Thu

22/07

Cinema Jolly > 16:30

1921: Avantgarde, Newsreels and DIE HINTERTREPPE

Drums accompaniment by Frank Bockius (cortometraggi)
Piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne (Die Hintertreppe)

Avantgarde, animation and more short films
1921 is the first year in our series A Hundred Years Ago in which films of the classical avant-garde comprise part of our selection. The term avant-garde was probably first applied in film circles in the 1920s in France, Germany and other countries in Western Europe to describe films and filmmakers in opposition to commercial cinema. When we speak of the avant-garde in film today, we refer to the 1920s as the classical period. The strand of avant-gardist movies from 1921 already features some of the most famous protagonists of this movement, such as Ruttmann and Richter. Both artists will be ‘fore-guards’ in avant-garde and experimental filmmaking for years to come. Another groundbreaking work from 1921 is the short documentary film Manhatta by Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand, considered to be the first American avant-garde film by many scholars. It can also be seen as a precursor of the famous feature-length city portraits (eg Man with a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov) by avant-garde filmmakers, which will pop up at the end of the 1920s.
Alongside films from this new genre we show ‘usual suspects’ in this section such as a travelogue from North Africa and a colonial film from Congo. Both films demonstrate the inability of most filmmakers to meet a foreign culture in an appropriate manner, while offering gorgeous cinematographic shots from African landscapes, an important raison d’être of the genre. A Movie Trip Through Filmland and Les Coulisses du cinéma focus on the world of cinema: the first on the production of film material at the Kodak factory in Rochester and the second on the life of film stars in Hollywood.

Karl Wratschko

Newsreels
Cinematography is celebrated for its unmatched capacity to capture reality. However, the events of history are not simply contained in visual documents. Newsreel items don’t tell a story, history, they are rather like clues, keywords, hinting at what has happened. Instead of repeating here the film titles printed below, we rather record the name of Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930), who in 1921 was active as High Commissioner for the Repatriation of Prisoners of War, High Commissioner for Refugees and High Commissioner for Relief in Russia. Nansen designed and implemented the international response to the terrible human sufferings of those years and laid the foundation for humanitarian aid.

Mariann Lewinsky and Karl Wratschko

A seguire
DIE HINTERTREPPE (Germania/1921)

Projection
Info

Thursday 22/07/2021
16:30

Subtitle

Original version with subtitles

Book

DIE HINTERTREPPE

Film Notes

When Henny Porten, popular star of the German cinema, became her own producer in 1921, she launched an ambitious project and engaged three key collaborators: Leopold Jessner, the noted director of expressionist theatre in Berlin plus scriptwriter Carl Mayer and set designer Paul Leni. Her acting partners were Fritz Kortner, star of Jessner’s Berlin State Theatre, and the handsome Wilhelm Dieterle from Max Reinhardt’s ensemble.
The result, Die Hintertreppe, was a success on the artistic level but flopped at the box office. An anonymous reviewer in “Das Tage-Buch” wrote: “Jessner has done more for Henny Porten than any director before … All routine is wiped away, every movement is experienced and therefore alive.” And Alfred Kerr, the dreaded theatre critic who hardly ever wrote about films, praised the film as “wonderfully subdued”; Herbert Ihering called it “masterful”, and Kurt Pinthus “the most human film ever seen in the cinema”.
How could the combination of artists with such different profiles work out so well? Contemporary critics were divided as to whether this was a naturalistic drama or an expressionistic one. So were film historians later on. Paul Leni’s sets of the postman’s basement dwelling, the back staircase that leads as a servant’s entrance to the kitchen of the bourgeois flat, and the courtyard in between, is naturalistic in approach. But the lighting, accentuating and dissolving the geometry of the building, awakens an expressionistic uncanniness.
The same applies to Kortner’s embodiment of the shy, hunchbacked postman, who in his infatuation and desperation, facing the competition of the burly fiancé, resorts to wicked tricks. There is always a very real core in his characterisation, but it is exaggerated by the slowed-down acting and stylised expressive gestures. The camera makes us perceive this world as it must appear to its inhabitants as hopeless. However, the stylistic intensification creates a distance that calls this perspective into question.

Martin Girod

Cast and Credits

Scen.: Carl Mayer. F.: Karl Hasselmann, Willy Hameister. Scgf.: Karl Görge, Paul Leni, Alfred Junge. Int.: Henny Porten (la domestica), Fritz Kortner (il postino), Wilhelm Dieterle (l’amante). Prod.: Henny Porten-Film GmbH. 35mm. L.: 1109 m. 18 f/s. Bn.

OPUS II

Director: Walter Ruttmann (Walther Ruttmann)
Year: 1921
Country: Germania
Running time: 2'
Sound
Mute
Edition
2021

DREAM OF A RAREBIT FIEND. THE PET

Director: Winsor McCay
Year: 1921
Country: USA
Running time: 14'
Film Version

English intertitles

Sound
Mute
Edition
2021

LICHTSPIEL OPUS 1

Director: Walter Ruttmann (Walther Ruttmann)
Year: 1921
Country: Germania
Running time: 10'
Sound
Mute
Edition
2021

L’ESPAGNE AU MAROC LE MONT GURUGU VU DE LA MARICHICA

Year: 1921
Country: Francia
Running time: 1'
Sound
Mute
Edition
2021

RETRAITE DE L’ARTILLERIE TURQUE APRÈS LA VICTOIRE GRÈCQUE À KÜTAHYA

Year: 1921
Country: Francia
Running time: 1'
Sound
Mute
Edition
2021

CONTRE LA FAMINE (TAI YUAN, SHANXI)

Year: 1921
Country: Francia
Running time: 1'
Sound
Mute
Edition
2021

FAMINE EN RUSSIE (SAMARA)

Year: 1921
Country: Francia
Running time: 3'
Sound
Mute
Edition
2021

MESSTER-WOCHE 1921

Year: 1921
Running time: 3'
Film Version

German intertitles

Sound
Mute
Edition
2021