Film Theory: Film Movements: Huaco–Concept, Studies


All artists are interested in reality. But in what sense?

The various stylistic meanings of realism

How they correspond or match with the various thematic meanings of reality

We must ask questions about each of the movements:

Who are the central figures (leaders)?

What is reality (thematically)

How the visual style conveys such reality.

Three complete waves of film art which are stylistically homogenous cluster.

They had a historically specific beginning, duration and ending. They can be approached as a totality.

The German expressionist film, from 1920-1931.

The Soviet expressive-realist film (dynamic), from 1925 to 1930.

The Italian neo-realist film, from 1945 to 1955.

The Japanese post WWI film

(Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, Keisuke Kinoshita, Tadashi Imai, Kon Ichikawa.)

The Polish post WWII film

(Andrzej Wajda, Andrezej Munk, Aleksander Ford, Wanda Jakubowska, Jerzy Kawalerowicz)

The French Nouvelle Vague (New Wave)

(Alain Resnais, Francois Truffaut, Marcel Camus, Jean Rouch, Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, and Chris Marker.)



The concept of style can be defined as recurrent features of texture and structure. Film became an art through the concern of its makers with the technical possibilities and peculiarities of the medium.

Each one of the 3 styles became a historical art style through the elaboration and development of creative formal combinations possible only with film.

The German expressionist film specialized in attaining a particular kind of distortion of the naturalistic image, by the use of painted sets and by the play of light and shadow, and the use of a subjective camera.

The Soviet expressive realists were concerned with dynamic editing or montage, the discovery that the combination of two appropriate shots can create and imagistic metaphor.

The Italian neo-realists focused on the use of nonprofessional actors (individuals who had no acting experience) in major dramatic roles.

But why did the German expressionist, Soviet expressive realists, and Italian neo-realists develop precisely these filmic possibilities?

Why at this particular time?

To answer these questions, one has to go beyond the particular styles and examine the artistic-literary-dramatic context in which they are embedded.

And this cultural context within a socioeconomic and political system.

Why these feature (and not others) literary-cultural context.

Why at this particular time? (Historical context.)


The aggregate of three historically complete and stylistically unified waves of film art.  Each wave is made up of certain representative films.

His list of expressionist films includes every film labeled and described as such by film historians.


The film styles examined are made up primarily of fiction, or story films.

There are some documentary films in Soviet expressive realism, few in Italian, none in German.

Film Movements–Sociological Model

The assumption: major political, social, and economic changes in the larger society tend to affect art, literature or film by being channeled or filtered through the social structures that constitute their social matrix.

A modified version of Marx.  Base: social resources: economic, demographic, technological.

Modes of social organization specific forms of class structures and institutions.

Superstructure: Norms (legal, political), Values, ideas, expressive symbols.

Assumption: The major source of social change is a tension, or lack of fit between social resources and specific modes of social organization.

Necessary conditions for the emergence and duration of film waves will be found among:


  1. Historically specific social resources
  2. Modes of social organization.
  3. Political and legal norms
  4. The artistic traditions of the society.


Film Movements–Conditions

Four necessary conditions:

  1. A cadre of directors, cameramen, editors, actors, technicians.
  2. The industrial plant required for film production.
  3. A mode of organization of the film industry which is either in harmony or at least permissive of the ideology of wave.
  4. A political climate, either in harmony, or permissive of the ideology and style of the wave.

The sociological hypothesis:  All 4 conditions must be fully present before a wave of stylistically unified film art can begin.

The elimination of one or more of these conditions will be sufficient to produce the decline or destruction of the wave.



A term with multiple normative and descriptive meanings

At least 4 distinct meanings:

Realism as the non-abstract–the material is presented in great detail.

Realism as the non-distorted–the material is presented as substantially the same as that which exists in the ordinary world of human experience.

Realism as depiction of low life–of the activities of the common man.

Realism as the non-idealized.


German Expressionism: Reality

For the German expressionism, reality is the subjective emotional experience of horror, fear, degradation, sadism, masochism, oppression.

Crime, tyranny, torture, and death are the major themes.


People are clerks, students, professionals, lower white-collar individuals.


The non-human environment is hostile and sinister.


Sex and eroticism are destructive

(of the somnambulist in Caligari

of the professor in The Blue Angel

the criminal and his victims in M)



For the Soviet expressive–realist film, reality is the transformation of the human and non-human environment from an undesirable to a desirable state by the application of human will, rationality, and revolution.

People are aggregates of industrial workers, farmers, soldiers, nomads.

Sex and eroticism are ignored.


Crime is a minor theme and always an attribute of rich peasants, tsarist and foreign officers, or the bourgeoisie.


The non-human environment is dynamic.


Large objects are personified and participate in the action as quasi-actors.


(The battleship in Potemkin

The bridges in October

The river ice in Mother

The army of tractors and the milk-separator in The General Line.)


Italian- Reality

Huaco. 17

For the Italian neo-realist film, reality is poverty, hunger, and unemployment.

People are individual, unemployed, industrial workers, hungry farmers and fishermen, the poverty-stricken and abandoned very young and very old migrant workers.


Prostitution, theft, suicide, and homicide are minor themes, and they are presented as consequences of poverty, unemployment or hunger.


The non-human environment is static and cruel.


Its emotional tone is a mixture of boredom and hopelessness.



Film Movement Comparison


Huaco, 211/


What is common to the 3 film waves with unified styles?

