I promised ‘further consideration’ and so ‘further consideration’ is about to be very much forthcoming. There will be pictures, but you’ll have to wade through a fair bit of text to get to them.
Expressionism is infamously difficult to define as an artistic or cultural movement (there were in reality several quite distinct Expressionist movements in the early Twentieth Century, all of which had relations and links with other modernist artistic movements with different priorities and ideologies) , but when it comes to using the word as a descriptive cultural term, matters are much clearer.
Expressionism, in essence, means the prioritisation of emotion, of feeling and of inner lives, inner worlds and inner turmoils, over ‘objective’ reality and of ‘objective’ realities.* It can thus be seen – and often is, as a rejection of realism in favour of the subjective, but that’s not quite how I would tend to look at it. Rather, it represents a realisation that all art is subjective; that realism for the sake of realism** is the biggest and most self-defeating cultural lie going. Living as we do in an era in which postmodernism dominates the cultural landscape, it is also important (I suspect) to add that the emotions and feelings depicted and represented must also be sincere ones.
Is all of the above true of The Bridge? I believe so, and I believe that it is one reason*** why it is such absolutely compelling viewing. And, naturally, the really fun thing about using terms like ‘Expressionism’ in a generic and descriptive way, is that it doesn’t entirely matter if it is what those who made the programme actually intended (of this I have no idea).
Anyway, I promised pictures. The purpose of the pictures is to show why I started thinking along these lines in the first place…
Scenes of massive urban and industrial – actually usually firmly post-industrial – massiveness, in which said massive urban postindustrial massiveness appears to have a strange will – or at least firmly sentient character – of its own, and in which humans are very small and almost even incidental are extremely frequent in The Bridge. These are not mere location shots: they are important as scenes in their own right, and play an important role in establishing the emotional tone of the programme. And in some respects they are strikingly similar to shots of massive urban and industrial massiveness in that great Expressionist film Metropolis:
The influence seems clear enough, and it was this that got me thinking in more general terms about The Bridge and its relationship to Expressionism. I like to think logically and insightfully, but that may just be self-delusion. And on that note, I think I shall finish.
*’Feeling the feeling’, as Philip Marlow put it in The Singing Detective.
**There’s a reason why ‘Abstract Expressionism’ is/was a specific sub-genre of Expressionist Art: Expressionism does not necessarily denote a total abandonment of realism (even in painting), just that other considerations are placed above it.
***And there are plenty of others. Kim Bodnia and Sofia Helin are both unbelievably talented actors, for example.