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'Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s' comes to the Milwaukee Art Museum
Andrei Andrejew (Russia, 1887–1966), Set design drawing for Crime and Punishment (Raskolnikow), 1923. Director: Robert Wiene (Germany, 1873–1938). Ink and ink wash. Collection of La Cinémathèque française, D082-37.

MILWAUKEE, WIS.- The Milwaukee Art Museum opened its newest exhibition, Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s on view from Oct. 21 through Jan. 22. Organized by La Cinémathèque française, Paris, the exhibition examines the groundbreaking period in film history that occurred in Germany during the Weimar era after World War I, through more than 150 objects, including set design drawings, photographs, posters, documents, equipment, cameras and film clips from more than 20 films.

The Expressionist movement introduced a highly charged emotionalism to the artistic disciplines of painting, photography, theater, literature and architecture, as well as film, in the early part of the 20th century. German filmmakers employed geometrically skewed set designs, dramatic lighting, off-kilter framing, strong shadows and distorted perspectives to express a sense of uneasiness and discomfort. These films reflected the mood of Germany during this time, when Germans were reeling from the death and destruction of WWI and were enduring hyperinflation and other hardships.

“We’re thrilled to present Haunted Screens at the Milwaukee Art Museum this fall, and to offer our visitors a glimpse into a unique and revolutionary time in film and art history,” said Margaret Andera, the Museum’s adjunct curator of contemporary art. “This exhibition represents a tremendous period of creativity, and allows visitors a fascinating look at the nuanced aesthetics of German Expressionist cinema through a wealth of diverse objects.”

The exhibition is grouped into five sections by theme: Nature, Interiors, The Street, Staircases and The Expressionist Body. From the dark fantasy of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to the chilling murder mystery M, the exhibition explores masterworks of German Expressionist cinema in aesthetic, psychological and technical terms. More than 140 drawings are complemented by some 40 photographs, eight projected film clip sequences, numerous film posters, three cameras, one projector, and a resin-coated, life-size reproduction of the Maria robot from Metropolis.

German Expressionist cinema was the first self-conscious art cinema, influencing filmmakers throughout the world at the time and continuing to inspire artists today. It served as a catalyst for subsequent film genres, most notably science fiction and horror. The conflicting attitudes about technology and the future that are the cornerstones of science fiction, and the monsters and villains that form the basis of horror, appear often in Expressionist films. The influence of Expressionist cinema undoubtedly extends to the work of contemporary filmmakers, including Tim Burton, Martin Scorsese and Guy Maddin, whose 3-channel projection work, Kino Ektoplamsa, appears at the end of the exhibition.

The Museum is taking a unique approach to the exhibition’s installation design, one that mirrors the mood of the time and the objects on display. Walls intersecting at unexpected angles and even breaking through the exhibition space into Windhover Hall give visitors an engaging experience.

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s permanent collection includes extensive holdings in the German Expressionist area, including a significant collection of paintings from the period, as well as one of the most important collections of German Expressionist prints in the nation, the Marcia and Granvil Specks Collection. This collection includes more than 450 prints by German masters. Visitors are encouraged to stroll through the collection galleries after seeing Haunted Screens.

Haunted Screens was organized by La Cinémathèque française, and curated by Laurent Mannoni.

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