  1. In 2 out of the 3, the unified style stems from the fact that most of the films scripts were written by a single author.


Carl Mayer for the German Expressionist films.


Cesare Zavattini for the neo-realistic films.


The stylistic unity of Soviet expressive realism points to other unifying factors, since there was no single scriptwriter.


2. The common social characteristics of the film directors.

Their common occupational patterns were casually linked to major unifying themes and stylistic peculiarities of each film wave.


The predominantly theatrical and artistic background of the German directors resulted in theatrical and painterly qualities of the expressionist films.


The artificial ?indoor? quality of entirely studio-made films.


The static composition.


The attempt to paint with light and shadow.


The predominantly professional-technical or technological backgrounds of the Soviet directors seems to have casually linked to the technological environment-transforming ethos of the expressive realist films.


The predominantly writer-journalist background of the Italian directors as a casual factor in the thematic focus of the neo-realist focus on social criticism.







Film Movement/ Comparison Ideology of director

3. For each wave, the dominant political orientation of the directors was in line with the dominant ideology revealed in the film plots.


The center and right-wing conservatism of the German directors.


The Catholic-Marxist left-wing idealism of the Italian directors.


The Communion of the Russian directors.


Dominant Ideology-

These coincided with favorable sets of opportunities and possibilities stemming from the conditions of organization of film production in the 3 historical settings.


Film Movements: Audiences

Huaco, 212

Incomplete description of the specific social structures–due to lack of data on film audience.

The audience for the expressionistic film was probably made up of the German urban intelligentsia of the Weimar period.


The audience of the expressive-realist film of the Soviet urban intelligentsia on the 1920’s.


The audience of the neo-realist film of a clearly non-Italian international group.


Film Movement: Four Structural Conditions

Huaco 212/

Within each historical setting, exploration of the political, social, and economic variables on the exigencies of film production and on the rise and fall of the particular wave of stylistically unified film art.

Each wave began only when 4 necessary structural conditions were already present:


  1. A cadre of trained technicians, directors, cameramen, editors, and actors.


  1. A basic film plant, including studios, laboratories, raw stock, and equipment.


  1. A mode of organization of the film industry which was either favorable or tolerant toward the ideology of the future film wave.


  1. A climate of political norms which was either favorable or tolerant toward both the ideology and style of the future film wave.


Each film wave lasted only as long as these factors were present.

The gradual elimination of one or more of these factors was accompanied by the gradual decadence and eventual destruction of the particular film wave.


Film Movements–Reflection


Huaco, 213


The extent or degree to which film art reflects its social surroundings wide variation.


The Soviet expressive realism was almost completely oblivious to its immediate social environment.


The German expressionism reflected its environment in a disguised and symbolic manner.


Only the Italian neo-realism reflected its social environment.


All art, including film art, transcends the realm of expediency and the struggle for power, wealth and prestige.


But in a sense this transcendence is illusionary, for film art bears the mark of the social background of its makers and the limitations and opportunities of its social and historical matrix.


It reveals its ultimate dependence on non-artistic structures and forces.


Film Style





  1. Isolated individuals.


Carl Dryer, Jean Renoir, Luis Bunuel, Bergman, Rene Clement


  1. Stylistically heterogenous cluster


When there is no stylistic or thematic continuity between the films of various directors who are contemporaries working in the same country.


D.W. Griffith, Chaplin, Eric von Stroheim.


Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller in the Swedish cinema, 1917-1923.


In the case of the film artist who is isolated, there is a high degree fo stylistic continuity linking the earlier works with the later achievements.


The films appear as totality, directly related to the creative personality of the author.


This relation: psychology of art.


But stylistically heterogeneous and stylistically homogenous are cultural-group phenomena–sociology of art.


The heterogeneity extends beyond style to subjects, themes, motifs, and ideas.


In homogeneous–common styles, subjects, themes, motifs-can be compared to those present in the larger cultural context.


The cluster as a whole is linked to specific social structures in the larger social system.


The Film Styles




Investigation of the emergence, duration and decline of stylistically unified waves of film art in terms of socio-historical preconditions.


Coherent groups of stylistic phenomena comparable to styles in the other visual arts-Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque.


History of Film Art


  1. The emergence of the work of isolated film-makers.


  1. The emergence of filmmakers whose films are grouped into stylistically heterogeneous clusters.


  1. The emergence of filmmakers whose films are grouped into stylistic homogeneous clusters, or waves of film art style.


Individual filmmakers.


Cluster (stylistic heterogeneity)

Cluster (stylistic homogeneity)


Movement: Thematic Reality



In all these styles, thematic reality is a limited range, which is smaller than the totality of ?the given.?


Why a given reality is limited to a given range


Why it includes what it includes, and why it excludes what it excludes.


As an answer, an exploration of the ideology implicit in each of the 3 waves.


The ideology of a group of films is visible in the themes and characterizations as these are organized into plots.


Each plot contains implicit sentiments or assumptions about the social world.


Inclusion/Exclusion of themes.


Styles, Huaco



Formal attributes of German Expressionism, Soviet Expressive Realism, and Italian Neo-realism.


The films exhibit most, though not necessarily all, the formal attributes given in the appropriate list.


Though analytically distinct, the problem of characteristic themes follows from that of style.


The thematic meanings of realism.


The characteristic themes of the 3 styles.


Who are ?people,? and what is ?reality? in the 3 movements?