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FILM2029 Weimar Cinema

Module Overview

Weimar cinema (German films produced between the late 1910s and the early 1930s) ranks in world film history as one of the most influential movements, and producing some of world's cinema's best-known directors, including Ernst Lubitsch, Fritz Lang, F. W. Murnau, and G. W. Pabst. Although often reduced to the shorthand perception of 'expressionist' film, Weimar cinema was in fact highly diverse in terms of its style and narrative concerns. This module aims to revise a narrow perception of Weimar cinema, and to chart the rich aesthetic legacy of the period, which is transitional in a number of ways. Films made in this period exemplify the creativity, innovation, and high artistic standards at some of Germany's foremost studios, such as Ufa, a serious competitor to Hollywood at the time. In sharp contrast to Ufa's sumptuous production values were agit-prop films and New Objectivity documentaries, which chronicle ordinary lives in ordinary surroundings. Much existing work on these films has either analysed them in relation to literary sources and connections, or has isolated distinctive auteur figures such as Pabst and Lang at the expense of systemic analysis. This module focuses on the film's formal qualities, and on the production environments (studios, working practices), which facilitated these qualities. It also highlights the socio-political concerns embedded in the films' storylines. Moreover, cinema of the 1920s and early 1930s provides an opportunity to trace the shift from the largely visual aesthetics of silent cinema to the audiovisual dimension of sound films, and from a 'universal' art form to an increasingly nationally specific one.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are: - to enable you to develop expertise outside the domain of Hollywood filmmaking, - to give you an opportunity to specialise in a particular moment of German history by considering a selected aspect of cultural production, and - to develop your understanding and engagement with German cinema.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • visual aesthetics, cultural and social references, and intertextual connections in Weimar films from the late 1910s to the early 1930s.
  • historical developments of the German film industry and its main protagonists (directors, stars, technicians) during the period under consideration.
  • technological innovations in German (and international) cinema, such as cinematography, production design, and the coming of sound.
  • critical debates on, and methodological approaches to, Weimar cinema.
  • issues of narrative construction and representation.
  • structure written work towards communicating a lucid and original argument that draws on, and engages with, a wide range of secondary sources, but that extends beyond simply summarising existing critical work.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • identify narrative, and audio-visual strategies and techniques in films, and interpret these according to selected critical methodologies.
  • historicise filmic techniques in the light of the context for audiences at the time the films were made, in contrast to contemporary expectations.
  • demonstrate competence in analysing audio-visual texts through the study and interpretation of mise en scene, narrative, and sound.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • research a specific subject, using a range of resources (such as books, journal articles, internet data).
  • conduct research independently.
  • present written work in an appropriate style, with consistent referencing, proper bibliography and filmography, and conforming to grammatical conventions.
  • prepare and deliver an oral presentation that communicates facts and arguments in an effective and clear manner.

Syllabus

We will look at specific film examples in detail. Typically, discussion would focus on three major aspects: - Visual aesthetics: This would typically include a detailed study of cinematography, production design, and mise en scene more generally (including, e.g., acting conventions in the silent film), and how these elements are used to convey both narrative information and atmosphere,. Image analysis could also include identifying the iconographic, architectural, and art historical references Weimar incorporated in its visual fabric. - Sound: This would typically include analysing how late Weimar cinema moved from silent to sound film technology, and how sound was conceptualised as a narrational tool. The study of sound could also include study of musical registers and genres of the time, which were used in Weimar films, such as operetta, cabaret, and Schlager. - Narrative: Under this rubric we would typically discuss the major generic patterns of the period (romantic comedy, crime film, social realist drama, etc.), narrational devices (e.g. flashbacks, nested narratives, etc.), as well as main narrative motifs, such as social mobility, the representation of gender (especially the figure of the 'vamp', the quintessential icon of the 1920s and early 1930s), and the representation of urbanity and modernity. What may also be discussed is how narrative priorities shift according to national differences in the multi-language versions and remakes of the early sound period, where a transnational comparison can be undertaken.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include lectures, tutor-led seminars, one-to-one tutorials, informal and written feedback, and academic guidance. Learning methods include independent preparation, reading, note taking, researching relevant material, synthesising ideas, contribution to seminars, preparing and delivering a presentation and written assignments.

TypeHours
Independent Study102
Teaching48
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Rogowski, C (2010). The Many Faces of Weimar Cinema. Rediscovering Germany's Filmic Legacy.. 

Ward, J (2001). Weimar Surfaces. Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany. 

Elsaesser, T (2000). Weimar Cinema and After. Germany's Historical Imaginary.. 

Isenberg, N (2009). Weimar Cinema. An Essential Guide to the Classic Films of the Era. 

Assessment

Assessment Strategy

The presentations will allow you to gain experience in preparing and presenting your work clearly and concisely to an audience of your peers. You will have the opportunity to evaluate your own performance in the written report, before the final essay, which will provide scope for you to demonstrate that you can present a coherent, well argued and sustained piece of work on a topic relevant to the module themes.

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 80%
Presentation  (15 minutes) 10%
Written report  (1000 words) 10%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework  () 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

FILM1001 or FILM1002 or FILM2006 or ENGL1079

Costs

Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Other

You are not required to buy any books or films for this module, although you may do so if you wish.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at www.calendar.soton.ac.uk.

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