Author's film

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The term author's film is a generic term for films in which the director has a significant influence on all artistic aspects of the film, such as the script or editing , and in which he, comparable to a novelist or a visual artist, can or should be viewed as the (sole) author of the work. In Germany, the Federal Association of German Film Authors is concerned with the preservation and development of this film genre. The term auteur film itself and its precise definition and delimitation are, however, controversial in film studies .

In the 1910s, the term auteur film was used in a different sense: At that time, auteur films were those films that had a reference to a literary author who was as renowned as possible - either as an original script by a writer or as an adaptation of a literary or dramatic work.

While the films in the early years of cinema were almost all auteur films in today's sense, they receded into the background with the advent of industrial film production in Europe and, in particular, the studio system in the USA from the 1910s. Only relatively few directors were able to continue to exercise sole artistic sovereignty over their work. From the 1940s there were various auteur film movements, most of which were based on a theoretical basis. As important is you will Italian neorealism (from 1943), the Nouvelle Vague (from 1959), the New German Cinema (1962), New Hollywood (from 1967) or dogma are called (from 1995).

Beginnings of cinema to the end of silent films

The first films ever made were basically auteur films as they represented nothing but the will of their creator. The Skladanowsky brothers shot - albeit without recognizable dramaturgy of a script - small scenes of gymnasts, which they presented on November 1, 1895 in the Berlin Varieté "Wintergarten" in front of 1500 spectators. Almost two months later, on December 28, 1895 , the Lumière brothers screened their first film in the Paris Grand Café .

In the pioneering days of cinema , filmmakers were primarily concerned with the curious visual effect of moving images. In the period that followed, many small one-act plays were created that had everyday scenes and small humorous farces as their content.

Georges Méliès - the forefather of fantastic films - can be seen as one of the first directors with a tendency towards auteur filmmaking . He ran a magic theater in Paris , attended the Lumière brothers' first cinema screening in the Paris Grand Café and recognized the possibilities of the new medium (see form of publication ). In addition to his stage work, he immediately began to experiment with tricky films, which soon enjoyed great public interest. These first fantastic films by Méliès were short, caricaturally exaggerated farces that did not take themselves seriously, but showed all the more fascination and enthusiasm for future technologies. In the short film " Les Rayons Röntgen " (The X-rays, France 1898, 1 min) a patient is X-rayed by the doctor, whereupon his skeleton separates from the body and falls to the ground. The angry patient begins to argue with the doctor until he finally explodes.

In 1912 Harry Piel founded the "Kunst-Film-Verlags-Gesellschaft" and was responsible for most of his screen adventures as a director, screenwriter, producer and actor.

From 1911 Rosa Porten wrote screenplays, directed and stood in front of and behind the camera in her films, in which her sister Henny Porten often played.

In the course of the improvements in film technology and the emergence of a real film industry ( Nickelodeons , film palaces, studios ), long feature films of 60 or 90 minutes in length were very soon possible, which could no longer be produced by individuals. Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1926) and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's Nosferatu (1922), as well as the films Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, are among the last significant silent films with author character . Erich von Stroheim was active in the USA at this time and made films such as Blind Husbands (1919), Foolish Women (1922), The Wedding March (1928) and Queen Kelly (1928).

1930s to 1950s

United States

Alfred Hitchcock (photographed by Jack Mitchell , ca.1972)
Orson Welles (photographed by Carl van Vechten , 1937)

During the short period of the " New Deal " (1929–1941) - the American economic depression - a new cinema emerged in the USA that was devoted to socially critical and societal issues and was very much influenced by French critical realism ( Marcel Carné , Jean Renoir , Julien Duvivier ); For example, John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath (The Grapes of Wrath) (1940), a novel by John Steinbeck .

After two world wars, the European film industry sank into insignificance, while in the USA very productive and aggressive oligopolies ( trusts ) emerged, which conquered a world market by means of studio systems , star systems , distribution monopolies and licenses . The new production methods temporarily meant the end of the auteur film in its original form. This overwhelming power of the American film industry ( Hollywood ) with its majors and the principle of the casting system introduced led to the development of a stereotypical film language in which the film author no longer saw himself as a primarily independent artist. He was only a script supplier for a film project and had to meet the requirements and laws of a film industrial production.

