth of semi-autonomous mainly right-wing nationalist paramilitary organisations who also ran assassination squads seeking out those they deemed as traitors. These included Ratthenau of the Social Democrats but also, the socialist Hugo Haase and the Centre Party deputy Matthias Erzberger. The key element was one of gaining political legitimacy. With 20 different cabinets between 1919 and January 1933, the coalition governments represented the deep political fissures present within the German body politic itself. Mabuse predates Germany's descent into total economic chaos. It was at the height of hyperinflation that starvation and rioting took palce (Evans pp 106- 107). However Evans notes the diaries of victor Klemperer who commented upon how many had taken to gambling on the stock market whilst making some modest gains compared to Professor Forster an well know anti-semite has said to be "making half a million marks a day playing the markets". Evans (p 107).  It is therefore reasonable to suppose that Lang was being speculative about a growing trend which was discernible even when the film was being made.

Evidently the film's immense popularity at the time and subsequent status as a classic testify to a surplus of meaning, best readable perhaps across the designation of Mabuse as "der Spieler", meaning the gambler but also the dissembler or pretender. Highlighting both playfulness and risk, a refusal of identity and a slippage of reference, the epithet announces the question of what kind of agency Mabuse embodies as he 'stands behind' events as well as 'fronting' a conspiratorial gang bent on mayhem and mischief. One could call Mabuse a disguise artist, dissimulating both identity and agency, and suggest that he belongs to a rather large family of such creatures in Weimar cinema, whose kinship, but also generic diversity (Caligari and Nosferatu, Die Nibelungen's Hagen and Spies' Haghi, Tartuffe and Mephisto), allow some conclusions about the self-analysis of cinema during the Weimar period. Mimicry as metaphor, metaphor as mimicry. If Lang's German films are inventories of styles and if he provided much of the wallpaper for Weimar Germany's national or avant-garde ambitions, he also showed how flimsy it was. Take expressionism, the style intended to create an internationally valid brand name for German cinema in the early 20s - as Mabuse himself says: "Expressionism! - it's a game of make-believe! But why not? Everything today is make-believe." Mabuse both implicates and distances himself, in a gesture that joins mimicry and parody, a mottled person for a mottled ground.

Of course sentiment in stock markets in 'normal times' is moved on both rational analysis but also on rumour and speculation, "greed and fear" are the prime motivators. In an increasingly unstable society the class of people represented by Dr. Mabuse would have had increasing sway:

There are many such moments in Dr Mabuse. One would be the scene of Mabuse at the stock exchange in which he destabilises both stock prices and currencies by selectively planting information gleaned from the treaty captured during the train robbery. The scene ends with the superimposition of Mabuse's face on the emptied stock exchange, gradually surging from the background like a watermark on a banknote held against the light, as if Lang had tilted the world we have just witnessed and something else had become visible: not the truth, but the recto of a verso. What is left is a kind of hieroglyphic world, barely readable, strange, but consisting of all but the most familiar elements.

Mabuse kidnaps the Countess

Sven Lutticken in New Left Review largely agrees with Elsaesser's take on Dr. Mabuse. It certainly seems to be representing and possibly contributing to the drift towards a 'casino economy'. Both Elsaesser and Lutticken focus on the key metaphor of hypnosis, and in many ways this could be read as a critique of the politicians and the politcal parties who for all their talk were allowing the country to slip into what many must have been feeling was an impending chaos.  

Lang used lavish sets, leading actor Rudolf Klein-Rogge and a meandering storyline to paint a panorama of a decadent society—Weimar Germany—so weak that it can easily fall prey to the evil master-mind Mabuse, a hypnotist who can submit people to his will. One of the most memorable scenes shows Mabuse’s head, facing the camera against a black background, growing ever closer and appearing to hypnotize the audience as well as his unfortunate opponent in the film. With its overt ambition to give a portrait of the times, and Lang’s highly stylized and sumptuous scenes, the first Mabuse film claimed both artistic value (as opposed to ‘unsophisticated’ Hollywood entertainment) and kulturkritische ambition …For all its production values and aspirations to social critique, Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler has a hopelessly hackneyed and melodramatic plot.” (Sven  Lutticken Planet of the Remakes: New Left Review 25, January-February 2004


This webliography has at the time of writing identified what are considered to be the most useful and best researched links on the Web. Currently the search is going down to page 10 of Google.  

Link to Deutsche Film Portal coverage:

Part 1: Der Spieler

Part 2: Inferno  

Link to 1992 lecture given at the Sidney Museum of Contemporary Art by Ingo Petzke:

Deutsche Film Portal link to biography of Frit Lang,,,,,,,,EFC121B064DE6C3FE03053D50B3736F2,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,.html

Link to British film Insitute pages on Fritz Lang

The Chiarascuro site has some excellent large size screen shots as well as some basic information about the Lang's next film in the Mabuse cycle; The Last Testament of Dr. Mabuse

Link to a useful brief profile of Lang as well as a filmography on the Senses of Cinema site:

Link to Senses of Cinema site article by Michael Koller on the second of the Mabues Films The Tesatament of Doctor Mabuse:

German Films Archive Entry on Fritz Lang:

Dr. Mabuse a Modern German Myth:

Link to New Left Review article by  Sven Lutticken on remakes which includes analysis of Spione and Dr Mabuse:

November 27, 2006

Metropolis, Modernity and the Economy: Or why it was a flop!


Metropolis is an awkward film to write about. It is contradictory, eclectic, it has a visual imaginary which is both in awe of modernity and seemingly petrified by it.

