Prog. 4 How To Be Modern
KIPHO (Film) (DE 1925)
regia/dir: Guido Seeber, Julius Pinschewer. scen, photog, mont/ed: Guido Seeber. prod: Werbefilm GmbH, Julius Pinschewer. sponsors: Berliner Messe-Amt, Kino-und Photo-Ausstellung Berlin 1925 (Kipho). uscita/rel: 25.09.1925. copia/copy: 35mm, 109 m., 4′ (24 fps); did./titles: GER. fonte/source: Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin.
This film by Guido Seeber has gone into the annals of avant-garde cinema, often under the simple title of Film, owing to its high degree of formalist experimentation and its status as an early example of the repurposing of found footage. But Seeber, who was drawing here on techniques he had been honing for some time (e.g., in his famous doppelgänger films of the 1910s), was much more of a technician than a proponent of film art, and he created this film as an extended advertisement for a trade exhibition of the German film industry: the “Kipho” (Kino- und Photoausstellung) of 1925.
The exhibition, intended to showcase the German national film industry at a time of increasing financial difficulties, was the largest of its kind at the time, and included stalls featuring all the major companies (Ufa, Ernemann, etc.), spectacular models such as the giant mechanical dragon from Fritz Lang’s Die Nibelungen (1924), a 4,000-seat theater with rotating screenings of acclaimed German films, and a historical exhibition of cinema since 1895 curated by Seeber himself.
In many ways, the Kipho film conforms to its function as an exhibition advertisement, showcasing all of the technologies on display in the exhibition (from cameras to drying racks and copy machines). And all of the German films referenced here (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Der letzte Mann, Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit, etc.) were likely the same ones screening in the exhibition’s giant movie theater. But Kipho does display a self-reflexive and humorous treatment of the film medium that merits its place in the history of the avant-garde alongside later classics such as Bruce Connor’s A Movie (1958) — for example, in Seeber’s transformation of Caligari’s terrifying somnambulist spectacle, which his editing turns into a humorous fairground call for the audience to attend the Kipho exhibition.
ZWISCHEN MARS UND ERDE [Between Mars and the Earth] (DE 1925)
regia/dir, scen: F. Möhl. photog: Gustav Weiss. anim: Rudolf Pfenniger. prod: Emelka-Kulturfilm GmbH. sponsor: Deutsche Verkehrsausstellung München 1925. v.c./censor date: 30.04.1925. copia/copy: 35mm, 240 m., 11’40” (18 fps); did./titles: GER?. fonte/source: Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin.
This film was produced by the Munich-based film company Emelka as an advertisement for the first German traffic exhibition (Verkehrsausstellung), which took place in Munich from June to October 1925 and attracted over 3 million visitors. The exhibition included sections on ship technologies, rail travel, flight, road construction and automobiles, garage machinery, and the German postal service. There was also a pleasure park with a marionette theater, a miniature railway for transporting visitors around, and — a feature with relevance for the current film — a radio tower to demonstrate the new technology of wireless transmission.
Though little is known about the film’s director F. Möhl, its crew included the young animator Rudolf Pfenninger, who would go on to create the famous Tönende Handschrift (Sound Handwriting) experiment using hand-drawn film sound for Emelka in 1932. The present film, one of many exhibition advertisements that would have been screened in “preliminary programs” in cinemas (see also Kipho), tells the comical story of a Martian who travels to Munich.
DIE FRANKFURTER KÜCHE [The Frankfurt Kitchen] (DE 1927)
regia/dir: Paul Wolff. prod: Paul Wolff, Humboldt-Film GmbH. v.c./censor date: 28.01.1927. copia/copy: DCP, 8′; did./titles: GER. fonte/source: DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum, Frankfurt.
This film on kitchen design was part of a series of promotional shorts made by the photographer Paul Wolff in 1927-28 ahead of the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM), which took place in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1929 and featured various demonstrations of mass housing. Other titles included Die Frankfurter Kleinstwohnung (The Frankfurt Small Dwelling), Neues Bauen in Frankfurt am Main (A New Way of Building in Frankfurt-am-Main), and Die Häuserfabrik der Stadt Frankfurt (The House Factory of the City of Frankfurt). The films were all produced by Humboldtfilm GmbH, a Kulturfilm company that financed numerous films about architecture in the late 1920s, including several in collaboration with Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus (e.g., the 4-part series Wie wohnen wir gesund und wirtschaftlich / How to Live Healthily and Economically).
