A Culture of Light: Cinema and Technology in 1920s Germany by Frances Guerin

By Frances Guerin

Cinema is a medium of sunshine. and through Weimar Germany's enhance to technological modernity, gentle - relatively the representational chances of electric gentle - grew to become the hyperlink among the cinema display and the fast alterations that have been remodeling German lifestyles. In Frances Guerin's compelling background of German silent cinema of the Twenties, the cutting edge use of sunshine is the pivot round which a brand new perception of a countrywide cinema, and a countrywide tradition emerges. Guerin depicts a nocturnal Germany suffused with gentle - electrical billboards, storefronts, police searchlights - and exhibits how this component to the mise-en-scene got here to mirror either the possibilities and the anxieties surrounding modernity and democracy. Guerin's interpretations heart on use of sunshine in motion pictures reminiscent of Schatten (1923), Variete (1925), city (1926), and Der Golem (1920). In those motion pictures we see how gentle is the substance of snapshot composition, the structuring gadget of the narrative, and the primary thematic difficulty. This heritage relieves German movies of the accountability to provide an explanation for the political and ideological instability of the interval, an instability stated to be the doubtful starting place of Nazism. In unlocking this doubtful hyperlink, A tradition of sunshine redefines the sector of German movie scholarship.

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Extra resources for A Culture of Light: Cinema and Technology in 1920s Germany

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The low-voltage arc light emits a very harsh, white light, throws strong shadows, and creates images of contrast. It would be employed as a front and side light. The high- voltage arc light, however, gave out a soft, modest brightness, but a big “radiation” . . 63 Whereas the coal arc lights were generally used when fi lming in complete darkness, the mercury light was usually used as fi ll light, sometimes as a key light for frontal shots in daylight. These two types of artificial light provided the source.

Nevertheless, I do not analyze these compelling examples because they represent isolated moments that cannot be so easily woven back into the broader concerns of their given narratives. Similarly, they are not threefold filmic uses of lighting. Thus, M might be a film that is concerned more generally with mechanisms of state power and, particularly, the corruption and inefficacy of these institutions. 33 As I will show, a film such as Varieté uses the lighting to articulate its particular vision of technological modernity.

These qualities would ensure its perception of itself as a nation with which to reckon in the twentieth century. Like many of the other technologies, light went through a number of developments thanks to its importance to the war effort. On the battlefield, the focus on developments in light usually stressed mobility and portability. 15 On the German home front too, technological advance was dictated by the demands of the battlefield. For example, the war brought with it an acceleration in the size and interconnection of power plants.

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