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Maybe this isn't the right forum, but I don't see an "Art Theory" stack exchange.

In the movie Lucy, just opened this weekend, near the beginning the bad guys are closing in on the main character and the director heightens the effect and links it to all of evolutionary history on earth by inserting scenes of big cats stalking and taking down their prey in the wild.

Is that an example of "expressionism"? From wikipedia:

Expressionist artists sought to express meaning or emotional experience rather than physical reality.

which sounds right to me, but I'm not an art theory guy. If not, what would you call that, inserting shots that explicate the action but are outside the narrative and explicitly depart from realism?

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Could it be said that these shots were simply used as visual metaphors for the themes in the film? I haven't seen it, so I'm just going on your description. – Nobby Jul 30 '14 at 20:35

In Expressionism, the medium itself is expressive. An expressionist painting shows emotion in the quality of its brushstrokes, in the amount of paint used, in the colors, in the size, in the texture. Expressionism is generally not realistic in its imagery. It seeks to create a visceral response in its presentation.

Expressionistic photography or film-making would have to evoke emotion because of the WAY it was filmed - the lighting, the coloring, the edginess, the filters - rather than from the content itself.

What you are describing appears to be filmed realistically, but cut in to the film in a way that it sets up comparisons. This would more appropriately be called symbolism. As @Evan Dark suggests, it is metaphoric.

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No, not even remotely. Art style names like "Expressionism" are never to be taken literally they always mean something, usually the exact opposite the words original meaning. They also have a different meaning in any media, with very few common traits.

Expressionism is one kind of opposite of realistic painting (that has nothing to do with realism), where the painter instead of trying to look real, used shapes and colors that are completely out of place, and only give the impression of the real thing.

The wildlife scenes in Lucy are simple metaphors, or parallels to describe lucy's feelings. Expressionism in live action movies would look like an LSD induced psychedelic dream.

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"Art style names like "Expressionism" are never to be taken literally they always mean something, usually the exact opposite the words original meaning." - Of course they mean something, but surely not the "opposite of the words' original meaning". The word "Expressionism" doesn't come out of nothing, but indeed from, well, expressing things. Likewise "They also have a different meaning in any media, with very few common traits." - There are indeed common traits between the different media, that's why they're all called "Expressionism"... – Napoleon Wilson Aug 19 '14 at 10:58
...And going by that your explanations about expressionist painting would be completely irrelevant for the question at hand. "Expressionism in live action movies would look like an LSD induced psychedelic dream." - I don't think so, as that would indeed be grounded on some narrow view of what Expressionism is derived solely from its use in painting. I'm not saying the wildlife scenes in Lucy are Expressionism, but most of the statements of this answer seem at best irrelevant and at worst overgeneralizing or wrong to me. But I might as well be wrong with this. – Napoleon Wilson Aug 19 '14 at 11:03
@SonnyBurnett I'm not big on art, but as far ad I can remember, Romanticism has nothing to do with actual romance, Realism isn't about realistic things, and so on. Obviously the name for a style has some connection to the sytle itself but never in a straightforward way. That's art 101. – Evan Dark Aug 21 '14 at 18:28
Sure, but that wasn't what you're saying in the answer. – Napoleon Wilson Aug 21 '14 at 22:35

Building on the answers that it's not expressionism, I think I've found what it is. This last week the local improv troupe (BATS) brought in some guest artists from Germany to examine Bertold Brecht's ideas of Epic Theatre and see how it could apply to long-form improv, and their Q&A after the show and some subsequent research brought me here.

Epic Theatre (also referred to by Brecht as "dialectical theatre") has a central idea of Verfremdung ("estrangement" or "alienation") which uses various production techniques to put the audience at an intellectual distance from the play, to remind them that they're watching a play. A production would do that with devices like having the characters address the audience directly, having the actors address the audience directly, being selectively non-realistic in props or scenic design, breaking into inappropriate song to break up what might be an overly empathic scene, or announcements or visual captions that interrupt and summarize the action.

So I'm going to go with those inserted shots in Lucy as being a direct nod to Brecht's verfremdumseffekt from his idea of Epic Theatre.

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