Die Frankfurter Küche, for its part, showcases the so-called “Frankfurt Kitchen,” which is still considered a key forerunner of modern kitchen design. Invented in 1926 by the architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky for the housing project “New Frankfurt,” the Frankfurt Kitchen was lauded for its low cost, high efficiency, hygienic design, and mass reproducibility. Wolff’s film demonstrates these qualities by comparing women at work in “old” and “new” kitchens, and through the use of animated diagrams demonstrating, in Taylorist fashion, the efficiency of labor in the new kitchen.
DER RUNDFUNK AUF DEM LANDE [Radio in the Countryside] (DE 1928)
regia/dir, anim: Svend Noldan. prod: Pinschewer-Film AG. v.c./censor date: 31.10.1928. copia/copy: DCP, 5’31”; did./titles: GER. fonte/source: Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin.
Der Rundfunk auf dem Lande is an extended advertisement created by the animator Svend Noldan in 1928 for Julius Pinschewer’s company Pinschewer AG. The film uses typical caricature animation from the period to show the various imagined uses for radio in rural settings. Noldan was one of the many “trick film” specialists working on the Kulturfilm scene in the 1920s. He also assisted Hans Richter in the making of Rhythmus 21, and would later work on many propaganda films under National Socialism, including Walter Ruttmann’s Blut und Boden. Grundlagen zum neuen Reich (Blood and Soil. Foundations of the New Reich, 1933).
UNSICHTBARE KRÄFTE [Invisible Powers] (DE 1928)
regia/dir: ?. prod: Naturfilm Hubert Schonger. copia/copy: DCP, 12’09”, col. (da/from 35mm nitr. pos., 264 m., 20 fps, imbibito/tinted); did./titles: GER. fonte/source: DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum, Frankfurt.
In 1928 this Kulturfilm piloted a series titled Unsichtbare Kräfte (Invisible Powers) – which now all appear to be lost, apart from this first installment. Hubert Schonger’s production company Naturfilm combined trick sequences with live-action footage to form a hybrid of educational, informational, and advertising film. It radiates unlimited faith in technological progress and celebrates the technologies that make possible state-of-the-art industrial power plants, overland power lines, and transformer stations – all thanks to Werner von Siemens’ invention of the dynamo (electrical generator).
In view of the current concern about global warming and the intense controversy surrounding emission quotas, climate goals, and sustainability, this proud depiction of how electrical power was generated and distributed now appears outdated. Yet at the time, the target audience was presumably the general cinema-going public, as exhibitors were eager to reap incentives offered by a reduced entertainment tax if they showed an educational supporting program (Beiprogramm). Of course, secondary markets such as the education sector were also part of Schonger’s distribution scheme.
The film shows how Berlin demonstrates the logistical challenges involved in the generation and supply of electricity to a metropolis. It tracks the entire path, from coal mines to the large-scale power plant “Großkraftwerk Klingenberg” and the “Fernkraftwerk Golpa – Tschornewitz”, and from there through transformer stations, high-voltage lines, and distribution hubs via new underground cables, and finally to the 220V outlets in users’ private households.
Great camerawork by an unknown operator records striking views of “modernity”, industrial installations, and urban landscapes. The film culminates in a montage sequence of Berlin’s luminous advertising, tinted blue to indicate nighttime. In all other shots, pale lavender tinting was employed (a “technical tinting” common in the later 1920s, used for the lower visibility of scratches).
During digitization in 2018, the original order of the film’s montage was re-established. The nighttime sequence, which had been displaced in the DFF nitrate print, was edited back to its proper placement at the very end of the film, together with its adjoining closing title, announcing further installments of this series, to be screened “in this theatre”.
DER VERKANNTE SCHATTEN [The Mistaken Shadow] (DE 1928/29)
regia/dir: Hans Fischerkösen. prod: Werbe-Kunst-Film AG. sponsor: Elektro-Gemeinschaft. copia/copy: DCP, 4’10” (da/from 35mm nitr. pos., 82 m., 20 fps); did./titles: GER. fonte/source: DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum, Frankfurt.