Metropolis 9

Ultimately the film seems to accept a society led by a .technocratic elite which recognises that the rather ignorant and stupid workers don’t deserve to be treated totally like slaves. The leader should nevertheless be benign and remain connected to the people. But it is an unconvincing ending.

Metropilis 5

Metropolis has been written about from many different perspectives with another book on the film produced this year (2006).This piece remains focused on trying to understand Metropolis within the context of its times. It also probes some issues which are raised by the failure of this flagship blockbuster film amongst the audiences it was meant to have been targeting. There is a huge mythology which tends to focus on the character of the director Fritz Lang which detracts from this from this fundamental question.

Another key issue is the numerous different versions which were deliberately made to target different audiences. This history is summarised in a separate blog entry. What remains an issue is the fact that the original version screened in Berlin for about 16 weeks has been lost and is unlikely to be ever reconstructed. This is important because, given its Expressionist impulse with an emphasis upon form as a method of making meaning rather than plot and script, then any viewing and analysis is strictly limited. The fact that this apparently best version wasn’t successful with audiences makes some provisional analysis of its failure with audiences even more important.

Metropolis represented a society without a spiritual vision which like the ancient Greeks was dependent upon workers who appeared to be slaves – not even wage slaves. Certainly, there were no consumer outlets for workers to spend an income although the elites clearly had their pleasure palaces.

Metropolis 7

Politically the film could be read as populist in the sense that it was a recognition that the plebs did have needs beyond pure slavery. Slavery is clearly signified in both the Greek athletics stadium and the reference to the Egyptian Moloch. The film could thus be read as supportive of the centre-right coalition which had taken power in the Weimar after the Dawes plan of 1923 but it is more complicated than that. However there is much in this film that could be read as supportive of NSDAP principles.

Germany & Modernity

Going back to basics means briefly analysing what was happening on the economic front in the Weimar at the time Metropolis was released in 1927. By doing this I will argue that there has been an overemphasis on what Kaes has described as the cultural resistance to modernity:

The war had been fought, according to the ideologues, to defend traditional German Kultur against the onslaught of Zivilisation, i.e. the mechanisation of life, democracy and modern mass culture. (Kaes p 59).

Whilst this attitude described the position of many landowning aristocrats, provincial landowners and peasants, this was hardly the concern of the great industrialists, and empire makers. Nor was it the concern of the largest social democratic party in the world prior to the First World War. Their historical compromise with capitalism (to paraphrase Lenin) was to sacrifice their internationalism on the sword of nationalist empire building. This was sold to them as a pre-emptive defence against a greedy Russian empire keen to eat away at Germany. Without the support of the German working class the war could not have been fought effectively.

By 1914 Germany was an industrial powerhouse second only to the USA. Certainly Britain had been outstripped in terms of industrial production by the turn of the previous century. Wilhelmine Germany had a core leadership with great imperial ambitions. It was a modernising country which under Bismark had introduced the first welfare state to discourage rebellion and revolution.

Like other countries Germany had its tensions. These were more pronounced partly because the pace of change was faster than in Britain which as the first industrial nation grew slightly more organically. Uneven development meant that there was a greater cultural shock of the kind which Marx wrote about: all that is solid melts into air. The sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies had written about the process in his well known identification of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, in which the more organic face to face relationship of small communities was being replaced by much larger and more impersonal structures. The famous sociologist Max Weber wrote about the process as one of increasing bureaucratisation which he dubbed an iron cage.

Metropolis 8

Visually Lang’s film represents these strands of thought. Control, surveillance, the replacement of natural rhythms by clock time and lack of meaningful human interaction were all described visually by Lang. These were represented in what Kracauer has described as ‘mass ornament’ where the workers are choreographed in geometric patterns. This also relates to an expressionist love of visual form and this is an important aspect of the construction of menaing within the film.

Political and Economic Modernity

In terms of political modernity Germany failed to make the transition effectively to a more democratic society. Although the SDP were a large party they had very little power in the German constitutional structure which remained a very top down affair with real power residing with the Kaiser through leaders such as Bismarck in the past.

Britain had gone through its major recent constitutional crisis in 1910 when the House of Lords had to give up its right to veto absolutely the power of the elected government through the House of Lords. Of course there were still British aristocrats who resented the incursion of democracy and like lord Londonderry they looked upon Mussolini and Hitler as their saviours against potential Bolshevism.

In Germany democracy was hastily awarded so that the Prussian elites could escape the blame for the First World War. The Social Democrats took power and had to negotiate the Armistice. Known as the November criminals purveyors of the stab in the back to the German nation these unjustified slogans reverberated around the political right. Certainly their grab for power landed them with responsibility for the war and its aftermath.

The situation was made far worse because large numbers of the armed forces didn’t understand that Germany had been defeated. This was not the time of rapid modern communications and the troops on the Eastern front had successfully forced a peace deal with the new Bolshevik regime having previously trounced the Czarist troops so badly that the Bolsheviks were well positioned to win their revolution. Hindenburg and Ludendorff, the main architects of the German High Command managed to escape criticism from the centre and the right.

The first few years of the ‘peace’ were marked by severe internal strife with attempts to seize power such as Hitler’s ‘Beer Hall Putsch of 1923’ always on the agenda. This was made against an economic background of inflation leading to hyperinflation as the Government attempted to stand up to the French takeover of the industrial Rhineland because they could afford to pay the war reparations. The Weimar republic of 1923 was a hollow democracy redolent of today’s Iraq.

