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Early 20th Century Avant-garde Movements in Cinema and Other Arts (10 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

An introduction to the major avant-garde movements of the 1920s: Impressionism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Futurism, Constructivism, and Expressionism. This illustrated course examines their presence in cinema and other arts, in particular painting, sculpture, architecture, and photography. It provides a unique opportunity to (re)discover films by the most influential filmmakers of early avant-garde cinema.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

There are no pre-prerequisites for this course.

Content of Course

1. The First Avant-garde.

General introduction to 1920s avant-gardes. The First Avant-garde in cinema: Germaine Dulac, Abel Gance, Marcel L’Herbier and Jean Epstein.

2. Dadaism / Abstract Cinema.

Dadaist art and the link between of Dada and Abstract cinema; Clair and Picabia’s Entr’acte, Man Ray’s Retour a la raison, Leger’s Ballet méchanique, Richter’s Ghosts Before Breakfast and Duchamp’s Aenemic Cinema.

3. Surrealism.

Introduction to Surrealist art.

4. Surrealism in cinema.

Films of Luis Bunuel (Un Chien andalou and L’Age d’or), Jean Cocteau (The Blood of a Poet) and Germaine Dulac (The Seashell and the Clergyman)

5. Expressionism.

Introduction to German Expressionism.

6. Expressionist cinema.

Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Rye and Wegener’s The Student of Prague, Lang’s Destiny, Murnau’s Nosferatu and Wegener and Boese’s The Golem

7. Futurism.

Introduction to Italian Futurism and Russian Cubo-Futurism.

8. Futurism in cinema.

Short futurist films and Protazanov’s Aelita: Queen of Mars.

9. Constructivism.

Introduction to Russian Constructivism.

10. Constructivism in cinema.

Man with a Movie Camera and other films by Vertov, Pudovkin and Eisenstein.

Teaching method(s)

Weekly interactive lectures illustrated with videoclips and followed by group discussion.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Identify the avant-garde art movements of the first half of the twentieth century;

  • Explain the influence of these movements on cinema;

  • Recognize cinematic avant-gardes of the 1920s.


Core Readings


  • O’Pray, M., 2003. The Avant-garde Film: Forms, Themes and Passions. London : Wallflower.


  • Aitken, I., 2001. European Film Theory and Cinema: a Critical Introduction. Edinburgh University Press.

  • Bordwell, D. and Thompson K., 2008. Film Art: an Introduction. N.Y.: McGraw-Hill.

  • Edwards, S. and Wood, P. eds., 2004. Art of the Avant-gardes. London : Yale University Press in association with the Open University.

  • Eisner, L. H., 1969. The Haunted Screen. London: Thames & Hudson.

  • Kuenzli, R. E. ed., 1996. Dada and Surrealist Film. London : MIT Press.

  • Ottinger, D. ed.,2009. Futurism. Paris: E´ditions du Centre Pompidou.

  • Petric´, V., 1987. Constructivism in Film. Cambridge University Press.

  • Waldberg, P., 1978. Surrealism. London: Thames & Hudson.


  • Coeur Fidèle. 1923. Jean Epstein. France: Pathé Consortium Cinema.

  • L’Age d’Or. 1930. Luis Bunel. France: Vicomte de Noailles.

  • The Seashell and the Clergyman. 1928. Germaine Dulac. France: Delia Film.

  • Man with a Movie Camera. 1929. Dziga Vertov, Soviet Union: VUFKU.

  • The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. 1920. Robert Wiene. Germany: Decla-Bioscop AG.

Class Handouts

Relevant articles and excerpts from books.


10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.

Studying for Credit

If you choose to study for credit you will need to allocate significant time outwith classes for coursework and assessment preparation. Credit points gained from this course can count towards the Certificate of Higher Education.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.