Sunday, 14 March 2010

Abstract Cinema 1: Walter Ruttman

Walter Ruttman is perhaps best known for his film Berlin: Symphony of a Great City from 1927, a film that demonstrated the influence of Soviet film montage as exemplified by Vertov. Before he produced this classic film Ruttman was making short abstract films in the early 1920s. Ruttmen like Eggeling and Richter started out as a painter. For these painters-come-film makers “it seems that at first, they hoped that animation could be, above all, paintings salvation rather than films” (Leslie, 2002 p.46).

Lightplay Opus I has been referred to as “not only the first abstract film to be shown in public, but also a film hand-tinted in striking and subtle colours, with a live synchronised musical score composed especially for it (Russett and Starr, 1976 p. 40).

In 1976 Opus I is said to be missing however above is a film which is claimed to be Opus I. It is claimed that “Ruttman did not wish it (Opus I) to be seen, after he had made improvements to his later films” (Russett and Starr, 1976 p. 40).

As well as producing his Opus films Ruttman produced abstract films for commercial purposes in Munich and Berlin: “in 1923 he created the “Dream of Hawks Sequence” for Fritz Lang’s Siegfried” (Russett and Starr, 1976 p. 41). Later he joined Lotte Reininger in her feature length silhouette animation The Adventures of Prince Achmed Ruttman produced fantasy effects using the wax slixcing machine he had commissioned from Oskar Fischinger. Prince Achmed was completed in 1926 after which Ruttmen gave up animation (Russett and Starr, 1976 p. 40).


Leslie, E., (2002) Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant-garde, London and New York: Verso.
Russett, R.and Starr, C. (1976) Experimental Animation: An Illustrated Anthology, New York: Van Nostrand.

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