Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Weimar Film Tales

Filming on the set in Berlin-Weissensee: Das alte Gesetz / The Ancient Law (1923, D: E. A. Dupont). Photo: Fotoarchiv / Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin.

Der Film im Film (1925). E. A. Dupont directs Das alte Gesetz. The cinematographer Theodor Sparkuhl next to him, and a set photographer to the right. Screenshot at the Filmarchiv / Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin.

Der Film im Film (1925). Fritz Lang directs Die Nibelungen. Foto di: Valerio Greco. Teatro Verdi, 9 Oct 2019. Source: Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2019 / Flickr.

Das Wachsfigurenkabinett (1924, D: Paul Leni) with Conrad Veidt as Ivan the Terrible. IMDb Photo by A7A08A06_132.jpg - © Archives du 7e Art/Neptune-Film AG - Image courtesy The photo is not from Der Film im Film.

Paul Leni directs Das Wachsfigurenkabinett. The photo is not from Der Film im Film.

Der Film im Film (1925). Robert Wiene directs I.N.R.I. Foto di: Valerio Greco. Teatro Verdi, 10 Oct 2019. Source: Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2019 / Flickr.

I.N.R.I. (1923, D: Robert Wiene). Asta Nielsen (Maria Magdalena), Henny Porten (Maria). The photo is not from Der Film im Film.

Leopold von Ledebur (Louis XIV) and Gräfin Ágnes Eszterházy (Nanon) in Nanon (1924, D: Hanns Schwarz). The photo is not from Der Film im Film. Photo: Lost Films.

Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM), Pordenone.
Grand piano: Mauro Colombis.
Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian by Underlight, 9 Oct 2019.



[The Three Princesses in the Blue Mountain] (NO, 1932)

Tina Anckarman, Magnus Rosborn (GCM): "Here we visit the genre of literary adaptation, presented from an ironic angle. The story is loosely based on a traditional Norwegian fairy tale, first written down in the 1840s by the folklorists Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe. In the original tale, a King is so worried about his three daughters, due to an ill-fated prediction at their birth, that he will not let them leave the castle until their 15th birthday. One day, however, a thoughtless guard allows them out into the garden. As they are about to pick a beautiful rose, it suddenly starts to snow, and just as the prophecy foretold, the three princesses vanish! Despite the efforts of all the knights across the country, no one is able to find them, but a poor soldier finally conquers all obstacles by cleverness and bravery, and rescues the princesses from the trolls in the blue mountain."

"In this deeply unserious film adaptation, however, the characters live in the present day, and the blue mountain into which the princesses disappear (accompanied by their guard) is a fancy department store in Oslo, Steen & Strøm. The princesses don’t seem to mind being there at all; they enjoy shopping at the store’s big sale, spending an enormous amount of money. Their doting father, the King, ever indulgent, forgives his daughters. After all, they did find some fantastic bargains at Steen & Strøm!"

"Unlike many commercials, this one has a known director, Ottar Gladtvet, and is produced by his private company, Gladtvet-Film. The guard is played by a fairly well-known Norwegian actor, Einar Sissener, who appeared in more than a dozen fiction films between 1926 and 1960 (including Carl Th. Dreyer’s Glomdalsbruden, 1926, shown at the Giornate in 2017), and was also credited as the director of a couple of them. In some scenes at the department store we even glimpse a bit of history: Norway’s first electrical escalator."

"An original tinted nitrate print of the film was digitized in 2018." Tina Anckarman, Magnus Rosborn (GCM)

AA: Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe's collection of fairy-tales Norske folkeeventyr has been in translation in Finland since 1881, and "De tre kongsdøtre i berget det blå" (1843), the fairy-tale spoofed here, is known in our land as "Kolme kuninkaantytärtä". One of the Finnish translations, maybe the one I read as a child, is from the year 1944, translated by Alli Nissinen.

The desperate king telephones everybody to track his lost daughters. Finally they are discovered at the spring sale of the Steen & Strøm department store.


FILMS ON FILM - Prog.3: Weimar Film Tales

DER FILM IM FILM: EIN BLICK HINTER DIE KULISSEN [Film on Film: A Peek behind the Scenes] (DE 1925)
regia/dir: Friedrich Porges. scen: Friedrich Porges, Stefan Lorant. photog: Stefan Lorant. cons.scientifico/scientific advisor: Curt Thomalla. prod: Richard Hirschfeld GmbH. dist: Diana-Film GmbH; Deutsch-Amerikanische Film-Union AG. uscita/rel: 26.6.1925. copia/copy: 35 mm, 382 m, 18′ (18 fps); did./titles: GER. fonte/source: Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin.

Dimitrios Latsis (GCM): "Der Film im Film was the German answer to the mid-1920s trend for behind-the-scenes and quasi-historical educational films about the technological and artistic development of cinematography. Directed by the Vienna-born journalist, screenwriter, and director Friedrich Porges (1890-1978) and promoted as a Kulturfilm, it consisted of six parts exploring the various realms of filmmaking: “The History of Cinematography,” “The Thematic Development of Film,” “The Miracle of Film,” “The Development of Film,” “From the Filmstrip to the Finished Film,” and “Artistic Work on Film.” Similar to its French and American counterparts, Der Film im Film opened with an account of the beginnings of cinema from the Thaumatrope through Muybridge’s sequential photographs up to the first cameras and projectors. It then proceeded to cover the individual areas of filmmaking, including trick photography, script development, costume and props, camerawork, and film laboratory services. Interestingly, although the scientific advisor of the film, Dr. Curt Thomalla, was in charge of the medical film archive at Ufa, non-theatrical motion pictures for education and research were not mentioned."

