The 1920’s were a promising time for the cinema in Germany. Due to the end of World War I, the German economy experienced a boom in the film industry that coincided with the inflation of the economy at the time. Because of the inflation, filmmakers were able to borrow money to put towards production, and by the time the amount was to be repaid, it was long devalued.
Due to the infatuation with the future and the need felt by most of Europe to begin taking steps forward, German Expressionism experienced a large rise in popularity, especially in film. Films that participated in the movement focused strongly on symbolism and artistic imagery. World War I also played a large role in the general mood of films that appeared in the theatres at this time; post World War I Germany was suspended in an extremely grim state, and this showed in the films. The vast majority of movies that came out during this time were horror and crime. One film that is known to have started the expressionism wave in the film industry is Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which emerged into the theatres in 1920. It portrayed the dark hallucinations of a troubled man and featured a very dark and dramatic acting style.
Germany, which was known as the Weimar Republic at the time, had a film industry that experienced an unstable financial situation, despite the brief breath of relief that came with the inflation. Like most film industries, it was not uncommon for the producers to go well over their budgets for their films, which often led to bankruptcies. UFA, one of the largest German film industries, was eventually forced to form a partnership with the American studios Paramount and MGM in 1925 before eventually being taken over by Alfred Hugenberg in 1927.
Expressionism’s influence on the German film industry eventually began to die down, and a new movement known as New Objectivity started to make itself apparent in films. These films focused more on realism and were very socially concerned. Some of the most important and well-known films to come out during this era were Joyless Street (1925) and Pandora’s Box (1929). Films under the New Objectivity movement are said to have started the trend of “scandalous” topics in films such as abortion, adultery, sex, and homosexuality.
The 1920’s were an extremely important and influential time in German filmmaking. Many of the films from this era are now deemed classics, and continue to influence modern filmmaking to this day.