The Dawes stabilisation plan worked wonders. However it left Weimar Germany with something closer to a three speed economy. Consumer electronics and chemicals industries became the biggest in the world providing the hungry American market. The workers and the cities they lived in such as Berlin and Munich were highly successful. Berlin became the cultural capital of Europe, in the mid to late twenties. There were no doubts about modernity here, it was a cause and means of celebration amongst large sectors of the population.

However, the heavy industries based upon coal, iron and steel in the Ruhr regions were stagnant, there was overproduction on the global market but they were coping. The strong communist party unions ensured that the NSDAP gained no serious foothold in these cities.

The third strand of the economy was the agricultural economy. They had been hit hard by hyperinflation with their savings eroded rather than spending them. Foolishly many borrowed when inflation was under control after 1923 to invest in better agricultural machinery, just as world agricultural overproduction knocked the bottom out of the food commodities market. The period of 1923 to 1929 was one of extreme hardship for over one third of the population. It was amongst these people that Nazism was finally to flower for nobody else was dealing with their plight. It was for them that anti-modernity was a fundamental enemy:

for a broad spectrum of anti-modernist and volkish Germans Berlin and all that it stood for as the devil incarnate, Berlin had become the crystallisation point of resentment against industrialisation, capitalism and democracy and the cultural influence of the West… Anti-modernists penned the term ‘asphalt culture’ to refer to the lack of genuine culture and social values promoted by urban life. (Natter 1994: 214-215 cited McArthur).

Why did Metropolis flop?

A core question to be asked of Metropolis is why did it flop with audiences? Arguably in terms of both form and content is entirely failed to resonate with those who were its target audience, in short it was not a zeitgeist film. In the light of the above it becomes much easier to offer explanations.

In terms of the Berlin based sophisticated and cosmopolitan audiences, this film must have been distinctly out of kilter with their expectations, lifestyle and ambitions. The Gothic and Prehistoric architectural spaces of cathedral and catacombs would have had little resonance with their experience. The elitist sports athletics stadium was an irrelevance at a time of rapidly growing health and sports activities. [Click on ‘Exhibition Tour’ and then Room 11]. Good health was an important part of international interwar modernism. The elitist night club space in the film seemed to be a grumpy critique of what large numbers of workers enjoyed every weekend and was a major source of wealth and status.

Culture was putting Berlin on the map. It was the city of Hitchcock, Pressburger and Isherwood to name but a few. Exotic cosmopolitanism with shows from people like Josephine Baker were enormously popular. The ethnography of People on a Sunday would have had far more resonance. Young professionals were being housed in Batchelor developments built by contemporary architects and loving it.

Josephine Baker

Modernist intellectuals were hardly likely to approve. The interesting and enjoyable spaces of the city such as parks and cafes shopping arcades and even cinema itself went entirely unrepresented. The representation of the ‘bad Maria’ would have seemed like a critique of young women who were enjoying their freedom in terms of earning money and sexuality. This was the ‘free air of the city’ as the old Hanseatic slogan had it made real in modernity. For the first time in history these freedoms were available to the working classes who would have been farm or domestic labourers in previous times. Neither church nor state was controlling them.

If workers in Berlin were going to be unimpressed by the naïve, desexualised and feeble storyline of Metropolis the communist dominated workforce of the heavy industry areas would also find the film entirely unappealing. It was scornful of the power of organised labour and represented the working classes as entirely stupid. So much so that they were easily led to disaster by an agent provocateur the ‘bad Maria’.

The intellectual and professional classes who might have been more attracted to the expressionist sentiment exploring the underside of modernity might well have been put off by the simplicity of the plot leave alone the anti-Semitic sentiments coming through around the Rotwang character.

Metropolis 4

There were no big name German stars and this was an audience used to the best Hollywood had to offer in terms of stars, technology and genres. As Taylor (1998 r.e.) notes; in 1926, the year before Metropolis was released, American feature films had 44.3% of the market compared to Germany’s 38.2%. In short films American dominance was absolute with an astonishing 94.9 % of the market compared to Germany’s 1.2% of the market. Even these statistics don’t tell the whole story for the Parafumet agreement which gave the American producers access to all the first run UFA cinemas situated in all the large and therefore modernistically inclined city populations signifies that Metropolis was a film which rather than being futuristic was decidedly behind the social and cultural zeitgeist of contemporary German cultural life.

Band in Berlin

There is little doubt that the visual effects are stunning, they are good to an audience now and in 1927 they were undoubtedly fantastic but good SFX doesn’t make a good film. Unlike a modern day blockbuster there is no clear audience. There wasn’t a genre of science fiction well established at that time, the romantic plot was feeble with an unconvincing hero in Freder who was a stand in actor anyway. Previously Lang had been able to create stars but that was when German cinema was in a highly protected environment. Metropolis was a serious but deeply flawed attempt by Pommer and Lang to establish a blockbuster formula to break into the American market.

Why would the rural anti-modernity and anti-modernist audiences in the rural areas flock to see the film? Something marketed strongly as science-fiction to a poverty stricken hinterland more used to ‘B’ movie standard comedy and dramas as their form of escapism were unlikely to buy into it. It would of course be fascinating to know just what the box-office breakdown of Metropolis was. Of course they would not have seen the original Berlin version in any case.

Perhaps it is to the American film executives reaction to the original print we can turn to, to provide us with an explanation for why Metropolis flopped. Horrified by its length, its lack of clear plot, lack of stars and with no clear generic market it was clearly a nightmare for them. Studying the reviews and the failure of the film to ignite Berlin audiences would have confirmed their well-honed business instincts. The Berliners liked Hollywood and they didn’t like Metropolis. Clearly this message got through to the UFA board and it was why the general release cut for Germany was very close to the American one. Despite global release in the main cinema markets of the world the film made a huge loss and almost bankrupted UFA.

