Features and Columns · TV

What HBO’s ‘Euphoria’ and ‘Nosferatu’ Have in Common

Apart from himbos galore.
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By  · Published on March 23rd, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores the visual style and aesthetics of the hit HBO show Euphoria.


Expressionism is often touted as one of the most impactful artistic influences on the moving image. And with good reason: Expressionism’s core aesthetic thesis — expressing internal experiences externally — lends itself beautifully to the visual medium of film.

Film is a medium well-suited to Expressionism’s entire deal, namely: using atmospheric tools like set design, lighting, and cinematography to imbue environments with the internal of characters. Dread-filled, misshapen landscapes can echo the madness of doomed protagonists; looming figures and spindly shadows can imply terror and anxiety; vast emptiness and dwarfing skyscrapers can give us a sense of a character’s inferiority and lack of confidence. The possibilities are endless.

German Expressionism, the artistic movement that sprung out of the country’s post-World War I isolationism, is the most frequently cited instance of the movement, appearing in early genre film classics including The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Nosferatu (1922), and Metropolis (1927). Many film scholars note a parental relationship between German Expressionism and the visual language of film noir, which uses the tenants of Expressionism in a far subtler way.

But the core principle remains: an approach to production design and cinematography that sees subjectivity projected outwards. Characters fearful of the law find themselves trapped behind bar-like shadows of window blinds; dutch angles impart a sense of the anxiety of wanted con-men and swamped detectives; duplicitous characters appear with their faces partially masked in shadow.

One of the key ways to tell if something you’re watching is Expressionist rather than just stylized is if reality shifts to reflect a character’s experiences. Expressionism is all about blurring the boundaries between the world and how we feel. And if there’s one story-setting that really embodies the way the world changes depending on how we’re feeling, it’s high school.

Enter: Euphoria, the HBO drama series that follows a group of high schoolers through the throes that entails. Even if you haven’t watched the show, you’ve likely seen stills that give a sense of the series’ unique approach to lighting. Which, as the following video essay suggests, align Euphoria with a keenly Expressionistic approach to its visual storytelling. Is this how we get the teens to watch the films of F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang? Because I’m fine with that.

Watch “Why Does Euphoria Look Like That?”:


Who made this?

This video essay on the unique aesthetics of Euphoria is by Virginia-based filmmaker and video editor Thomas Flight. He runs a YouTube channel under the same name. You can follow Thomas Flight and check out his back catalog of video essays on YouTube here. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).