Art Director. Nationality: German. Born: Berlin, 5 May 1889. Education: Studied design at Kunstgewerbeschule, Berlin, c. 1905–07; trained in stage design at the Szenograph, Berlin, c. 1908–09, and the Schauspielhaus, Dusseldorf, c. 1910–11. Career: Painter, associated with Der Sturm Expressionists, Berlin; 1912—entered German films as set designer for Vitaskop, then for Union, Decla, Decla-Bioskop, and Greenbaum; also freelance architect and set designer in Hungary, France, and England, 1924–33, and in Switzerland, 1941–44; worked in Germany, 1947–60. Died: In Berlin, 1976.
Der Shylock von Krakau (Wilhelm); Menschen und Masken (Piel); Der letzte Tag (Mack); Wo ist Coletti? (Mack); Der König (Mack); Die blaue Maus (Mack); Der Andere (Mack)
Die Geschichte der stillen Mühle (Oswald); Pauline (Etiévant); Der Hund von Baskerville (Oswald—2 parts); Der Spion (Schmidt-Häsler); Die beiden Rivalen (Etiévant); Die Millionen-Mine (Piel)
Totentanz (Rippert); Der Volontär (Neuss); Die Pest von Florenz (Rippert) (co); Der Tunnel (Meinert and Wauer); Die Spinnen, Part 1: Der goldene See ( The Spiders, Part 1: The Golden Lake ) (F. Lang)
Die Spinnen, Part 2: Das Brillantenschiff ( The Spiders, Part 2: The Diamond Ship ) (F. Lang); Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari ( The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari ) (Wiene); Die Toteninsel (Froelich) (co); Masken (Wauer); Das Blut der Ahnen (Gerhardt); Das Haupt des Juarez (Guter); Der Richter von Zalamea (Berger); Kämpfende Herzen ( Der Vier um die Frau ; Four around a Woman ) (F. Lang) (co)
Der müde Tod: Ein Deutsches Volkslied im Sechs Versen ( The Weary Death ; Between Two Worlds ; Beyond the Wall ; Destiny ) (F. Lang) (co); Der ewige Fluch (Wendhausen); Die fliegenden Briganten (Felmy); Die Jagd nach dem Tode (Gerhardt); Schloss Vogelöd ( Haunted Castle ) (Murnau); Zirkus des Lebens (Guter)
Phantom (Murnau) (co)
Das Spiel der Königin ( Ein Glas Wasser ) (Berger) (co); Der Kaufmann von Venedig (Flener); Quarantine (Mack)
Gräfin Donelli ( Countess Donelli ) (Pabst); Rosenmontag ( Eine Offizierstragödie ; Rose Monday ) (Meinert) (co); Königsliebchen (Schall) (co)
Mädels von heute ( Liebesgeschichten ) (Friesler); Die rote Maus (Meinert); Soll man heiraten? ( Intermezzo einer Ehe in sieben Tagen ) (Noa)
Das süsse Mädel (Noa) (co); Der Student von Prag ( The Student of Prague ; The Man Who Cheated Life ) (Galeen); Fräulein Josette, meine Frau ( Mademoiselle Josette, ma femme ) (Ravel); Die Frau ohne Namen (Jacoby) (co); Die Flucht in die Nacht (Pelermi); Die Frauen von Folies Bergères (Obal); Die Insel der verbotenen Küsse (Jacoby) (co); Liebe ( Die Herzogin von Langeais ) (Czinner) (co); Parkettsessel 47 ( Le Fauteuil 47 ) (Ravel)
Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney ( The Love of Jeanne Ney ) (Pabst) (co); Die Jagd nach der Braut (Jacoby) (co); Colonialskandal ( Liebe im Rausch ) (Jacoby); Millionenraub im Rivieraexpress (Delmont)
La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc ( The Passion of Joan of Arc ) (Dreyer); Eine Nacht in London ( A Night in London ) (Pick); Priscillas fahrt ins Glück (Asquith)
Die weissen Rosen von Ravensberg (Meinert); Masken (Meinert); Fundvogel (Hoffmann-Harnisch); Das Erlebnis einer Nacht (Brignone); Freiheit in Fesseln (Weolff); Vertauschte Gesichter (Randolf)
Dreyfus (Oswald); Es kommt alle Tage vor . . . (Natge)
Der Mann, der den Mord beging ( Nächte am Bosporus ; The Man Who Murdered ) (Bernhardt); Der Herr Finanz-direktor (Friedmann-Frederich)
Vampyr ( The Dream of Allan Gray ) (Dreyer); Friederike (Friedmann-Frederich); Gehetzte Menschen (Feher)
Hochzeit am Wolfgangsee (Behrendt); Wenn am Sonntagabend die Dorfmusik spielt (Schündler)
Peer Gynt (Wendhausen); Wenn ich König wär! (Hübler-Kahla); Musik im Blut (Waschneck); Peter, Paul, und Nanette (Engels); Pappi (Rabenalt); Zigeunerblut ( Ungarmädel ) (Klein)
Der Student von Prag ( The Student of Prague ) (Robison); Mazurka (Forst); Ich liebe alle Frauen (Lamac); Krach im Interhaus (Harlan)
Ein Hochzeitstraum (Engel); Mädchenjahre einer Königin (Engel); Die Nacht mit dem Kaiser (Engel)
Gefährliches Spiel (Engel); Ein Volksfeind (Steinhoff); Die Warschauer Zitadelle (Buch)
Jugend (Harlan); Verwehte Spuren (Harlan)
Das unsterbliche Herz (Harlan)
Die Geierwally (Steinhoff)
Le Corbeau ( The Raven ) (Clouzot)
Wozzeck (Klaren) (co)
Morituri (York) (co); Vors uns liegt das Leben ( Die Fünf von Titan ) (Ritau) (co)
Tragödie einer Leidenschaft (Meisel) (co)
Königskinder (Käutner); Sehnsucht des Herzens (Martin)
Das ewige Spiel (Cap) (co)
Herz der Welt (Braun) (co); Cuba Cabana (Buch) (co)
Die Privatesekretärin ( Private Secretary ) (Martin) (co); Hokuspokus (Hoffmann) (co)
Der Raub des Sabinerinnen (Hoffmann) (co)
Verrat an Deutschland (Harlan) (co); Hamusse Hanussen (Fischer) (co); Königswalzer (Tourjansky) (co)
Dany, bitte schreiben sie! (von Borsody) (co)
Helden ( Arms and the Man ) (Wirth) (co); Die Nackte und der Satan ( The Head ) (Trivas) (co); Die Wahrheit über Rosemarie ( Love Now, Pay Later ) (Jugert)
Die Botschafterin (Braun)
Männer sind zum Lieben da (Schmidt)
"Meine Arbeit," in Filmkunst (Vienna), no. 43, 1965.
