Academic journal article Afterimage

Shell Shock Cinema: Weimar Culture and the Wounds of War

Academic journal article Afterimage

Shell Shock Cinema: Weimar Culture and the Wounds of War

Article excerpt

BY ANTON KAES/PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS/312 PP./$29.95 (HB)

The term "shell shocked" was first used to describe the emotional wounds suffered by the men who fought in the gruesome battles of World War I. Anton Kaes uses this term to describe the emotional wounds suffered by Germany after World War I in his award-winning Shell Shock Cinema: Weimar Culture and the Wounds of War (2009). Kaes examines classic films from the postwar Weimar period, including Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), F.W. Murnate's Nosferatu (1922), and Fritz Lang's Die Nibelungen (1924) and Metropolis (1927). Reading these films as reactions to the trauma of war, Kaes argues that this cinema did not graphically recreate the images from WWI, but engaged the psychological imprint the war left on Weimar Germany--the fear of invasion, the experience of panic and paranoia--through the sudden appearance of serial killers, mad scientists, and monsters in the dark.

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Kaes's book offers a counterpoint to Siegfried Kracauer's From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film, published in 1947. …

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