Monday, 1 March 2010

Arthur Robison's Warning Shadows (Shadows Schatten - Eine nächtliche Halluzination)

Malcolm Lowry mentions Robison's film in La Mordida (316):

Sigbjorn remembered the film Warning Shadows where the lovers stood at the end and watched the Stealer of Shadows ride away on a pig.

Lowry also discusses the film's shadow effects in his notes to his later screenplay for Tender Is The Night(The Cinema of Malcolm Lowry 59):

Shadows should be used, sometimes circling, sometimes greatly attenuated, sometimes vast and menacing.....

Arthur (Artur) Robison was born June 25, 1888, in Chicago as the son of a German-American family. (The biographical data are spare and based on contradictory short portraits from the 1920s that cannot be checked.) He attended schools in the USA and Germany where the family returned to in 1895. After graduating from school in 1906, he studied medicine and obtained his MD degree in Munich. For a short while, he worked as a medical practitioner in Berlin. "As early as 1911, however, I felt the need to perform on-stage. At first, I studied languages and then I returned to America, where I worked as an actor at a German-American theater for almost a year." (Robison, 1928). Read more at

Lowry's mention of Robison's film fits into a pattern of allusions made by Lowry to German Expressionist cinema noted by several commentators including Patrick McCarthy and Chris Ackerley.

German expressionist cinema was at its height in the 1920s, and few films embodied the movement as much as Warning Shadows. Directed by Arthur Robison, this classic tale of psychological horror remains his best known work, celebrated for its outrageous visual style and notorious for its attempt to make a purely visual feature film - in other words, a film with no intertitles (except, of course, the opening credits).

A mysterious traveler and illusionist who performs shadow puppetry arrives to provide some entertainment at an otherwise routine dinner party. The host of the party is already mad with jealousy over the presence of his wife’s four suitors, but when the puppet show begins, passions overtake reason and reality is not what it appears to be. Shadows, reflections and silhouettes are the dominant imagery, and the film boasts the extraordinary camerawork of Fritz Arno Wagner, the German cinematographer who is renowned for his work with Fritz Lang (Spies, M) and F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu).

Warning Shadows has long been considered a landmark work by champions of the German cinema. Lotte Eisner, in her book "The Haunted Screen," declared that director Robison "handles phantoms with the same mastery as his strange illusionist," while Siegfried Kracauer, in "From Caligari to Hitler," simply stated that Warning Shadows "belongs among the masterpieces of the German screen."
Kino Video

If only one film is chosen to epitomise German cinema's fascination with the artistic use of shadows, then WARNING SHADOWS must be the first choice of example. The predilection for shadows, reflections and the theme of the doppelganger runs steadily through the majority of German releases during this era. This sense of dualism can be found in Der Student von Prag when Balduin is pursued by his own image; in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari when the eminent doctor is also shown as a fairground barker; the split personality of the angelic master-criminal Dr. Mabuse der Spieler to the majestic rendition of Goethe's Faust by F.W. Murnau. Film provided a suitable medium to capture the qualities of this other worldliness, where shadows and reflections could take on a life of their own. Classic Horror

Read more about the film here:

Audio Video Revolution

Film Sufi

Classic Horror

1 comment: