German experimental films of the 1920s
Eight short films
Opus No 1
Walther Ruttmann 1921 (Germany) 7 mins Tinted
Walther Ruttmann’s early animation is considered the first abstract film ever to be shown publicly.
Guido Seeber 1927 4 mins (Germany) 16mm B&W
A celebration of cinema made by Guido Seeber.
Ghosts before breakfast
Hans Richter 1927 (Germany) 7 mins 16mm B&W
In 1916, German painter and graphic artist Hans Richter joined the Dada movement and asserted that the artist’s duty was to be explicitly political, opposing war and supporting the artistic avant-garde. Soon after co-founding the Association of Revolutionary Artists (Artistes Radicaux) in Zürich in 1919, he began intensive experimentation with film. Ghosts before breakfast is pure Dada – humorous, delightful, grotesque. Challenging bourgeois values, Richter presents a series of irrational happenings when ordinary objects defy their daily use: a bow-tie undoes itself, bowler hats leap from their owners’ heads and coffee cups leap to their destruction.
Hans Richter 1928 2 mins 16mm B&W
From 1921 to 1923, Germany suffered a significant period of hyperinflation. This film traces the rapid degradation of the US-German exchange rate, dramatically working towards the moment when it took 50 million marks to buy a single US dollar.
Everything turns, everything revolves
Hans Richter 1929 (Germany) 4 mins 16mm B&W
Hans Richter transforms a day at a Berlin carnival into a surreal, grotesque spectacle. Richter’s first sound film attracted the attention of Nazi officials who hated its modernism. The potent, high-speed, gun-loading sequence anticipates the sex-and-violence obsession of the 20th century.
Lightplay: Black, white, grey
László Maholy-Nagy 1930 (Germany) 5 min 16mm B&W
László Moholy-Nagy filmed the shadow patterns created by his Light-space modulator, an early kinetic sculpture consisting of a variety of curved objects in a choreographed cycle of movements.
Richter on film
Dir: Cecile Starr 1972 (US) 13 mins 16mm Colour
Interviewed by filmmaker, producer and film historian, Cecile Starr, German painter and graphic artist Hans Richter discusses his paintings, films, motivations and methods while sharing tea in his garden and studio.
Image: László Maholy-Nagy Lightplay: black, white, grey 1930