Elsaesser argues that perhaps the coming of sound later in 1927 cut short Metropolis. This seems unlikely. There was only one significant sound film The Jazz Singer and like any technology sound needed time to bed in and be installed in cinemas across the world. It took time to make the sound films to go with the cinemas. While this was a relatively quick it is questionable whether this was a primary reason for the failure of Metropolis to attract significant audiences..

November 23, 2006

Metropolis: The Different 1927 Release Versions

The story of the different versions of Metropolis which originally existed is a little tortuous. The version being shown on the course is the version which is currently closest to the version originally shown in Berlin on January 10th 1927. Nevertheless it is approximately 1,000 metres of film or 20% shorter than this original version.

There is some evidence which suggests that Fritz Lang shot three complete negatives whilst making the film. This was so that a version could be sent to America for release according to the Paramount / UFA ‘Parafument’ deal. A version was kept for the domestic market and a version for the rest of the world outside the USA where UFA had sole distribution rights. This article reviews this in the light of the versions available today.

The Original Version and the German Re-Release Versions

The World premiere of Metropolis took place on January 10th 1927 at the UFA Palast am Zoo. There were 1,200 important spectators present including Ministers and deputies of the Reichstag, foreign ambassadors and even royalty. Some were invited guests who were presented with a pigskin bound volume of the original novel by Thea von Harbou, Lang’s wife and writer of the film’s screenplay. The running time of the film was three hours with a short break in the middle. Whilst there were standing ovations for cast and crew the reviews were mixed.

The film was immediately shifted to the UFA-Pavilion where it played for 16 weeks however box-office takings were disappointing and the film was pulled in April going on general release in a much revised forming August. This re-release was cut by nearly 20% and was cut in ways very similar to the version that was eventually released in America although this was even shorter.

A problem for trying to reconstruct the film in its original release form is that the general release version was cut from the original negative and failed to preserve these 1,000 metres of film which notes Elsaesser contained several of the scenes most admired on the opening night.

The US Version

In December the American print had been taken to America. The Paramount executives were distinctly under-whelmed. The film had no stars which was a key selling point for Hollywood, neither was the storyline comprehensible to their audiences. For Hollywood the narrative needed to be constructed in a way which American audiences would be familiar with. Even in terms of genres Metropolis didn’t quite fit. Furthermore the screening time of 2.5 hours was well outside the standard screening schedule. As a result the film was cut from 2.5 hours to 1.75 hours which was nearly a quarter of the footage.

Paramount employed a playwright called Channing Pollock to re-write the continuity and the intertitles. From this version another slightly different version was cut for Britain and the British Empire. Channing Pollock changed the meaning considerably. Aspects of the story such as Freder having minders and helpers undermining themes of surveillance and solidarity almost totally removed. The focus on visual meaning which Lang had created was subordinated to the more linear narrative structure. Pollock defended his approach:

As it stood when I began my job of structural re-editing Metropolis had no restraint or logic. It was symbolism run such riot that people who saw it couldn’t tell what the picture was all about. I have given it my meaning. (My emphasis).

This shows that there were different cultural approaches to the making of meaning and that the notion of an ‘original’ version runs into difficulties. Only relatively few people have ever seen the version favoured by Lang. This happened during those first few weeks of its opening run in Berlin. There is more exploration of this in Different Ways of Making Meaning: The Case of Metropolis.

November 16, 2006

Open Studies in European Cinema. Weimar and Nazi Cinema: Bibliography



This will take the form of a conventional bibliography dealing with not just the cinema of the Weimar and Nazi periods but providing some titles for general history and cultural history of the Weimar and Nazi Period. Where relevant good quality articles are discovered on the web they will be hyperlinked for your convenience. These hyperlinked articles are categorised in a separate section with standard bibliography being place d below this. Please suggest any hyperlinks or additions in the comments box.Thanks.

Web-linked bibliography

Baackmann Susanne: Review of Carter et al. German Cinema Book. In Seminar journal of Germanic Studies July 2006

Baranowsky, Shelley.2004. Strength Through Joy Cambridge: CUP

Bruns, Jana. Review of Anja Aschied Hitler’s Heroines: Stardom and Womanhood in Nazi Cinema H-German October 2003.

Conboy, Martin. The Discourse of Location: Realigning the Popular in German Cinema. European Journal of Communications. Sage. 1999 vol 14.3

Dassanowsky, Robert von. Review of: Hake, Sabina German National Cinema. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. 232pp. ISBN 0-41508-902-6

Horak Jan-Christopher. Review of Guerin, Francis. A Culture of Light. Cinema and technology in 1920s Germany. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2005. ISBN: 0 8166 4286 9. In Screening the Past March 2006

Horak Jan-Christopher Film history and film preservation: reconstructing the text of The Joyless Street (1925)

Lee, Jennifer.Selling the Nazi Dream: Advertisement of the Musical Comedy Film in the Third Reich MA Candidate University of Victoria. Supervisor, Dr. Thomas Saunders

Malone Paul M. Negotiating Modernity in Weimar Film Theory. Film Philosophy, Volume 3 Number 37, September 1999ISSN 1466-4615

Author: Mennel, Barbara. Publication Date: 22-MAR-04 The New Paradigms of German Film Studies Review)

“Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey. “Re-imagining German Film History. Film-Philosophy Journal | Salon | Portal (ISSN 1466-4615) Vol. 5 No. 43, December 2001

Reading, Anna. “Scarlet Lips in Belsen:culture gender an ethnicity in the policies of the Holocaust”. Media Culture and Society 21.4. Sage.

