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Student of Prague and German Cinema
The Germany film industry revolution
The Film industry in Germany has come a long way and is seen as one of the ancient film industries that gave a portrayal of both the artistic as well as the aesthetic and the economic value of films in Germany in the early 1900s. The paper will hence not only look into the history of the Germany film industry, but also select a relevant film to demonstrate the significance of the film selected to the subject matter it covered, the people and the relevance to the time that it was produced and it depicted. The film that will be used in this demonstration is "The Student of Prague" which would be analyzed to see the kind of contribution that it brought to the film industry in Germany at that given moment in time.
The films of the early 1900s had thematic inclinations that they depicted and also had the representational aspect which they exploited to represent the society at the time, the economic situation, the political occurrences and the social events or conditions of Germany at the moment. To fully understand the roles played and the changing roles of film in Germany as the films underwent revolution, it is significant to look into an example of a film that saw the shift in the way the Germany films were viewed, as mere artistic work, but now shifted to have a national approach instead. The film most suitable here is "The Student of Prague" since it helps put the issue of change or revolution in Germany film into perspective.
This film was a reflection of the life of Balduin who was facing hard economic times as a student. Hitherto, he was famous among his friends and used to join them easily in the parties and leisure but with the economic downturn, he cannot even fit into the peers any more. He even refuses to give in to the dancing girl who tries to seduce him. In his isolation, Balduin is approached by Scapinelli who sees his distress and promises to help him out, despite his resistance, Scapinelli manages to convince him and they strike a deal with Scapinelli who happens to be the devil here. On their way, they encounter Margit who is thrown by her horse into the water and Balduin rescues her and falls in love with her. Later on in the night, Balduin goes to see Margit who also loves him back but the stay is short lived since the Baron who should be marrying Margit arrives and Balduin has to leave in a hurry. As he still ponders in his room over his bad luck with the lady Scapinelli reappears suddenly. This time he has come for a bargain and a possible trade. He pours on the table gold coins from a bag, but the amazing this is that the coins are more than the bag could hold, this astonishes Balduin but due to his poor status, he does not hesitate in progressing with the bargain with the devil. When Scapinelli proposes that he takes all the gold coins in exchange for one item in his room, Balduin thinks this is a good deal since no single item in his house was worth any significant amount. Once the deal was sealed and Balduin signs the contract, the proud Balduin was amazed to see his reflection walking out of the mirror and leaving with the devil (YouTube, 2014).
The production of the above film in 1913 came with significant changes in the film industry within Germany. Initially, the films were short and were predominantly silent films accompanied by sound tracks, often played on stage from a piano. Indeed, the Dadaists had pointed out the emphasis on the visual pleasure that came with the films at that moment of time. This significantly changed with the production of 'The Student of Prague" since it was produced as a film that was accompanied by music in it as well as the textual aspect. The viewers would read the thoughts or the explanation of the scenes on the screen which was a very significant development in the film industry in Germany at the moment. The film was also just a visual pleasure but was laced a with a lot of message for the Germany audience at the moment like the hard times in the region, the social behaviors at the time and the socioeconomic divide that there was at the moment, it was laced with message. Hitherto, the film audience was thrilled by the mere horror with no message that came to them in the cinema auditoriums. This changed greatly with the introduction of this film and others like it where the horror was depicted from creative sources, not from WWI, and came with a message therein.
The silent film can also be seen as a primitive form of cinematic expression when the years after 1930s are considered. However, before the nationalization of the film in Germany, the silent films worked well to make the audience homogenous since there was no use of language hence no language barrier. Any person from a different culture could easily understand the film since it was just motions and no words spoken. This is an indicator that films during this time were not simply serving the artistic value of having some new technological development in the cinema industry, but also a means of communicating some message to diverse audience. In the years after 1924, there was significant rejection of many German pictures with the reason that they were too much Americanized or internationalized products, an event that was occasioned by significant exodus of major Germany film people as well as tangible interference in the Germany film business by the Americans as indicated by Kracauer Siegfried (1947:Pp4-5). However, it is worth noting that the so named Americanized films were actually a reflection of the contemporaneous Germany life. This reflection of the life further indicates that the Germany film industry was undergoing evolution in tandem with the lifestyle and the psychological pattern of the nation. One clear incident that shows this link between the German cinema and the contemporary life at the time was the ascending to power of Hitler in 1933 and the subsequent exodus by most big names in German cinema. People like Michael Curtiz, Ernst Lubitsch, Fred Zinnemann, Douglas Sirk Robert Siodmak and Billy Wilder all fled to the West after the tumultuous times foreseen ahead in the coming administration of Hitler in Germany. This meant that the German cinema industry was dealt a big blow and taken aback with the exit of virtually all the major film directors at the same time (Pulver A., 2011).
Brockmann S. (2010) further indicates that this film uses the traditional Romanticism motif that was common among the Germans which involved people selling out their souls for love. The film was based on deep romanticism tenets that were prevalent at the moment in time hence never disassociated itself from the time and setting that it was based in. One known motif was the character by Adalbert von Chamisso in 1814 of the man who became separated from his shadow. There were such motifs where the mirror image is sold away by the owner, mostly men, and this film also used the same common motif to indicate that in as much as film was growing to develop from the novels, it was possible that it stayed true to the local romanticism motifs. It is at this levels the film can be seen to have a moral lesson and not just the artistic form only. This comes out at the end when Balduin, being tired of being haunted by his own mirror image decides to shoot the image, not knowing that he was actually killing himself. This gives an indication that the film is a development of the themes surrounding narcissism, magic, madness, violence, individual identity and suicide, yet these are subjects that were common elements that were common in Germany romanticism. This shows that in making of this film, it was a demonstration that films can capably depict the same themes that were depicted using the other forms of literature in Germany and propagate the tenets of Germany culture.
Further, the film could be applied to the national outlook bearing the history of the time in production of the film. The self-destruction and the obsession with acquisition even to the point of selling off ones only image in questionable contracts and agreements can be applied to the Germany nation at the time. There was the reflection of a Germany that was worried about its future in the years preceding the World War such that it was susceptible to getting into questionable deals that would even see her getting destroyed by its own gullibility. This was a trend that perpetuated further to the postwar Germany where the expressionists in both the painting and the film industry portrayed the fermentation…[continue]
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