Arts and Entertainment

Edward Hopper And Cinema: A Great Art Explained Extra

The film director Cecil B DeMille’s early 
silent films, had a dark, moody quality that   was characterized by the director as “Rembrandt 
lighting”. Movies have been inspired by fine art   from the very beginning of the cinema industry, 
sometimes in the form of a sequence, sometimes   in the art direction or the position of the 
actors, or sometimes in the ‘feel’ of a movie.   For some films, the homage is obvious, in 
others more enigmatic. Many filmmakers and   art directors take direct inspiration from 
artists to inform their own creative vision,   often referencing scenes that are already
familiar to us in specific works of art. As the French new wave director Jean-Luc Goddard said:
“It’s not where you take things FROM it’s where you take them TO” Edward Hopper is seen as one of the first 20th 
century artist to be influenced by the cinema.   He was an artist, more than any other, who loved 
cinema – and cinema loved him. They both looked   to each other for stylistic interpretation and 
both created worlds of extraordinary imagination.   As Hopper’s work became more well-known over 
the years to the general public, filmmakers made   more self-conscious references to his paintings. 
This experimental film by Gustav Deutsch uses 13   beautifully recreated paintings by Hopper to 
tell the story of a woman spanning three decades.   In 2020 Wim Wenders released 
this ‘love letter’ to Edward Hopper.   Wim Wenders: “In front of Edward Hopper’s paintings, I
always get this feeling that they are frames from movies that were never made, and I start wondering 
What’s the story that is beginning here?   What will happen to these 
characters in the next moment?” Edward Hopper was 13 years old when 
the first motion pictures were shown.   He was in his late forties when
talking pictures came,   and he died just as Bonnie and Clyde was being released. 
You could say his life was tied to cinematic history. His work was inspired not just by his movie 
obsession, but by the very act of going to the cinema,   and we see this in this early etching depicting
two isolated figures looking down on an unseen screen. We see cinemas in his other paintings, as well
of course with his masterpiece: ‘New York Movie”.  Filmmakers would hook on to Hopper’s  creations – and return
the compliment by turning to him for stylistic inspiration. German Expressionism was one of his early 
influences. Films he saw in Paris at the turn   of the 20th century – and the high angle 
images he produced around this period,   would later be replicated by 
a new avant-garde generation.   His career would really take off during 
the great depression of the 1930s,   and the films of that period – and his paintings -reflected
the dark pessimism at the time. A time of great insecurity. World War II brings another period of
uncertainty and gives birth to Film Noir. Woman: “I can’t stand it anymore
what if they do hang me?” These dark films would look for inspiration
directly from Hopper’s paintings who was himself looking for
inspiration in the movies. It was these films shot in Hollywood in the 1930s and 40s
which Hopper really loved. Films with a voyeuristic edge, set in an unnamed city, an ambiguous setting. 
Films, whose aesthetics were themselves derived   from German Expressionism. Like Hopper, these 
films use dark shadows and stark lighting   to create an extreme contrast between 
light and dark. But with classic Film Noir it is not just ‘style’, it is all about 
the tone, as it is with Hopper’s paintings. Both take a familiar narrative element, and apply 
layer after layer of possible meaning, ambiguous   relationships, sexual tension, a cynical eye, and 
an underlying existential philosophy, were all   features we see in both Hoppers paintings 
AND cinema of this period.    Woman: “Accident insurance?” In common with Film Noir, the subject Hopper 
returned to again and again, was the hardened   and stony-faced female protagonist. As I discussed 
in my main film on Hopper, he had a disastrous love   life and unhappy marriage, and he often used 
women as a vehicle to channel his unhappiness.   It is in this early watercolour that we first see
the unhappy and discontented female lead. In this painting she is the wife
being ignored by her husband.   Here, a defeated woman
contemplates her lot in life. And here, a sullen-faced
girlfriend ignores her partner. It is in ‘Nighthawks’ that we see
her as a classic ‘Femme Fatale’. I sometimes feel as if all of Hopper’s women are ready
to walk off frame and commit a misdemeanor. Woman “If you don’t mind”.