Rosenthal, Alan. Review of Reeves Nicholas. 1999 The Power of Film Propaganda: Myth or Reality. London: Cassell. ‘Film Quarterly’, Vol. 55, No. 2 (Winter, 2001-2002), pp. 67-69

Seçil Deren: “Cinema and Film Industry in Weimar Republic, 1918-1933” from The Cradle of Modernity: Politics and Art in Weimar Republic (1918-1933), unpublished MSc thesis submitted to the Graduate School of Social Sciences of the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, 1997, pp. 129-163.

Spector, Scott. “Was the Third Reich Movie-Made?
Interdisciplinarity and the Reframing of “Ideology” ” American Historical Review. Vol 106 No 2. April 2001.

Tegel, Susan.The politics of censorship: Britain’s ‘Jew Suss’ in London, New York and Vienna -1934. Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television 1995

von Papen, Manuela. Opportunities and Limitations: New Woman in Third Reich Cinema. Women’s History Review Vol 8 No 4 1999.

Paris, Michael. Review of Carter Erica.2004. Dietrich’s Ghosts:The Sublime and the Beautiful in Third Reich Film London: BFI. Scope No 6, October 2006.

When Biology Became Destiny. This is a PDF download of a discussion with authors of this groundbreaking book 25 years on.

This is a useful internet ‘Gateway’ link to the search term European Cinema. It includes several useful sites on German cinema.

Another useful gateway into German cinema is the Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung

Standard Bibliography

A fine recent list of resources and bibliography including websites is contained in Bergfelder Tim, Carter Erica and Goturk Deniz. Eds. 2002. The German Cinema Book. London. British Film Institute. This is a first port of call for those interested in a serious follow up to the course.

Bergfelder Tim, Carter Erica and Goturk Deniz. 2002. ‘Introduction’. Bergfelder Tim, Carter Erica and Goturk Deniz. 2002. The German Cinema Book. London. British Film Institute

Bergfelder Tim, Carter Erica and Goturk Deniz. Eds. 2002. The German Cinema Book. London. British Film Institute

Burleigh, Michael. 2000. The Third Reich a New History. London: Macmillan

Cook Pam Ed. 1985. The Cinema Book. British Film Institute : London : ISBN 0-85170-144-2

Downing, Taylor.Olympia. London: BFI

Eisner, Lotte H. 1969. The Haunted Screen. London: Thames and Hudson

Elsaesser Thomas: 1996.Germany : The Weimar Years : Nowell-Smith Geoffrey Ed : Oxford History of World Cinema : OUP : Oxford. ISBN 0-19-874242-8

Elsaesser, Thomas. _ Metropolis_. London: BFI

Elsaesser, Thomas. 2000. Weimar Cinema and After. London: Routledge

Evans, Richard. 2003.The Coming of the Third Reich. Harmondsworth: Viking / Penguin

Faletti Heidi. 2000. “Reflections of Weimar Cinema in the Nazi Propaganda films SA-Mann Brand, Hitlerjunge Quex, and Hans Westmar” in Reimer, Robert C. 2000. Cultural History Through a National Socialist Lens. New York: Camden House

Gunning, Tom. 2000. The Films of Fritz Lang. London: BFI

Hake , Sabine. 2002. German National Cinema. London : Routledge

Hake, Sabine. 2001. Popular Cinema of the Third Reich. Austin: University of Texas Press

Hake, Sabine. 1997. ‘The melodramatic imagination of Detlef Sierck: Final Chord and its reonances’. Screen 38.2 Summer 1997 pp 129-148

Horak, Jan Christopher. 2002. ‘German Film Comedy’. Bergfelder Tim, Carter Erica and Goturk Deniz eds. The German Cinema Book. London: British Film Institute

Jung Uli and Schatzberg Walter.1999. _Beyond Caligari: The Films of Robert Wiene _ . Oxford : Berghan Books. ISBN 1-57181-196-6

Kaes. Anton. 2000. M . London : BFI

Kaes Anton: 1996 : The New German Cinema : Nowell-Smith Geoffrey Ed : Oxford History of World Cinema : OUP : Oxford : ISBN 0-19-874242-8

Kaes, Anton. 2004. Weimar Cinema: The Predicament of Modernity. In Ezra, Elizabeth. Ed . European Cinema. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Kershaw, Ian. 1993 (3rd Ed).The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation. London: Edward Arnold

Kracauer, Siegfried. 2004 re. From Caligari to Hitler. Princeton: Princeton University Press

Leiser Erwin : 1974. Nazi Cinema . Secker and Warburg : London

McGilligan Patrick: 1997 : Fritz Lang : Faber : London: ISBN 0-571-19175-4

Moltke von, Johannes. 2002 ‘Evergreens: The Heimat Genre.’ Bergfelder Tim, Carter Erica and Goturk Deniz eds. The German Cinema Book. London: British Film Institute

Murray, Bruce. Film and the German Left . Austin Texas: University of Texas Press , 1990

O’Brien, Mary-Elizabeth. Nazi Cinema as Enchantment. New York: Camden House

Petley, Julien. Capital and Culture: German Cinema 1933-45. London. BFI, 1979

Petley, Julian. ‘Film Policy in the Third Reich’. Bergfelder Tim, Carter Erica and Goturk Deniz eds. 2002. The German Cinema Book. London: British Film Institute

