The Influence of Foreign Films on American Cinema*

         In looking at cinema in a global context, one notices how some foreign films and foreign film makers have had a strong influence on American movie making.

         One obvious example is the influence of Jean Cocteau’s French film entitled La Belle et la Bęte. This films influence is obvious because it inspired the Disney film entitled Beauty and the Beast, which was an animated version for children. In having seen both films, one notices the connection between the feelings of enchantment that both films carry. It is interesting that the French version, being live action, was able to produce the same feelings of magic that the animated version was able to create using the somewhat limited technology of the time. Beauty and the Beast had been a popular fairytale, but the French version added the subplot of Avenant, and this was repeated in the Disney version to some extent. Specifically the French version influenced the animated Disney version in this way.

         Going farther back in time, F.W. Murnau’s 1922 German expressionist film entitled Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (“Symphony of Horrors” in English) can also be seen as having a strong influence on some American films and film makers. The film was made before innovations in cinematography were really prevalent, but perhaps the most memorable part of the film comes in the form of its villain. Count Orlock is Nosferatu, the evil creature based on the Vampire, Count Dracula in literature. The German Expressionist form of Nosferatu is portrayed as a tall and skinny rat-like creature that carries death with him wherever he goes in a coffin. This films influence stems to American monster movies and horror movies. The villain of the film is memorable and despite being so old and not having any sound, Nosferatu can induce real fear in its audience with its use of tension. A good way the film does this is in the way Nosferatu carries his coffin around slowly through the town.

         Elements of these two films in a global context have had an influence on American Films. It is good to see these foreign films presented in a class because a lot of times, cultural things come through in foreign films. There are many examples, but the influence of cinema on the human race is seen through looking at cinema globally.

Brian Schuldt

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