For our first foray into fright, I thought we’d start…well…at the beginning.
Films of the Silent Era are striking, imaginative, and engaging. In them, we see a generation of artists drawing from several existing art forms and combining them with an exciting new medium. Notably, you’ll see the impact of expressionism and spirit photography (a double exposure technique, popularized in the late 1800s). Theatre nerds are likely to pick up on staging, set and lighting design that mirror popular live performance. The narrative style for which silent era films are known can be traced to Gothic literature. The stories often revolved around ancient folklore and cultural cautionary tales. While the limitations of early, low contrast film were insurmountable in some sense, early filmmakers were still able to create hauntingly beautiful masterpieces with influence that has survived the Digital Age.
On today’s list, you’ll notice a lot of German films. This is no accident. During WWI, Germany banned all foreign films. This gave a significant boost to the German film industry and helped the Germans develop a solid and immediately recognizable national style. German Silent Era films also give us a glimpse at a nation working through its trauma, which produced some horrific and heart wrenching images.
Now. I’ll shut up and let you get to it.
The Golem: How He Came Into the World (Germany, 1920)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Germany, 1920)
Genuine (Germany, 1920)
The Phantom Carriage (Sweden, 1921)
Hexän (Sweden, 1922)
The Hands of Orlac (Germany, 1924)
Phantom of the Opera (United States, 1925)
A Page of Madness (Japan, 1926)
The Unknown (United States, 1927)
The Cat and the Canary (United States, 1927)
Nosferatu (Germany, 1928)
The Man Who Laughs (United States, 1928)
The Fall of the House of Usher (France, 1928)
Don’t know where to start? Check out this trailer for what is, in my opinion, one of the greatest films ever made.