Film (Hanover), July 1965.
Kosmorama (Copenhagen), October 1965.
Kosmorama (Copenhagen), no. 90, 1969.
Schöpferische Filmarchitektur , by Walter Kaul, Berlin, 1971.
Cinématographe (Paris), February 1982.
Kosmorama (Copenhagen), Summer 1993.
* * *
Trained as a stage designer and a painter by avocation, Hermann Warm was perfectly suited to become a leading figure in a Weimar cinema that would be dominated in part by a merging of the artistic and cinematic, a freeing of films from various forms of recapturing the real from naive realism to impressionism. Such filmmaking was to challenge the truism that the essence of the new medium was the photographic process, which, for many at the time, seemed to be defined by a mechanical reproduction of what exists.
Warm was already engaged on a substantial project, Fritz Lang's The Spiders —to become an important film of this newly emerging film style—when he was offered to chance to work on what would be the defining text of the movement: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari . Authors Carl Mayer and Hans Janowitz had originally thought that Alfred Kubin, a designer much interested in chiaroscuro effects, should do the art work, but producer Erich Pommer thought otherwise. It is not certain whether it was actually Pommer or Rudolf Meinert, whose involvement in the project is disputed, who actually hired Warm to design the sets, but the decision was crucial to the eventual look of the film. Instead of a Goyaesque horror landscape of light and shadow, probably the treatment Kubin would have advocated, Caligari became an experiment in eccentricity, with its sets made out of painted canvas, an artificial look that was duplicated in nonnaturalistic makeup and stage props (for the most part). The distorted world of Caligari , which turns out to be not "real" but a madman's vision of the truth, is not created by any special photographic effects (compare the use of anamorphic lenses in Abel Gance's La Folie du Docteur Tube to evoke insanity) but entirely by set design.
The principle of Warm's conception is the Expressionist notion of Ballung , that crystallization of the inner reality of objects, concepts, and people through an artistic expression that cuts through and discards a false exterior. Warm's sets for the film correspondingly evoke the twists and turnings of a small German medieval town, but in a patently unrealistic fashion (e.g., streets cut across one another at impossible angles and paths are impossibly steep). The roofs that Cesare the somnambulist crosses during his nighttime depredations rise at unlikely angles to one another, yet still afford him passage so that he can reach his victims. In other words, the world of Caligari remains "real" in the sense that it is not offered as an alternative one to what actually exists. On the contrary, Warm's design is meant to evoke the essence of German social life, offering a penetrating critique of semiofficial authority (the psychiatrist) that is softened by the addition of a framing story. As a practicing artist with a deep commitment to the political and intellectual program of Expressionism, Warm was the ideal technician to do the art design for the film, which bears out Warm's famous manifesto that "the cinema image must become an engraving."
One of a number of art designers with similar training and commitments (e.g, Walter Röhrig, Otto Hunte, and Robert Herlth), Warm proved able to create many different kinds of effects, as indeed his more standard work for less extraordinary commercial projects during the war had shown. For Fritz Lang's Destiny , for example, he created sumptuous period stylizations that provide appropriate backdrop in the Venetian and Arabian sequences. The emphasis on elaborate decoration that is simultaneously accurate and expressive recalls the similar staging effects of Max Reinhardt's Deutsches Theater productions (Reinhardt rejected the scrupulous naturalism of the previous generation for more startling visual effects, to be achieved mainly by innovative lighting and costuming). For Heinrick Galeen's The Student of Prague , Warm appropriately reconstructed an authentic nineteenth-century ambience, whose only distortions can be traced to the romantic sensibilities of the story.
More in line with the abstractive Ballung of Caligari is Warm's design for Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc , which involved the re-creation of much of a medieval town. Working with Jean Hugo, Warm abstracted from medieval paintings a certain fundamental medievality that he made the basis of an architecture that is somewhat unrealistic with its smooth, neutral walls. Unfortunately for Warm, director Dreyer decided to shoot this film largely in close-up so that set design figures as only a scarcely seen backdrop to what is essentially a drama played out in facial expressions and camerawork.
Though he would enjoy a long and productive career in the film business, the end of the Weimar cinema in the early 1930s meant that Warm would subsequently work on projects that depended less on the genius and artistic inventiveness of the art designer.
—R. Barton Palmer