Prawer, S.S. 2002. The Blue Angel. London: BFI

Reimer, Robert C. 2000. Cultural History Through a National Socialist Lens. New York: Camden House

Reimer, Robert C, Zachau Reinhard. 2005. German Culture Through Film. Newburyport MA: Focus

Rentschler, Eric. 1996. ‘Germany : Nazism and After’. Nowell-Smith Geoffrey Ed. Oxford History of World Cinema. Oxford: OUP

Rentschler, Eric. 1996. The Ministry of Illusion. Cambridge Mass: Harvard

Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Greed. London, BFI

Rother, Rainer. 2002. Leni Riefenstahl: the Seduction of Genius. London: Continuum

Saunders, Thomas. J.1994. From Berlin to Hollywood: American Cinema and Weimar Germany. Berkeley: University of California Press

Saunders, Thomas. J. 1999. ‘Germany and Film Europe’. In Higson, Andrew and Maltby Richard. eds. 1999. Film Europe and Film America. Exeter: Exeter University Press

Taylor, Richard. (1998 Re). Film Propaganda. London: I. B. Tauris

Welch, David. 2002 (2nd ed). The Third Reich Politics and Propaganda .London: Routledge

September 29, 2006

Fritz Lang's 'M': A Case Study

Case Study Fritz Lang’s M

Peter Lorre in M 3

M is Fritz Lang’s first sound film registered in April 1931 but shot in 1930. The film was produced by Nero films a relatively small company very different from the UFA of Erich Pommer in which Lang had been given huge budgets to play with. With M Lang had complete independence subject to a clear budgetary limitation. The original script was by Thea von Harbou (Lang’s wife) and by Lang. The stated intention was to make a film which rejected the notion of capital punishment, but choosing the most heinous possible crime and then making a case against the death penalty. It was a theme which Lang returned to when working in the USA with his last film there: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.

The story line of M is loosely based upon the serial killer Peter Kurtin who committed his crimes in Hanover. Lang in conversation with Peter Bogdanovich in 1965 says that he was concerned to get a documentary feel to the film and specifically asked his camera operators not to try anything too fancy. Lang and von Harbou went to considerable trouble to find out about police procedure. In_ M_ the most modern techniques are examined with which to track down the murderer including graphology and psychological profiling. There is a difference here between M and the real Peter Kurtin case. In M the police eventually hit upon the idea of tracing mental health records of released asylum inmates. This puts them on the track of Franz Beckert or M played by Peter Lorre. In the case of the real Peter Kurtin the police believed that these crimes could only be committed by somebody insane. Once apprehended Peter Kurtin was deemed to be sane and was executed.

After a few seconds of black screen Lang’s film opens on a playground scene where young children are singing a song about a monster who comes to get them. A mother shouts at them to stop singing it as though it is a bad omen. A small girl fails to return from school; in a short but chilling sequence she has been approached by M whilst she is bouncing a ball against a poster offering 10,000 marks for his capture. The film cuts to the mother who is getting increasingly agitated as the girl fails to return home to lunch. Rather than use today’s typical gratuitous violence Lang signifies a horrible death through the use of empty clothes in an attic, a ball running away with no child in sight and balloons trapped in telephone wires. The last two objects being signs of innocence betrayed by what can only be imagined as an awful death.

The Noir Street in MLang’s documentary approach becomes the study of a city which starts to turn in on itself. It is a city terrorised by an unknown demon which allows other demons to erupt. Anton Kaes makes a strong comparison between Lang and the thinking of the contemporary right-wing jurist Ernst Junger. Junger sees the city space as one of danger, fear and warfare. This required in Junger’s view a constant state of readiness as an aspect of modern living. ‘In _M _fear simultaneously unites the city in a common emotion, and fragments it, providing not community, but mutual suspicion.’ Much of the next part of the film is a series of cameos in which perfectly innocent citizens are accused of heinous crimes, the police are inundated with poison pen letters and the investigation becomes hampered with false accusations.

The role of the poison pen letter will infamously emerge in the French cinema as well firstly in Clouzot’s Le Corbeau, and later in Malle’s Lucien Lacombe. Interestingly in the latter two films these events take place in more rural settings rather than the city of modernity. The films were highly controversial and seen as unpatriotic in France because of this.

The Blind Balloon SellerLang’s film affords a tour of the differing sub-layers of the social make-up of the city, frequently, with a flaneurial camera although the changing camera positions are frequently from places where the point of view is out onto the street. Sometimes this point of view is a spectatorial one such as the scenes from a high angle of the police raids at street level. The audience is then taken underground into a brothel / bar environment which is the haunt of many criminals who are thoroughly turned over. There is an irony present that many other crimes are cleared up as the ‘dragnet’ both widens and deepens its search for the killer who barely appears in the first half of the film.

It is these incessant raids upon the criminal community which are beginning to effect their incomes badly which leads them to organise as a vigilante ‘other’ police force to track down the killer. The criminals are represented as being organised into divisions across the city and the discourse includes a sentiment that somehow their work is illegal but is seen as a business which just happens to be illegitimate. The underground economy of criminal networks organises the beggars of the city to be its eyes and ears, and interesting shots of the beggars spoils of cigar and cigarette butts, mimic the pristinely laid out case of burglar’s tools which has been abandoned by its owner during the raid. The beggars are organised extremely methodically with the city being broken down into units with beggars assigned to each unit mimicking in a parodical way police organisation. Lang here recognises that there are different sorts of knowledge and as the film proceeds both the local knowledge of the beggars/criminal alliance is contrasted with the rational scientific search methods utilised by the police. The police have included graphologists and psychologists to get a profile on the criminal.