*gun shot* Alfred Hitchcock, no stranger to the icy female 
lead, spoke openly of Hopper’s influence, and we   see evidence throughout Hitchcock’s films. They are
very much alike in their love of suspense and ambiguity, and in their interest in themes of voyeurism,
loneliness, and isolation. Not to mention… windows.   VO: “This is the scene of the crime. A crime of 
passion, filmed in a way you have never seen before”   Like Hitchcock, it is what Hopper chose to exclude 
in his paintings which adds tension. The narrative   power lies in what is obscured or unseen. One of 
hopper’s images directly influenced Hitchcock.   But it was a big influence on so many other
films, and even illustrations of the day. Hitchcock: “An old house… …which is, if I may say so, a little more sinister 
looking, less innocent than the motel itself. We saw in the longer film how Hopper’s 
‘Nighthawks’ was inspired by a book by Hemingway,   and how the subsequent film version 
was then inspired by ‘Nighthawks’. A great example of this symbiotic 
and mutually beneficial relationship   can be found in an obscure and rarely seen film, 
released two years before he completed ‘Nighthawks’.   I think, looking at details such as the corner 
setting, the position of the sidewalk, and even a   soda jerk wearing a similar cap, this may have been 
one of the main inspirations for Hopper’s diner. An entire generation of film directors 
would be influenced by Hopper,   and that aesthetic would
be instantly recognizable   as a certain type of ‘American landscape’, 
not just aesthetically – but in terms of mood. David Lynch, another American fan, would also reference 
many of Hopper’s paintings in his films.   Lynch, like Hopper, peeled back the facade of the 
perfect American life, to expose sinister ‘goings-on’   And in the third season of ‘Twin Peaks’, he 
used the painter’s references – quite liberally. Hopper’s vision of American life, has 
had a huge impact on how the rest of   the world pictures the United States. It is a 
world that today we still call ‘Hopper-esque’.   He is what we think of as a 
quintessential American artist,   yet he was also a major influence on so many 
non-American filmmakers, who saw an intensity   in Hopper, a sense of emptiness, and a lack 
of communication that we can ALL understand.   Many of the filmmakers have their own fascination 
with the American dream – and the dark side behind it. They recognize the themes of disconnection. 
They see that the psychology behind a Hopper   painting, can be translated into any culture and 
any language, and they made Hopper one of their own. Michelangelo Antonioni, said: “The theme of most of 
my films, is loneliness”, and his films typically   featured bored lovers, whose lives are blighted 
by quiet despair and existential unhappiness.   He professed to being stylistically inspired 
by Hopper (as well as Giorgio de Chirico).   Roy Andersson’s films, are instantly recognizable 
for their stylized presentation and painterly   approach, and the director, whose films show 
the alienation and solitude of modern life,   cites Hopper as a major influence. Like 
Hopper’s paintings, Andersson carefully   stages every single frame. His sets are 
elaborately built over several months,   and his films sometimes take four years to make!
Andersson’s scenes – like Hopper’s – often leave   it up to the viewer to guess what is happening 
outside the picture frame. WE complete the picture.   The diner in ‘Nighthawks’, his most iconic image, 
and possibly his most cinematic, has been recreated   time and again in the cinema. The diner has 
become a shortcut to ’emotional dysfunction’. Woman: “I know i can’t rely on you 
Arthur. Not for anything” Man: “There’s a lot of bad boys out there”.
Woman: “I know” Woman: “But i got eyes in the back of my head” *Gunshot* Director: “And CUT!” Filmmakers continue to be inspired by Edward Hopper,
whose works still resonate in the 21st century. And his influence is felt even in
a new generation of K-pop stars. Edward Hopper, the biggest fan of cinema, 
would have been astonished to know his   influence would still be felt by 
so many young filmmakers, and even   Korean pop stars, decades 
after he created his images.   But who knows? Maybe in another life, he
would have been directing films himself? Director: “CUT!” Edward Hopper: “Could that be?” Woman “Is there a cue when i enter?”
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