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Shell Shock Cinema
Weimar Culture and the Wounds of War

By Anton Kaes

 

BRIEF NOTES

Shell Shock Cinema: Weimar Culture and the Wounds of War
By Anton Kaes

Princeton University Press : Princeton, New Jersey : 2009
ISBN 978-0-69103-136-1 : 312 pages : hardcover : $29.95

Kindle e-book edition: $16.95.

Reviewed by Carl Bennett
Examining the well-known films of the German post-war Weimar Republic, chiefly The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Nosferatu (1922), Die Niebelungen (1924) and Metropolis (1927), Professor Anton Kaes gives perspective to the social forces that gave rise to one of the world’s greatest periods of cinematic creativity. The mass angst of post-war Germany is designated by Kaes as a vast example of cultural ‘shell shock’ — a trauma of psyche that unexpectedly bore a brief period of exceptional creative freedom that spiraled up in intensity until it came crashing down along with a collapsing German economy.

Given that the main core of films examined for Kaes’ scholarly tome are readily available on home video to most readers, they may be viewed along with a reading of the text to either reinforce or refute Kaes’ conclusions and for a deeper understanding of the cultural context of the spawning of the films themselves. As opposed to a legion of worthless academic texts, the book eschews the obfuscating language of wannabe intellectualism in favor of a practical and convincing examination of the cultural and cinematic topics at hand.

Among the supplemental material is an accounting of Weimar cinema available for viewing on DVD home video.

 
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