Eventually, for the audience the film becomes a race between the police and the vigilante force as both start to close in on the killer. The police following up a lead from the released inmates of the asylum just miss Beckert as he emerges in search of another victim. Just as he has found a potential victim, the beggars are alerted by a blind balloon-seller who hears Beckert whistling a few bars from the Peer Gynt Suite. It is the tune diegetically associated with M and his madness signifying a monster deep inside the personality which emerges suddenly. The balloon seller heard the tune when he sold a balloon to M who had bought it for Elsie Beckmann the little girl murdered at the beginning of the film.

Throughout the film Lang’s use of sound is carefully used to add layers of meaning. As his first sound film made before sound was barely two years old Lang was relishing in the opportunities it offered to heighten the dramatic effect. Much of the film had no sound interspersed with whistles. On another occasion when the police are having a very big conference which is running in parallel to one being held by the criminals the diegesis goes off-screen indicated by the sound of a voice directing the police meeting. The audience never see the person the voice belongs to. There are subtle effects such as the balloon man putting his hands over his ears to shut out an out of tune barrel organ. All diegetic sound is temporarily suspended, to re-emerge when the balloon man takes his hands from his ears. The parallel editing of the scenes being inter-cut is also extremely well handled making the film technically innovative.

It is the criminals who find M first who has been tracked down and trapped in a modern office building near the city centre. The criminals enter the building in force and using their skills thoroughly search the building. They find M just before the police who were alerted to the break-in arrive. M is bundled off to derelict factory building a relic of the depression. In the meantime the police have found one of the burglars and are threatening to put him on a murder charge unless he tells the whereabouts of the person. At first the head of the murder investigation is doing a colleague a favour when it transpires that it is the child murderer he has been looking for, for 8 months.

Gustav Grundgens in MIn the meantime a parallel court is established in the basement of the derelict factory. It is at this point that Peter Lorre’s acting skills emerge for his powerful performance in pleading for his life is exemplary. The court scene is Lang’s opportunity to raise the issues of capital punishment very effectively. M has been assigned a defence counsel who stands up to chief criminals and the mob. The defence is at a distinct disadvantage because the criminals are acting as a judge and jury playing to the audience, however, Lorre gets a chance to put M’s case in which he pleads a dread compulsive insanity which drives him to these unspeakable acts. The acts themselves he doesn’t remember, it is only when he reads about them that he realises what he has done. This fits in with the way that M has been represented during the film. In a famous shot in front of a window framed by reflections of knives M sees a young girl staring into a shop
window. M is both visibly seen as being overcome by a madness and it is also signified by the Peer Gynt theme tune. Even though this girl escapes as she meets her mother the monster within in M has taken over as he battles with it in a cafe. M emerges to look for another victim. Lang has also shown a couple of heads nodding in the audience of the criminals’ court as M relates his tortured identity, signifying the liberal position.

The criminal leader is derisory about the madness and complains about the liberal laws on madness which might allow M to roam the streets again in a few months or years to repeat his crimes. He demands the death sentence rather than handing M over to the police and most of the crowd agree. At this point M is apprehended by the police who have arrived at the factory. However the cut to the court with the three judges two of whom appear in a black cap and the chair then donning a black cap signifies M’s execution. The last shot is of three mothers in mourning, stating that this execution will never bring their children back. The film gradually fades out as the mothers plead for parents to watch their children more carefully in the future.

Tom Gunning in his major work on Lang is fulsome about this film: ‘ The complexity and originality of its structure, the studied ambiguity and ambivalence of its themes, the power of its images and sound guarantee it a place in film history and film criticism no matter how much canons are abjured or the idea of masterpieces viewed with suspicion.’ (Gunning Tom, 2000, p163).

The film is a representation of the modern city and can be read as a return to the ambivalence expressed about the modern city in Metropolis and a continuation of the structuring of modern city space expressed in Lang’s master criminal films in which searches take on a grid oriented rational process within the communication networks of the modern city. The very binary polarities of the two main networks closing in upon M, is interesting to consider. The representations were either, of the police, or of the criminal networks organising to protect their own interests rather than from any moral imperatives.

Selling Balloons

In the film, ordinary citizens are disempowered and made a mockery of by being seen as paranoid, greedy, or just plain unpleasant. There are no positive organisations from parents nor are political parties represented as being able to tap into local knowledge. It didn’t appear as though the police had a network of informants either which is now standard fare for any TV cop-show. Perhaps given the increasing political polarisations of the time Lang felt it was better to avoid alternatives.

Perhaps a key underlying theme was that of surveillance. It was the failure of surveillance which led to Elsie Becker’s murder. It was a modernist surveillance system which enabled the beggars to track down M. It was a plea for better surveillance which emerged as the last lines of the film. If people are so alienated within the city that the people they play cards with or drink with could have been the murderer perhaps Kaes is right. He suggests that the underlying sentiments of the film urge reliance upon fear and suspicion as an organising feature of modern life.

The sentiment that these things would not be possible within a more stable rural background where everybody knows everybody could well have been a conclusion drawn by a volkish, Heimat thinking audience. The fact that Goebbels saw the film as an argument for capital punishment shows that there is a certain amount of ambivalence within the text. Gunning comments that many liberals and leftists also saw the film as sympathetic to mob justice. Perhaps Lang was content to just put the issue on the table without casting judgement at this time. Certainly it would be interesting to know how contemporary audiences read the film.