This animated short, a recent discovery in the archive collection of the DFF, was made by one of the pioneering masterminds of cinema advertising, Hans Fischerkösen. It promotes the improvement of household lighting, using line drawings accentuated by rhyming intertitles to convey its message. The film’s sponsors were members of an association called Elektro-Gemeinschaft (Electro-Community), probably an umbrella organization of electricians, engineers, or dealers of household lighting fixtures and electrical installations. Their promotional film was apparently part of a cross-media initiative, which prominently featured a printed brochure titled “Gutes Licht gehört zum Haushalt. Die Haushalt-Lichtwerbung” (“Proper Lighting Is a Household Essential. The Promotion of Household Lighting”), published by the Zentrale für Lichtwerbung, Berlin.
The Meier family’s birthday celebrations are interrupted by a mishap in the shadowy depths of their kitchen, but the neighbouring Schulze family come to the rescue. Like the action in a crime or detective story, the kitchens of the Meiers and Schulzes are compared: the perils of dim lighting are contrasted with the efficiency and productivity of an up-to-date kitchen. The Schulzes proudly show off their brightly illuminated modern kitchen, and the Meiers are convinced: less shadow-play, less broken porcelain – and their workload will be reduced by half!
An undercurrent of humour runs through Fischerkösen’s films. Here his tongue-in-cheek take on “how to be modern” also seems to suggest a correlation between kitchen illumination and masculine avoirdupois – a properly lit, efficient kitchen means a stout, comfortably settled husband! The advertisement closes with a direct address to the cinema audience, advised to consult members of the Elektro-Gemeinschaft.
LUSTIGE HYGIENE 2 [Comical Hygiene 2] (DE 1926-1927)
regia/dir: ?. anim: ?. scen: Curt Thomalla. prod: Opel-Film GmbH. sponsor: Reichsausschuß für hygienische Volksbildung. v.c./censor date: 01.03.1927. copia/copy: 35mm, 99 m., 4’48” (18 fps); did./titles: GER. fonte/source: Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin.
LUSTIGE HYGIENE 7 [Comical Hygiene 7] (DE 1930)
regia/dir: ?. anim: ?. scen: Curt Thomalla. prod: Excentric-Film Zorn, Tiller GmbH. sponsor: Reichsausschuß für hygienische Volksbildung. v.c./censor date: 12.06.1930. copia/copy: 35mm, 145 m., 7′ (18 fps); did./titles: GER. fonte/source: Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin
In the late 1920s, the Reichsausschuß für hygienische Volksbildung (National Committee for Popular Hygienic Education) commissioned numerous films designed to promote personal health and hygiene among the wider public. “Comical Hygiene” was the title chosen for a series of ten humorous shorts, produced by Opel-Film and Excentric-Film (both specialists in public service films), which screened in German theatres (and likely also educational venues) between 1926 and 1930. Several installments from the series survive today in the Bundesarchiv.
The films narrate the adventures of the animated character Leberecht Klug (“Live Well and Smart”) and his companion Sanitätsrat Weise (“Medical Councillor Wise”), which they use as a springboard for lessons in personal hygiene. For our program, we’ve chosen two installments: one dealing with the treatment of colds, and another showing audiences how to avoid contagion.
The film scripts for Lustige Hygiene were written by Curt Thomalla (1890-1939), a trained neurologist who had built up the Ufa medical film archive in the early years of the Ufa studio and worked on numerous Kulturfilms throughout the 1920s, including Der Steinach-Film (1922), Die Biene Maja und ihre Abenteuer (The Adventures of Maya the Bee, 1925), Falsche Scham (False Shame, 1926), and Das Erwachen des Weibes (The Awakening of Woman, 1927). While the animators of Lustige Hygiene are unknown, the series demonstrates one of the popular animation techniques in much promotional filmmaking in the late 1920s: the so-called “Kombinationsverfahren” (combination process), in which animated figures are composited over live backgrounds. The films also incorporated other typical techniques of popular scientific film, such as microscopic images. And as Anja Laukötter (researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development) has argued, they exemplify a frequent use of animation in medical films to visualize phenomena that were either invisible (because impossible to film in live-action) or unshowable (because they would have made audiences uncomfortable).