From today's perspective , filmmakers who have immigrated from this era, such as Ernst Lubitsch ( To be or not , 1942) , Billy Wilder , Otto Preminger and Alfred Hitchcock, are to be regarded as auteur filmmakers. Hitchcock appeared as a writer in Great Britain as early as the 1930s with films such as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) or The 39 Steps (1935) and later made classics such as Das Fenster zum Hof (1954), Vertigo (1958) or Psycho (1960). The born American Orson Welles can be seen as a singular phenomenon. For the first time in the film Citizen Kane (1941), all essential production steps were left to the author: script , direction , camera , editing ( final cut ) and even the lead role. Other important Welles films were Amberson's House (1942) and Under the Signs of Evil (1958). But Howard Hawks is also considered an author filmmaker today. He shot, among others, Scarface (1932), Blondes preferred (1953) and Rio Bravo (1959). A classic auteur filmmaker was Richard Brooks , who also wrote the scripts for his films as a director and mostly also took over the production. Brooks adapted mostly literary models, for example for The Seed of Violence (1955), The Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and Elmer Gantry (1960).

United Kingdom

In Britain in the 1940s began Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell a long-lasting cooperation as scriptwriters and directors of their own production company, The Archers ( The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), The Red Shoes (1948))


Important film authors of Italian neorealism were Federico Fellini ( La Strada (1954) ), Roberto Rossellini ( Rome, Open City (1944) ) and Vittorio de Sica ( Bicycle thieves (1948) ).


It was only in the next great epoch of auteur film, the Nouvelle Vague (“New Wave”) from France , which in turn was strongly influenced by film noir and the films of Alfred Hitchcock, that the auteur filmmaker regained his artistic status. Alfred Hitchcock was seen here as a role model, especially by François Truffaut and Claude Chabrol , although many of his scripts were adaptations of literary models. But he developed his own film language, through which he formulated personal concerns, and came to the fore as a star director. Subsequently, Truffaut did a lot for the recognition of the “auteur” as an artist who inscribed his personal intention in the films (see auteur theory ). The nouvelle vague of the French film of the 50s and 60s shone with important filmmakers like François Truffaut ( They kissed and they hit him (1959), Jules and Jim (1961), Kisses robbed (1968), The American Night (1972) ) , Jean-Luc Godard , Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette , Éric Rohmer , Jean Renoir ( Das Verbrechen des Monsieur Lange (1935) ) and the Spaniard Luis Buñuel , who like Louis Malle was not part of the Nouvelle Vague. The French filmmaker Jacques Tati , who long before the Nouvelle Vague had all the qualities of a filmmaker (e.g. Mr Hulot's vacation (1953) ), received little attention from young film critics and later auteur filmmakers.

In addition to Alfred Hitchcock and other directors, the Nouvelle Vague was also modeled on the cheaply and quickly made film noir (B-film). The term "film noir" was coined by the young film critics of the magazine Cahiers du cinéma , who later founded the Nouvelle Vague. Initially, the Nouvelle Vague also pursued the goal of finding a new film language, including a further development of Hitchcock's film language. The film should be created "in the head" of the viewer. So every viewer should be able to see their own film. The group Rive Gauche around Marguerite Duras and Alain Resnais ( Hiroshima, mon amour ) relied much more consistently on new film language means based on their own theory. The prelude to the Nouvelle Vague is the film " Elevator to the Scaffold " by Louis Malle, a classic film noir. Jean-Luc Godard's first success out of breath (“À bout de souffle”) , based on a story by Truffaut, was a satire of film noir enriched with many personal details. Since the film was too long in the first version, Godard invented the jump cut as a new cinematic medium. As Godard's films became more personal and fragmentary, Chabrol and Truffaut soon reverted to classic narrative, which broke up the group. In 1968 they met again to blow up the Cannes Film Festival , as Henri Langlois , the director of the Cinémathèque française , to whom they owed so much, was to be dismissed in the wake of the political conflicts of 1968 . Henri Langlois made it possible for the young film critics to see numerous films, including all of the classic films.

The 1960s and 1970s

In the mid-1960s, a new “independent cinema” developed in the USA - New Hollywood - which rebelled against kitsch and demanded a new realism. Authors such as Arthur Penn , Dennis Hopper , Mike Nichols , Robert Altman and John Cassavetes can be regarded as exponents of this period.

Woody Allen has been writing his films since the mid-1960s. He was influenced by the Nouvelle Vague early on and enthusiastic about Ingmar Bergman's films. United Artists President Arthur Krim , who later co-founded Orion Pictures Corporation , gave everyone complete artistic freedom. Only a few of Allen's films were also commercial successes - these exceptions include Der Stadtneurotiker , Manhattan and Hannah and their sisters .

