The Vampire and the Citizen

         Throughout the history of cinema, many movies have made a tremendous impact of films. It could have been a new concept or idea or making a political statement that contributed to furthering cinema.

        One of those films comes out of the Expressionist movement, Nosferatu, directed by Murnau in 1922. Expressionism began with German painting, music, architecture, and theatre in reaction to the nineteenth century naturalism art. Expressionism attempted to represent the artist's subjective feelings in response to the objective reality of naturalism. It employed a variety of non-naturalistic techniques like symbolism and perceptual distortion to achieve this end. Expressionism was one of the first recognizably modernist movement is the arts (Cook 91).

        Nosferatu, is the first vampire film to be made and set the standard for future vampire films. The film itself is somewhat creaky in its narrative structure; it does, however, have a succession of haunting visual images more authentically expressive of horror unlike another Expressionist film, Caligari. Caligari relied on the production design, while Nosferatu relied on camera angles and lighting. To make the vampire seem more monstrous, Murnau filmed from low angles which Orson Welles used later on in Citizen Kane. Many of these shots are lit so the vampires shadow is cast over the objects in the shot. As most horror buffs know, vampires cast no shadow but using this Murnau was able to make Nosferatu seem scarier. Maybe not as impressive by today's standards are the cinematic tricks that Murnau used to create a supernatural feel to the world in the film. One way they did this was by using negative footage to make the forest surrounding the castle appear ghostly. Negative footage is film that inversely records the light and dark areas of a photographed scene.

        Another film that has contributed to the history of cinema is Orson Welles 1941 film, Citizen Kane. Orson was influenced through many different filmmakers; the chiaroscuro lighting of Lang, the fluid camera of Murnau, the baroque mise-en-scene (putting in the scene) is a term that describes the action, lighting, décor and other elements within the shot, as opposed to the effects created by cutting.

        Welles wanted Citizen Kane to be filmed largely in flashbacks as the characters remember the title character Kane after his death. He wanted the flow of the film to go from image to image in a manner that resembled the process of human memory. To achieve this Welles used straight cuts, mostly to shock people and made narrative transitions using in-camera lap dissolve.

        Welles's director of photography was a brilliant man by the name of Gregg Toland. He had worked on previous films such as Wuthering Heights, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Long Voyage Home. Toland perfected a method of deep-focus photography capable of achieving an unprecedented depth of field. Welles's use of the deep-focus format to develop scenes without resorting to montage but he also used it expressively to create metaphors that the cinema cannot represent on the screen.

        To show Kane at the height of his arrogance, he would often loom in the foreground of the scene, making the other characters in the middle or background appear smaller, often from a low camera angle. To show Kane's alienation from the world, Welles showed a growing distance that separated Kane from the other characters. Welles uses this to create a metaphor for something in Kane's psyche.

        Both of these films brought new techniques that helped influence cinema. With Nosferatu it was low camera angles. With Citizen Kane it was perfecting deep-focus photography. Nosferatu has become a classic in the horror genre being one of the first of its kind. Citizen Kane was an experimental film when it was released. Its influence was not felt until the mid-1950'sm the model for a new film aesthetic based not on montage but upon sequence shots.

Amy Wolford

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