Germany, 1928, 108 minutes, Black and white.
Brigitte Helm, Paul Wegener.
Directed by Henrik Galeen.
Alraune is one of the famous Expressionist films from the Germany of the 1920s. Like many of the films of the decade, it went back to legends and myths, this time the legend of the mandrake, allegedly a root from the semen of hanged murderers.
The film focuses on a doctor who impregnates a prostitute to see what the genetic effects will be.
Brigitte Helm (Metropolis) is Alraune and Paul Wegener (The Golem) is the scientist. Two other German versions were produced, one in 1930 (again with Brigitte Helm) and one in 1952.
1. The impact of this silent German film? Interest in its plot, themes? Skills of the German silent film industry?
2. Black and white photography, decor, the blend of the past and the contemporary? The tradition of black and white photography in film-making?
3. The editing - controlling the acting and audience response to it, moods and meaning?
4. The German industry in the 20s: expressionism, the famous films classics of the time and their visual style, picture of society, interpretation of post-World War One Germany, anticipation of Nazism and the 30s? Art and the critique of the times?
5. Themes of the development of science, technology? The scientists playing God? Their arrogance, the evil consequences?
6. The mediaeval legends of the Mandrake? Science, alchemy, magic? Power and superstition? The title of the film and its relationship to the Mandrake legend? The appearances and the explanations given in the film? The individual, power, creation. suffering? The mediaeval heritage - and its adaptation to Germany in the '20s?
7. The professor and his skill, work, arrogance, experiments and their consequences? The creation of Araune? Her growing up, coping? Her changing, school, infatuation? Jealousy and possessiveness? The lengths to which she would go? The personification of evil? Death?
8. The portrait of Araune: growing up, her behaviour at school, the schoolgirl yet evil, her escape, her falling in love, her way of life, getting caught up with nun? The young nun, the circus, the count her being seductive? The clash with the professor? Torment? Her freedom? victims? The femme fatale?
9. The relationship between men and women? The Mandrake woman controlling men? The skill of quick characterisation via silent film techniques? The men as stereotypes? The nephew, the young man in the train. the seducer. the circus, the count? The spider's web theme and the variations?
10. The blend of the old and the new? The heritage of Germany from its past? Moving into the 20th century? The trains and the circus, society etc.?
11. The melodramatic tone and style of the film? The interest in melodrama at the time?
12. German legends. audience interest in them especially in the hindsight of history? Deeper interpretations?