Autorenfilm



Autorenfilm (German for Author Film) emerged in 1913 as a self-conscious attempt at impressing the bourgeois public, and to persuade the middle class to accept the cinema as legitimate art. [1]Through imitating Romantic Kunstmarchen , Autorenfilms militated for the cinema’s respectability by heavily borrowing from children’s literature and by offering identifiable German motifs. Several styles of film were tested, from filmed novels and plays to fairy-tales and folk legends. [2]

Overview


1913 became the turning point for German cinema. In its earliest days, the cinematograph was perceived as an attraction for upper class audiences, but the novelty of moving pictures did not last long. Soon, trivial short films were being shown as fairground attractions aimed at the working and lower-middle class. [3]// The booths in which these films were shown were known in Germany as Kintopps. [4]. Film-makers with an artistic bent attempted to counter this view of cinema with longer movies based on literary models, and the first German "artistic" films began to be produced from around 1910, an example being the Edgar Allan Poe adaptation The Student of Prague (1913) which was co-directed by Paul Wegener and Stellan Rye.

History


In the late 1800’s, the revival of the Gothic novel was a Europe-wide phenomenon, one that was usually attributed to the reaction against Enlightenment rationality. Famous were tales highlighting conflict between the natural world and its inhabitants, seen in German figures such as Rumpelstilzkin and Hansel and Gretel. [5] During and after World War I, Germany remained a predominately agrarian society, where transition from a rural to an industrial nation was strained. Because of this tension, Germany saw a revival in stories of Romantic agony, stories that disguised historical conditions of socio-economic struggles by elements of horror and the fantastic.

Initiated under the influence of the French film d’art, the aim of Autorenfilm was to profit from the established reputation of published or performed authors, and to persuade the leading names of Berlin theater to lend prestige to the screen.[6] Popular writers such as Paul Lindau and Heinrich Lautensack contributed, as well as Gerhart Hauptmann, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and Arthur Schnitzler. Films such as //Venezianische Nacht// (1914) and //Insel der Seligen// (1913) borrowed from Shakespeare’s comedies, Romantic themes, and expressionist motifs. It was through the rise of the Autorenfilm that adaptations of the national literature became an integral part of German national cinema.

Nordisk


The prime force behind German Autorenfilm was the Danish company Nordisk. Through Nordisk, the German cinema was their first international film star, Asta Nielsen. From 1913 on, Asta Nielsen made all her films for German companies, contributing to the success of German cinema. Nordisk produced two of the genres’ most costly films, Atlantics (1913), based on a novel by Hauptmann, and Das fremde Madchen (1913), a dream play written for the screen by Hofmannsthal.[7]

Der Student von Prag
Der Student von Prag (1913)
Der Student von Prag (1913)


Der Student von Prag (The Student of Prague, 1913) became the first masterpiece to compromise the hostility shown toward the cinema by reworking material with literary credentials. Directed by Paul Wegener, the film borrows from the Faust legend as well as Edgar Allen Poe’s short story William Wilson (1839). In the film, the Double is introduced, which can be seen as a motif similar in German and English Romantic literature with a detection plot. The gothic storyline is infiltrated with the supernatural, and the film contains an explicit Oedipal ending. Der Student von Prag was seen as a successful attempt at blending a high-culture concept, mainly literature, with what was seen as a lowbrow medium. The film utilized techniques that became common in Autorenfilms, such as trick photography, superimposition, special effects, and strong narrative motivation.

Conclusion


Autorenfilms were able to reach new urban masses by providing fantastical show values such as special effects, that were unseen until the cinema. Directors were able to contrast national nostalgia and themes by radically experimental and avant-garde techniques that became the forefront of film innovation. Autorenfilms gave rise to a new cinema that offered the spectator a new form of self-experience, one that tied in historical literary values with an emerging medium.

Sources



  1. ^ Elsaesser, Thomas. “Weimer Cinema, Mobile Selves, and Anxious Males: Kracauer and Eisner Revisited.” Expressionist Film--New Perspectives. Ed Dietrich Scheunemann. Camden House, 2006. ISBN 1571133502 pp. 43-44.
  2. ^ Hayward, Susan. Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts. Routledge, 2006. ISBN 0415367816. pp. 31.
  3. ^ Eisner, Lotte. The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt. University of California Press, 1974. IBSN //0520024796. pp. 39.
  4. ^ Elsaesser, Thomas. “Weimer Cinema, Mobile Selves, and Anxious Males: Kracauer and Eisner Revisited.” Expressionist Film--New Perspectives. Ed Dietrich Scheunemann. Camden House, 2006. ISBN 1571133502 pp. 39-40
  5. ^ Dietrich Scheunemann. “Activating Differences: Expressionist Film and Early Weimer Cinema.” Expressionist Film--New Perspectives. Ed Dietrich Scheunemann. Camden House, 2006. ISBN 1571133502 pp. 3-5.
  6. ^ Silberman, Marc. "What is German in the German cinema?" Film History, (ARCHIVE); 1996; 8,3; ProQuest Direct Complete pg. 297.
  7. ^ Elsaesser, Thomas. “Weimer Cinema, Mobile Selves, and Anxious Males: Kracauer and Eisner Revisited.” Expressionist Film--New Perspectives. Ed Dietrich Scheunemann. Camden House, 2006. ISBN 1571133502 pp. 47-48.