Monday, 3 January 2011

Berlin Symphony of a City

I have already included one entry for Ruttman that shows one of his abstract films Lightplay Opus I. Ruttman would collaborate with the animator Lotte Reininger. Ruttman’s reputation as a film maker however, is based on the above documentary Berlin: Symphony of a Great City. It is such an innovative example of cinema that it “remains a model for subsequent urban portraits throughout the world” (Kostelanetz, 2001 p.534). The rhythmic nature of the film puts me in mind Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance from 1982 and other earlier films by Man Ray.  

Ruttman is not without his critics: “within twenty years” argues David Thomson, "Ruttman had moved from being a proponent of absolute cinema to a leading propagandist" (Thomson, D., 1975 p. 501). Ruttman's pure cinema "was always sterile and formalistic" and was "waiting to be exploited by a totalitarian message" (Thomson, D., 1975 p. 501). Indeed, Berlin does feature rhythm and motifs, "the large scale integration of single effects" that is similar to the hypnotic ornament of Celtic design, tattoos or a military parade. Is Ruttman, as John Grierson has argued "meretricious and dangerous"? (Thomas, D., 1975, p.501).


Kostelanetz, R., (2001) Dictionary of Avant-gardes 2nd Edition, New York and London: Routledge. 
Thomas, D (1975) A Biographical Dictionary of the Cinema, London: Secker and Warburg

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