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The Last Laugh, Kammerspiel films, and Expressionism

by Kate Fortmueller

Although the kammerspiel films are often contrasted with the more internationally known Expressionist films, both filmmaking trends were visually innovative. Expressionist films were known for mobilizing the entire mise-en-scene to express subjectivity. Kammerspiel films, like the drunken sequence in The Last Laugh experimented with other techniques to express subjectivity. Consider some of the Expressionist films viewed in class. Note how films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari present character subjectivity or psychology. How does this sequence differ in its approach? Take note of the set, camera movement, and especially the relationship between the actor and the setting in your comparison.

The Last Laugh (1924) - After the party

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This clip from the last kammerspiel film, The Last Laugh, demonstrates Murnau's innovative camera work. The camera was placed on a turntable for parts of this scene. This clip comes from the restored German version.

from The Last Laugh (1924)
Creator: F.W. Murnau
Distributor: Kino International
Posted by Kate Fortmueller