German Expressionism Turns Film into Poetry

I’ll be honest. My knowledge of film isn’t broad. Sometimes I like movies solely because Chris Pratt is in them. I’m definitely not qualified to professionally review them, but I’m learning the ropes. So, with that in mind, I came across this film that I was not at all exciting to watch. It was called The Night of the Hunter (1955)

My film professor flicked off the lights and started the movie. I was already yawning. All I wanted was to go home and watch Parks and Rec and then fall asleep. Nonetheless, I stayed in my seat and braved through it.

AND DAMN. What a movie! German expressionism was the main topic for us this week. I understood the gist of it, but never saw it in execution. The Night of the Hunter was a flawless execution of this genre, and allowed me to see how impactful it was. German expressionism in film exaggerates, stretches, and bends all forms of reality to create a twisted, Kafkaesque world where the plot then takes off from there. Picture it like Tim Burton movies coming to life.

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This genre not only exaggerates the effects, but it strengthens the emotions felt while watching. For instance, childhood wonder, nostalgia, chase, and family were all jacked up on steroids with the film techniques in this movie. The scenes with the children felt like a Disney sequence, the scenes with the murderer felt inescapable and something out of a nightmare, and the scenes with the whole family felt warm, safe and loving. Everything was accentuated due to this style. I highly recommend this movie. It didn’t feel like I was watching two children escaping a murder, it was more peaking into their brains for a night and watching their very bad dream of escaping a murderer. It was filmed like a dream, where things are just, for lack of a better word, off. And that’s what made it such an unsettling work of art.

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