A 1998 film, directed by Alex Proyas who also directs Gods of Egypt, The Crow and Knowing. Dark City is another film that is being studied in the class as a Postmodernism Film due to having more than one genre that includes Action, Mystery, Thriller as well as Fantasy. This film is an example used by our tutor to further discuss the German Expressionism.


German Expressionism can be back-dated to the 1920s and is one of the first artistic film-making style that has been introduced in the world of films. One of the most prominent style that can be seen in a German Expressionism film is that it is made to shock the audience. Aside from that, lighting plays an important part to create a German Expressionism film. Such lighting includes the High Contrast or the Low Key Lighting, which is also known as the Chiaroscuro lighting, a lighting technique that has been around since the Renaissance era. The Chiaroscuro lighting provides a dark visual that incorporates dramatic shadows. (Bordwell, Thompson, 2010) Other than that, German Expressionism contains techniques that fabricates distortions in the body shapes and also buildings in the film. To further creating a more distortion shapes, an oblique camera angles are used as well as having the props and settings in the films to be in an abnormal angles like being put in an up and down position.

Moreover, German Expressionism film manifest through primitive elements like talking about revolting and not the more modernised features like advance technology. Sexual savagery is part of the prominent aspects in German Expressionism thus, in the film Dark City, it contains a lot of nudity and sexuality that is not appropriate for younger viewers.


John Murdoch woke up in an alien room with a dead naked woman lying on the floor, not knowing or remembering anything. After trying to figure out what has happened, he discovered a group of unknown beings called The Strangers controlling the city by taking and swap the memories  of the humans reside in it. Murdoch has the ability that The Strangers do, which is called Tune. He got the power when Murdoch was awake during the process of replacing his memories. Due to his ability and his immunity to the Strangers’ powers, he is the only hope for the people of the city to break through from the control of The Strangers.


After understanding the characteristics of a German Expressionism film, it is very easy to detect it in the film, Dark City. The most prominent is the visuals of the film where high contrast or Chiaroscuro lightings are used. The setting of the film requires it to be very dark and mysterious not only because it embodies the German Expressionism but also because the storyline for the film takes place only at night since no one in the city ever remembers seeing the sun all thanks to The Strangers for controlling it that way. Automatically, this sort of setting produces a very shady and mystifying mood for the audience.

Another characteristics that have been discussed above is the distortion of shapes especially in bodies and buildings. The Strangers in the film appears to have a bizarre looking body compared to other human beings as their body is longer and seems oddly out of ratio. The distortions for the buildings can be seen when The Strangers are ‘tuning’ their powers to get the memories from their victims. The buildings seem to appear to spin and change in size as well. Besides, because the film takes place in the 1940s, Gothic-styled building can be clearly seen throughout the whole film.


Distortion bodies of The Strangers
Moreover, the revolting element that can be detected in Dark City is through the character, John Murdoch. Murdoch acts like an anarchy when he rebels against the police and obviously The Strangers as both parties control the city. Not only Murdoch that shows his part of revolting against the authorities, but also the doctor who is in charged of the memory transplants that is Dr Schreber. He was the person responsible in telling Murdoch that he has lost his memories in the first place. Dr Schreber helped John Murdoch in fighting The Strangers by using the ability that The Strangers possessed as well. Other than that, madness is another important component in any German Expressionism film and this could be seen when John Murdoch gets confused when his memories are in a mess.
Besides, Dark City also contains a primitive sexual savagery. Prostitutes were killed brutally and their bodies were carved with circles by one of The Strangers, Mr Hand. Aside from that, the murder cases that happened in the film mainly uses knife as their primary weapon. The Strangers are seen with a knife as they prefer to stab and cut the people.
Dark City is one of the great modern film that incorporates German Expressionism and the director, Alex Proyas has successfully put in all the great elements of the German Expressionism in the film.




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