In addition to Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick was also considered an author filmmaker. After completing his work on Spartacus , Kubrick was not satisfied with the result and only made films where he had full control over the production. His works were regularly characterized by great commercial success and, from a visionary point of view, achieved very high importance. Examples are Dr. Strange or: How I Learned to Love the Bomb , 2001: A Space Odyssey and Clockwork Orange .

The filmmaker and author Alexander Kluge became famous through the “ New German Film ” . As an alternative to the pleasant German cinema of the economic boom, there were 26 film authors who formulated the so-called " Oberhausen Manifesto " and thus ushered in a fruitful time for German auteur films. Important representatives of the New German Cinema are Volker Schlöndorff ( Die Blechtrommel 1979), Alexander Kluge ( Farewell to Yesterday , 1966), Rainer Werner Fassbinder ( Love is colder than death , 1969, Fear Eats the Soul , 1973), Werner Herzog ( Aguirre , The Wrath of God , 1972), Wim Wenders , Herbert Achternbusch and Hark Bohm .

There were also auteur films in the GDR . Despite the political constraints and restrictions, films such as Die Legende von Paul und Paula (1973) or Coming Out (1989) by Heiner Carow and Spur der Steine (1966) by Frank Beyer were made .

Since the 1980s

United States

In Hollywood, despite the enormous density of production, there are hardly any auteur filmmakers left. The so-called blockbusters in particular are characterized by commissioned work by the film studios. Woody Allen , James Cameron , Quentin Tarantino , Michael Mann , Paul Thomas Anderson , Christopher Nolan and Rian Johnson are named as auteur filmmakers , who are even active in the blockbuster sector.


Lively auteur cinema activity can currently be observed in some European countries: in Spain with its star filmmakers Pedro Almodóvar and Alejandro Amenábar , in Belgium with Benoît Poelvoorde and in Germany with Tom Tykwer and Oskar Roehler .

The programmatic group Dogma 95, founded by Danish filmmakers, explicitly opposes the concept of the author in the film : "The concept of the author was bourgeois romanticism from the start and thus ... wrong!"



  • Helmut Diederichs: The Origins of the Autorfilm / Le origini dell'Autorenfilm . In: Paolo Cherchi Usai, Lorenzo Codelli (eds.): Prima di Caligari: cinema tedesco, 1895-1920 = Before Caligari: German Cinema, 1895-1920 . Edizioni Biblioteca dell'immagine, Pordenone 1990, p. 380-401 .
  • Leonardo Quaresima: Poet, Out! The Authors' Film and German Cinema of the 1910s . In: Griffithiana . No. 38/39 , 1990, ISSN  0393-3857 , pp. 101-120 .
  • Deniz Göktürk : Atlantis or: From the sinking of culture. The ennoblement of early cinema in auteur films . In: Manfred Behn (ed.): Black dream and white slave. German-Danish film relations 1910–1930 . Ed. Text and criticism, München 1994, ISBN 3-88377-483-9 , p. 73-86 .
  • Hermann Kappelhoff: The furnished person. GW Pabst and the utopia of objectivity. A poetological attempt at Weimar auteur cinema . Vorwerk 8, Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-930916-02-9 (Zugl .: Berlin, Freie Univ., Diss., 1993).
  • Gustav Ernst (Ed.): Authors' films - film authors . Waspennest, Vienna 1996, ISBN 3-85458-513-6 .
  • Corinna Müller: The other cinema? Authors' films in the pre-war era . In: Corinna Müller and Harro Segeberg (Hrsg.): The modeling of the cinema. On the history of the cinema program between short film and feature film 1905 / 06–1918 . Fink, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-7705-3244-9 , pp. 153-192 .
  • Marcus Stiglegger (Ed.): Splinters in the tissue. Filmmaker between auteur films and mainstream cinema . Bender, Mainz 2000, ISBN 3-9806528-2-3 .


  • Jan Distelmeyer : Author makes history. Oliver Stone, his films and the history of his works . Ed. Text and criticism, München 2005, ISBN 3-88377-796-X (Teilw. Zugl .: Hamburg, Univ., Diss., 2002).
  • William Goldman : Adventures in the screen trade: a personal view of Hollywood and screenwriting . Warner, New York 1983, ISBN 0-446-51273-7 , pp. 100 ff . (Chapter "Auteurs").
  • Werner Kamp : Author concepts and film interpretation . Lang, Frankfurt a. M. 1996, ISBN 3-631-30280-0 (Zugl .: Aachen, Techn. Hochsch., Diss., 1995).

Web links

Wiktionary: Author's film  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ "Author concept was bourgeois romanticism from the very start and thereby ... false!" DOGMA 95 - The Manifest. Dogma 95 , accessed April 1, 2018 .