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More in this section Undergraduate


Tutor: Dr Daniela Berghahn

Teaching: 10 hours lecture, 10 hours seminar and film screening

Value: ½ unit

Availability: Autumn Term

This course introduces students to the most important movements of European film history between 1914 and 1939, including Weimar Expressionism, Soviet Montage, Poetic Realism and Surrealism. The course situates the key developments in European cinema during this period in their cultural and historical contexts (the Great War, the impact of the Russian Revolution, the Depression, the rise of National Socialism, etc.) and explores the relationship between cinema and major artistic movements such as modernism and the avant-garde. The discussion of canonical films of the period will take place against the background of a more general appreciation of the impact of the new 20th century mass media (film and radio) and major technological advances (such as the coming of sound) that transformed the medium of film during those decades.

1. Early Cinema and the European Film Industry at the Beginning of the 20th  Century

A selection of short films from: Early Cinema: Primitives and Pioneers 

  • Gunning, Tom (2000), ‘The cinema of attractions: Early film, its spectator and the avant-garde’, The Film Studies Reader, Joanne Hollows, Peter Hutchings and Mark Jancovich (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

2. German Expressionism

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Robert Wiene, Germany 1919) 

  • Murray Smith, ‘Modernism and the avant-gardes’, in: John Hill and Pamela Church-Gibson (eds.), The Oxford Guide to Film Studies, Oxford: OUP, 1998, pp. 395-412
  • Elsaesser, Thomas, ‘Caligari’s family: Expressionism, frame tales and master narratives’, Weimar Cinema and After: Germany’s Historical Imaginary, London and New York: Routledge, 2000, pp. 61-105. 

3. New Objectivity

Metropolis (Fritz Lang, Germany 1926) 

  • Thomas Elsaesser, ‘Germany: The Weimar Years’, in: Geoffrey Nowell-Smith (ed.), The Oxford History of World Cinema, Oxford: OUP, 1997, pp. 136-150
  • Huyssen, Andreas, ‘The Vamp and the Machine: Technology and Sexuality in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis’, New German Critique, 1981/82, 24/25, pp. 221-237.

4. Soviet Montage

October (Sergei Eisenstein, USSR 1927) 

  • Bordwell & Thompson, Chapter 6, pp. 119-142 [pp. 128-155 in 1st edition].
  • Sergei Eisenstein, ‘The montage of attractions’ (1923) and ‘The montage of film attractions’ (1924), in: Richard Taylor (ed.) The Eisenstein Reader, London: BFI, 1998, pp. 30-53.

5. Futurism

Man With a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, USSR 1929)

  • James Donald, Imagining the Modern City, London: Athlone, 1999, pp. 63-92;
  • Dziga Vertov, “We: Variant of a Manifesto” (1922);
  • “The Essence of Kino-Eye” (1925), in Annette Michelson, ed., Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov, Berkeley, 1984.  

6. Reading Week

A reading week is not a week off, but rather is a chance for you to look over what we have learnt so far on the course, engage in some further reading and watch additional films in order to broaden your knowledge of important period of European cinema. During the reading week you ought to work independently and make sure you have fully understood what we have covered so far and to catch up on anything you may have missed. You should also start thinking about your essays, i.e. select the additional films you wish to refer to, read secondary literature, start planning your outline and choose titles for your bibliography.

7. The coming of sound

M, Fritz Lang (Germany, 1931)

  • Bordwell & Thompson, Chapter 9, ‘The development of sound cinema’ [pp. 211-232 in 1st edition]
  • Kracauer, Siegfried, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of German Film, ‘Introduction’, pp. 3-14; Chapter 18, ‘Murderer Among Us’, pp. 215-222, Princeton, 1974 [1947].

8. Surrealism

  • L’age d’or (Luis Bunuel, Spain 1930);
  • Paul Hammond, ed., The Shadow and Its Shadow: Surrealist Writing on the Cinema, London: Polygon, 1991, pp. 70-75, 91-102, 117-121.
  • Andrew, Dudley (2006), ‘L’age d’or and the eroticism of the spirit’, in Ted Perry (ed.), Masterpieces of Modernist Cinema, Chicago: Chicago University Press, pp. 111-137. 

9. French Cinema of the 1930s

Toni (Jean Renoir, France 1935)


  • Bordwell & Thompson, Chapter 13 [part], pp. 283-296 [pp. 322-332 in 1st edition].
  • Alexander Sesonske, Jean Renoir: The French Films, Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard UP, 1980, chapter 13 on Toni (1935) 

10. Film Under the Dictators

Triumph of the Will (Leni Riefenstahl, Germany 1934)

  • Bordwell & Thompson, Chapter 12, pp. 261-282 [pp. 292-231 in 1st edition]
  • Richard Taylor, ‘Nazi Germany: The Triumph of the Will’, Film Propaganda: Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, London: I.B. Tauris, 1998, pp. 162-173. 

11. Essay Planning and Tutorials

Other books and articles to consult:

Aitken, Ian  (2001),European Film Theory and Cinema: A Critical Introduction, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press

Ankum, Katharina von (ed.) (1997),Women in the Metropolis: Gender and Modernity in Weimar Culture, Berkeley: University of California Press Attwood, Lynne (ed.) (1993),

Red Women on the Silver Screen: Soviet Women and Cinema from the Beginning to the End of the Communist Era, London: Pandora Press

Bock, Hans-Michael and Michael Töteberg, (2002), ‘A History of Ufa’, in: Bergfelder, Tim, Erica Carter and Deniz Göktürk (2002), The German Cinema Book, London: BFI

Bondanella, Peter (2001), Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present, New York: Continuum (Chapter 1: The silent era and the fascist period)

Bordwell, David and Kristin Thompson (2002),Film History: An Introduction, New York: McGraw-Hill.

Brecht, Bertolt and Marc Silberman (2001), Brecht on Film: Diaries, Letters, Essays, London: Methuen

Coates, Paul, William Rothman and Dudley Andrew (eds.) (1991),The Gorgon's Gaze: German Cinema, Expressionism, and the Image of Horror, Cambridge: CUP

Donald, James (1999),Imagining the Modern City, London: Athlone.

Eisenstein, Sergei (1977), Film Form: Essays in Film Theory. Trans. Jay Leyda, New York: Harcourt Brace.

Eisner, Lotte (1974), The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhard, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Elsaesser, Thomas (2000),Weimar Cinema and After: Germany’s Historical Imaginary, London and New York: Routledge.

Elsaesser, Thomas (2000), Metropolis, London: bfi, pp. 129-138.

Geiger, Geoffrey and R.L. Rutsky (eds) (2005),Film Analysis: A Norton Reader, New York and London: W. W. Norton. This anthology includes essays on The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Battleship Potemkin, Metropolis, Un Chien Andalou, The Rules of the Game and many more.

Gunning, Tom (2000), ‘The cinema of attractions: Early film, its spectator and the avant-garde’,The Film Studies Reader, Joanne Hollows, Peter Hutchings and Mark Jancovich (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hake, Sabine (1993), The Cinema’s Third Machine: Writing on Film in Germany 1907-33, University of Nebraska Press.

Hake, Sabine (2002),German National Cinema, London and New York: Routledge.

Hammond, Paul (1991),The Shadow and its Shadow: Surrealist Writings on the Cinema, Edinburgh: Polygon.

Hayward, Susan (1993),French National Cinema, London and New York: Routledge.

Hayward, Susan and Ginette Vincendeau (eds) (1999),French Cinema: Texts and Contexts, London and New York: Routledge.

Hinton, David B. (2000) The Films of Leni Riefenstahl, Scarecrow Press

Joyce, Mark (2001), ‘The Soviet montage cinema of the 1920s’, in: An Introduction to Film Studies, ed. Jill Nelmes, London and New York: Routlege, pp. 389-420.

Kaes, Anton (2001), M, London: bfi

Kovacs, Stephen (1980), From Enchantment to Rage: The Story of Surrealist Cinema, Fairleigh and Dickinson Univ. Press (available 2nd hand via Amazon.com).

Kovacs, Stephen (2008), Screening Modernism: European Art Cinema 1950-1980. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Kracauer, Siegfried (1974 [first published 1947]), From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Kreimeier, Klaus et al. (1999),The Ufa Story: A History of Germany’s Greatest Film Company, 1918-1945, University of California Press.

Kuzniar, Alice (2000), The Queer German Cinema, Stanford: Stanford University Press

Michelson, Annette (1984) ed., Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov,

Berkeley/Landy (2000),Italian Film, Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Lawton, Anna (1992), The Red Screen: Politics, Society, Art in Soviet Cinema, London and New York: Routledge.

Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey (ed.),The Oxford History of World Cinema, Oxford: OUP

O’Brien, Mary-Elisabeth (2004), Nazi Cinema as Enchantment: The Politics of Entertainment in the Third Reich, New York: Camden House.

Perry, Ted (ed.) (2006), Masterpieces of Modernist Cinema, Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Petro, Patrice (1989),Joyless Streets: Women and Melodramatic Representation in Weimar Cinema, Princeton University Press.

Scheunemann, Dietrich (ed.) (2006), Expressionist Film: New Perspectives, New York: Camden House.

Silberman, Marc (1995), ‘The Rhetoric of the image: Slatan Dudow and Bertolt Brechts’s Kuhle Wampe Or Who Owns the World?, in: German Cinema: Texts in Context, Detroit, Wayne State University Press, pp. 34-48

Robert, Ian (2008), German Expressionist Cinema: The World of Light and Shadow, London: Wallflower Press.

Rubenstein, Lenny (1983), Caligari and the Rise of Expressionist Film”. In Stephen Eric Bronner and Douglas Kellner, ed., Passion and Rebellion: The Expressionist Heritage, London: Croom Helm, pp. 363-373.

Sorlin, Pierre (2003), Italian National Cinema, 1896-1996, London and New York: Routledge.

Taylor, Richard and Ian Christie (eds.), (1994), The Film Factory: Russian and Soviet Cinema in Documents, 1896-1993, London and New York: Routledge.

Taylor, Richard (1994) ‘Ideology as mass entertainment: Boris Shumyatsky and Soviet cinema in the 1930s’, in: Richard Taylor and Ian Christie (eds.) Inside the Film Factory, London, New York: Routledge, pp. 193- 217.

Taylor, Richard (1998), ‘Nazi Germany: The Triumph of the Will’, Film Propaganda: Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, London: I.B. Tauris, pp. 162-173.

Triana-Toribio, Nurina (2002),Spanish National Cinema, London and New York: Routledge. Williams, Linda (1992), Figures of Desire: A Theory and Analysis of Surrealist Film, Berkeley and London: University of California Press.

Other films to watch:

Cabiria, Giovanni Pastrone, Italy 1914

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Robert Wiene, Germany 1919

Different from the Others, Richard Oswald, Germany 1919

Nosferatu, Friedrich Murnau, Germany, 1922

Ballet méchanique, Fernand Leeger and Dudley Murphy, France 1924

Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein, USSR 1925

Entr’Acte, René Clair, France 1925

Mother, Vsevolod Pudovkin, USSR, 1926

Metropolis, Fritz Lang, Germany 1926

Holy Mountain, Arnold Franck, Germany, 1926

October, Sergeij Eisenstein, USSR, 1927

Storm over Asia, Vsevolod Pudovkin, USSR, 1928

L’Etoile de mer, Man Ray, France 1928

People on a Sunday, Billy Wilder/Robert Siodmak/Fred Zinnemann, Germany, 1929

Pandora’s Box, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Germany, 1929

Diary of a Lost Girl, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Germany, 1929

Man With a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov, USSR 1929

Un Chien Andalou, Luis Bunuel, Spain 1930

Tabu: A Story of the South Seas, F.W. Murnau, USA, 1931

Kuhle Wampe, Slatan Dudow, Germany, 1931

M, Fritz Lang, Germany, 1931

Blood of a Poet, Jean Cocteau, France 1932

Zéro de Conduite, Jean Vigo, France 1934

Triumph of the Will, Leni Riefenstahl, Germany 1934

Toni, Jean Renoir, France, 1935

Olympia, Leni Riefenstahl, Germany, 1938

Pépé le Moko, Julien Duvivier,France, 1937

La Grande Illusion, Jean Renoir, France 1937

La Règle du Jeu, Jean Renoir, France, 1939

Le jour se lève, Marcel Carné, France, 1939

The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl, Ray Müller, France, UK, Germany, 1993

The course is taught by means of a weekly screening followed by a one-hour lecture and one-hour seminar. In addition to the required viewing for each week students will be required to read the assigned articles in the Course Pack.

 Assessment consists of one 5000 word essay.


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