Knives Creating Menatal InstabilityAfter such an excellent performance expressing a form of madness arguably the ending really fails to do justice to the issue of madness and to the problems of dealing with this and examining what might have caused these conditions. That Beckert was executed, as was Kurtin in real life, raises issues voiced by the mothers. If execution didn’t bring the children back and if execution fails to solve this ongoing social issue then neither retribution, nor reform, as types of punishment are suitable for dealing with those with mental illness. These issues are very much alive today in the UK for at time of writing the jury are out on the Soham murder trial and barely a week ago a 70+ paedophile, recently convicted for re-offending was murdered in the North-east, to a distinct lack of sympathy from the local neighbours.

Useful Links on this Site

Chronology of European Cinema

Weimar Cinema until the Coming of Sound.

September 26, 2006

Open Studies in European Cinema. Introduction

Introduction to the Blog

Initially this blog was designed as a delivery vehicle for my film studies course on Weimar and Nazi Cinema as a an experimental project with the intention that if successful it could be used as a model to deliver some of my other film studies courses.

This is still the main purpose of this site. however as I have learned more about blogging and as my thinking on blogging in an educational context developed I have started to place things on the blog which relate to other aspects of my working life. There is now a growing body of work on A Level Media Studies some of which is film related anyhow. There is also material on areas such as new media and newsbroadcasting. I hope that film studies studetns will check some of these out as they may have relevance to film in any case. There is now a separate introduction to the layout of the sidebar as I’ve collected so many feeds podcasts and things which I didn’t know existed previousl;y. The film material is near the top end which is what most of you need to know.

This is a blog about European Cinema

There are a couple of major objectives:
Firstly to create an effective educational vehicle for teaching European films Studies

Secondly using creative connectivity and links to work by students to make this site a premium website or collective of blogs which interested viewers, students, researchers etc will have as a key place to visit. This means having a range of materials and other links to quality and premium sites rrelating to European cinema.

Thirdly the work on European cinema based upon my courses has focused mainly upon the five major economies of Europe (Germany, Russia, Italy, France & the UK). This is in itself a huge undertaking and remains for the forseeable future the main developmental aim.

I hope you enjoy the course, the site and the possibilities and opportunities it offers, Ciao for now.

European Cinema, Lifelong Learning and New Media Technologies

It is designed to accompany my Centre for Lifelong Learning Courses on various aspects of European Cinema. It is hoped that a group project blog will eventually be established to accompany the various courses once everybody has become comfortable with blogging. This is all a part of an overall cultural planning educational project.

The course on offer in January 2007 is Weimar and Nazi cinema
Peter Lorre in M 4

A European Cultural Planning Project:
Creating European Cinema Studies Electronic Spaces

Cultural planning is about developing cultural initiatives from the ground up rather than having centralised dictats. One of the motivations for starting to develop courses about European cinema, was, that there was an audience out there who had enough interest and experience to want to develop their ideas. Furthermore they might want to fit their, probably eclectic, experience of European films into a more coherent mental framework.

Many organisations are struggling to maintain a lively and independent European cinema as this link shows.

We are now entering an era of electronic communications called ‘Web 2’. The underlying principle of Web 2 is the creation and maintenance of electronic spaces of participation and interaction in ways which challenge previously centralised models of the content & distribution of information. This link isn’t a recommendation, just an example of what is happening: What Web 2 achieves is the possibility to design and build projects collaboratively. The principle behind this is that lots of brains organised collectively around the same project area can be far more productive than the same number of individuals working in relative isolation. There is, in other words, an ‘added value effect’ in which both individual and society gain more: the infamous ‘Win-win’ situation.

A good example of this process in action was recent BBC coverage of the way a group of software enthusiasts were creating and developing an open source software web browser called Flock: . This was real face to face stuff alright, they even all brought their sleeping bags. You might wish to check it out. Currently I use Firefox but I’m going to practise with Flock.

The Course Structure

The Weimar & Nazi Cinema course 2007 will be different from the previous courses in that it is being driven by an underlying communications project. The project itself is the establishing, development and maintenance of a web-based resources and discussion which will act as focus for those interested in European cinematic culture both historically and for the future.

These electronic spaces will effectively be ‘owned’ by you as your contributions will be evaluated by both tutors and your peers. A key part of the project is to help develop an understanding and enthusiasm amongst a wider audience. As with any media project create and developing a target audience is fundamental. As producers of web pages, Wikis or Blogs you will need to bear in mind your target audience.

Dietrich + Jannings: Blue Angel

These electronic resources should be spaces which people visit for leisure and pleasure as well as information and active participation in the exchange of knowledge and ideas. Part of your learning over the term will be creating content for various electronic media and practising with the design available. Currently these are provided through University of Warwick and include Site-builder for creating a web-site and Blog-builder for creating your own Blogs. It is also possible to create a group Blog which I’m currently investigating. There will also be forums which will be kept internal at least for the present. It may well be that you feel they should be opened up. It may be possible to generate electronic quizzes and create an electronic quiz space. It depends what you want to do with it.

As with any course your contributions will be assessed in line with generic course requirements. Within those parameters your work can incorporate creative, design and planning projects relating to the electronic spaces. For example, you may wish to plan, and even hold, a real world event such as a day celebration of the work of a particular director which would be marketed through the electronic spaces.

Fritz Lang

It is always important to consider ways of blending electronic spaces with material places as physical presence and f2f are fundamental modes of human communication. Festivals and screenings, educational projects all have their place.

My planning objective is that this is a way of acting locally, to produce a contribution to communications globally, in ways which can be acted out locally in the future.

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