At an evening dinner party in the 19th century, an obsessively jealous husband believes he has finally found proof of the infidelity of his wife, who is constantly surrounded by admirers. How else to interpret the silhouettes of greedy male hands reaching for his beloved behind the transparent curtains of a glass door? But the shadows are deceptive. In truth, they are meaningless gestures, and the hands never actually touch his wife. A juggler who is present at the party notices the husband’s delusion. He hypnotizes the guests and performs a shadow play that reveals their erotic desires and fears, including jealousy, deceit, and revenge. Afterwards, everyone is much the wiser: the husband recognizes how faithful his wife is, and her suitors are forced to realize that they don’t stand a chance with her.
Arthur Robison’s SCHATTEN – WARNING SHADOWS is regarded as one of the masterpieces of expressionist cinema during the Weimar Republic. Produced a full century ago, his film takes us back to the beginnings of cinema – whose predecessor was indeed the moving shadow play, the magic lantern. Besides the impressive performances by a top-class ensemble of actors, SCHATTEN – WARNING SHADOWS can also be seen as an early self-portrait of the medium of film, a reflection on the ambiguity of moving images and their chimerical nature. Robison tells the story of how the jealous husband is brought to his senses exclusively through visual means, dispensing entirely with intertitles. The image of reality creates its own reality, which is not free of misinterpretations and can become the object of targeted deceptions. A highly topical subject in view of the possibilities opened up by images generated by artificial intelligence.