Perhaps no period of any national cinema extends its influence so powerfully into the present day of movies as that of the German cinema of the Weimar era. From the fraught angles that accompanied magisterial set-design, to the dreamlike interplay of light and shadow, German films of the pre-WWII era defined the famed "expressionistic" visual style even as they tested the boundaries of social and sexual taboos.
This collection contains five films. Four are classic films emblematic of the legendary Weimar period, and one is an historical curiosity commissioned under the Nazi regime. Paul Wegener's and Carl Boese's 1920 film Der Golem represents the second (and the only fully surviving) film treatment by Wegener of the Yiddish folktale based around a towering clay monster created by magic, corrupted by evil, and redeemed, ultimately, by the force of the human soul.
From the same year comes Robert Wiene's nightmarish classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – a story of mesmerism, sleepwalking, and murder – a demented dreamscape that perhaps single-handedly galvanized the Expressionist movement of silent cinema.
Nine years on, Joe May's Asphalt opens a door to the sordid carnality lurking inside the Weimar heart of darkness – and gives audiences the gift of Betty Amann, the greatest "siren unsung" of the early silver-screen.
No lack of recognition would beset the besotted lead of Josef von Sternberg's 1930 masterpiece The Blue Angel – presented here in both its German- and English-language versions. Simply put, this tale of a mild-mannered professor (Emil Jannings) sucked into the world of a licentious cabaret artiste introduced the public to an immortal: her name, written among the stars, would read "Marlene Dietrich."
By 1943, a new era had dawned, one in which Joseph Goebbels called the shots, and it was Josef von Báky's Münchhausen that epitomised the "new German epic"–a state-sanctioned, Agfacolor melange of the picaresque and Aryan myth that nevertheless served to inspire Terry Gilliam's more benign modern fantasia The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
Myth, sex, magick, and the "tall-tale": Classics of German Cinema: 1920-1943 presents the viewer with a selection of masterpieces that tower not only over the awesome first phase of German movies, but over the origins of world cinema as a whole.