Skip to main content

Film Genres: Experimental films

This guide highlights library resources for some of the more popular film genres.

An introduction to Experimental films

This definition covers experimental films, artists' films and avant-garde films

An international film practice that explores cinema's capacity to manipulate light, motion, space, and time, and/or expresses the filmmaker's personal artistic vision. Usually linked to broader trends and practices in fine art, avant-garde film is particularly closely associated with modernism, tracing its origins to 1920s Europe in the work of artists motivated by a desire to add a temporal dimension to painting and sculpture. Formative early works Rhythmus 21 (Hans Richter, Germany, 1923–25) and Symphonie diagonale (Viking Eggeling, Germany, 1923–24) explore the musical organization of filmic time; while Le ballet mécanique (Fernand Léger, France, 1924) and Anémic cinéma (Marcel Duchamp, France, 1926) offer graphic investigations of Cubist space. The influence of Surrealism is apparent in La coquille et le clergyman (Germaine Dulac, France, 1927) and Un chien Andalou/An Andalusian Dog (Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel, France, 1929); and that of Futurism and Constructivism in Chelovek s kinoapparatom/The Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, USSR, 1929). Elsewhere in pre World War II Europe, the avant-garde impulse informs the work of Len Lye, Norman McLaren and Alberto Cavalcanti in Britain, as well as the poetic documentaries of Joris Ivens in the Netherlands and Henri Storck in Belgium. In 1929, the first international conference on avant-garde film, held in La Sarraz, Switzerland, was attended by Eisenstein, Cavalcanti, and Richter, among others.

Kuhn, A., & Westwell, G. (2012). "Avant-garde film." In A Dictionary of Film Studies. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 6 Feb. 2017.

In the Library collections

To find books and other resources about experimental films in the Library's collections, use the subject heading experimental films. Use this same search to find actual experimental films located in the Jones Media Center. Other related subject headings are listed below.

Introductory reading(s)

Selected book titles

Finding articles & journals

Articles and other writings about experimental films can be found in many publications. Our collection does not include titles which look exclusively at Experimental films.  You can use Film & Television Literature Index, or Academic Search Complete to find articles or use the Summon box below. MLA International Bibliography is another option for articles.

A selected list of experimental films

Click here to find more titles.

Keeping up with Film Studies journal literature

Want an easy way to keep up with the journal literature for all facets of Film Studies? And you use a mobile device? You can install the BrowZine app and create a custom Bookshelf of your favorite journal titles. Then you will get the Table of Contents (ToCs) of your favorite journals automatically delivered to you when they become available. Once you have the ToC's, you can download and read the articles you want from the journals for which we have subscriptions.

You can get the app from the App Store or Google Play.

Don't own or use a mobile device? You can still use BrowZine! It's now available in a web version. You can get to it here. The web version works the same way as the app version. Find the journals you like, create a custom Bookshelf, get ToCs and read the articles you want.