From Morn to Midnight and The Folly of Man

 

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From Morn to Midnight (German: Von Morgens bis Mitternachts) is a 1920 German silent expressionist film directed by Karlheinz Martin based on the play, From Morning to Midnight by Georg Kaiser. It is one of the most Avant Garde films of the German Expressionist movement.

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I really enjoyed this one, it’s without question the most Expressionistic film I’ve seen yet. The sets are even more distorted than in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Fans of that film will definitely enjoy this. The whole film seems deranged and avant garde. The entire “bike race” scene is very interesting and experimental. 

 

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A bank cashier who realizes the “power of money” after a rich Italian women makes a visit to the bank in preparation of purchasing a piece of art. He suddenly gives into all his lesser temptations and in a moment of weakness (often mistaken for passion) and in a frenzied state of delusion he decides to steal the money from the bank, thus Catapulting him down a twisted and distorted road of folly and temptation becoming the ‘cashier on the run.’ He returns to his home only to realize how much contempt he has for his life, and everyone in it including a wife, daughter and mother.

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He soon realizes he seeks passion in his life, he has a terrible void, which he attempts to fill using money and all of the luxuries and thrills it affords you. Throughout the film the cashier’s death is eluded to and conveyed by the face of death, which he sees in the face of a beggar that he ignored, the face of the daughter who he abandons, and in the faces of the women he seeks to bring excitement and fulfill his life with. He cannot escape it. He proclaims that he wants real passion in his life and is what he seeks the entire film, but each time it fails to meet his expectations.

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He buys expensive clothing and shaves his beard, an attempt to transform, and hide from the police and from his true nature. He then attends a bicycle race, where he offers money to the winning racers in hopes of rousing the crowd and pushing the athletes into a frenzy. This scene has a lot out of focus, and slightly augmented scenes which are very experimental, it also has a good deal of social and class commentary. The Cashier keeps upping the reward which drives the crowd wild, he starts to think he has found his passion, but soon royalty shows up and steals his thunder. He next ends up at a bar, drinking and dancing and mingling with ladies of the night, only to be disappointed yet again and see his fate once more in the face of a woman he mistreats. He then finds himself gambling with some rather rough individuals, they seem to be trying to hustle him, but he soon starts winning and much to their dismay he seeks to leave with his winnings. They confront him and it seems as if a fight will take place.

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Just then a “Sister” of the Salvation Army appears and stops the fight and brings the cashier to her worship services. He witnesses the confessions of a few individuals which makes him self reflect on his own actions. He then wishes to confess and in this moment realizes “All the money in the world cannot buy anything of value,”. I will leave the ending unspoiled, but it’s very powerful and poignant. It has a great subtext about the folly of man and the temptation of the world. I feel as if the film takes a strong influence from Nietzsche, but this could be my personal perspective.

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In so many ways it makes me think of the Expressionist woodcut artist Frans Masereel, in particular the wordless novel (The City: A vision in woodcuts).

 

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The look of this film is extremely intense and employs techniques of German Expressionism mixed with Avant Garde, in a few scenes actors are actually used as part of the sets, when the cashier is walking down a snowy path you can see branches swaying in the wind, which are simply actors arms painted black with white highlights to really give the branches a “moving” and “swaying” quality.

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Another highlight is when he is buying new clothes the mannequins are actually actors and begin to move and dance, as if to entice him into buying the new clothes. You can really sense remorse for his actions by the end of the film, his mannerisms change constantly and he even become less neurotic by the end of the film. As if, seeing how empty the money actually made him feel, cleansed his soul in a way it had not been, before the crime. (Ryan Keinath)

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Video link working as 02/01/15:

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