"In the sixth and perhaps most intriguing section, which is the only one that partly survives, various “behind-the-scenes” shots from the major German film studios at the height of Weimar-era filmmaking can be seen, including: the Viennese set of E. A. Dupont’s Das alte Gesetz (1923), Hanns Schwarz, Harry Liedtke, and Hanni Weisse during rehearsals for Nanon (1923), production shots from the making of Fritz Lang’s Die Nibelungen (1922–24), footage from the making of Paul Leni’s Das Wachsfigurenkabinett (1924), and the Calvary and Mount of Olives sequences filmed at the Staaken studio for Robert Wiene’s I.N.R.I. (1923) with Henny Porten and Asta Nielsen."

"Der Film im Film premiered at Berlin’s Richard Oswald-Lichtspiele. The film shows a distinct structure more along the lines of a filmed report, and compares with the similar but later Filmstadt Hollywood (1928), based on the book of the same title by Arnold Höllriegel. “Film is not child’s play,” the last intertitle concludes, “but a lot of work!”" Dimitrios Latsis (GCM)

AA: The remaining fragment of a fragment of Der Film im Film is deservedly famous and richly rewarding. The enormous spaces at the studios. The hand-cranked cameras. The set photographers next to the cinematographers.

Fritz Lang's imperious gestures while directing Die Nibelungen. His eagle eyes detect a wristwatch on a barbarous Hun.

Robert Wiene's calm presence while filming the story of the Christ in I.N.R.I. The Sermon on the Mount. Via Dolorosa. The Mount of Olives. A panoramic shot is taken from a 50 meters high ceiling. The largest crowd scenes are recorded from huge scaffolds. Ceiling shutters are opened for mehr Licht.

Hanns Schwarz's Nanon, a love tragedy of mixed identities involving the Sun King.

E. A. Dupont directing Das alte Gesetz in front of the Burgtheater reconstructed impressively in Berlin-Weissensee. The people rejoicing on the streets of Vienna.

"Licht aus. Film ist nicht Spielerei sondern Arbeit".

Often beautiful visual quality, including refined sepia toning.

Photo not from the film. Dr. Edgar Beyfuss - Dipl.-Ing. Arthur Kossowsky (Hg.): Das Kulturfilmbuch, unter Mitwirkung namhafter Fachleute herausgegeben. Berlin, Carl P. Chryselius'scher Verlag, 1924. 383 S. 8 Bl (Inhaltsverzeichnis und Werbung), zahlr.Kupfertiefdruck-Abb. Photo:

DIE WUNDER DES FILMS: EIN WERKLIED VON DER ARBEIT AM KULTURFILM [The Wonders of Film: An Industrial Ode to Work in Kulturfilm] (DE 1928)
regia/dir, scen: Edgar Beyfuß. prod: Dr. Edgar Beyfuß-Film (Berlin). dist: Weltfilm. v.c./censor date: 2.9.1929. copia/copy: 35 mm, 1337 m (orig. 1387 m), 50′ (22 fps); did./titles: GER. fonte/source: Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin.

Michael Cowan: "Die Wunder des Films is one of several German films from the 1920s that thematized filmmaking through the re-use of existing archival footage. Other titles include Friedrich Porges’s Der Film im Film from 1924 and the Ufa production Henny Porten. Leben und Laufbahn einer Filmkünstlerin (Henny Porten: Life and Career of a Film Artist) from 1928. These were often classified as “cross-section films” (Querschnittsfilme), because they presented viewers with significant samples (i.e., a cross-section) of a given sector of contemporary film production. But Die Wunder des Films is unique in its focus on Kulturfilm – scientific, educational, and promotional film – rather than the entertainment industry and its stars. The film’s director, Edgar Beyfuß (1893-1936), was not only a producer of Kulturfilms, but also a prolific writer and lecturer on the topic, who edited the monumental Kulturfilmbuch of 1924. For Die Wunder des Films, Beyfuß received funding from the Bund Deutscher Lehr- und Kulturfilmhersteller (Association of German Educational and Cultural Filmmakers)."

"Dedicated to the “unknown cameraman,” Die Wunder des Films seeks to showcase the skills and techniques of film crews working “below the line” at institutions such as the Ufa-Kulturabteilung (Ufa Cultural Department) and the Institut für Kulturforschung (Institute for Cultural Research). The film is also especially valuable as a documentation of the camera women and other female crew members working widely within the film industry (including Lotte Reiniger and Lola Kreutzberg, both of whom feature in the Giornate’s “Weimar Shorts” series this year). Beyond the question of film labour, however, Die Wunder des Films also provides a documentation of the many technologies and techniques that made Kulturfilm possible: devices for filming medical operations, techniques for manipulating temporal perception (time-lapse and slow-motion filming), various forms of animation, and colour technologies. In addition, it offers an interesting historical perspective on the practice of experimental film, which underscores the infrastructural links between the interwar avant-garde and sectors of film production we would now classify as “useful cinema.”"

"Beyfuß made at least two versions of Die Wunder des Films. The film was originally created without intertitles so that Beyfuß himself could lecture during the screening. But he also released a stand-alone version with intertitles (the one shown here). And he then re-used some of the same material to make a shorter sound film the same year, with the title Wie ein Trickfilm entsteht (How a Trickfilm is Made, 1929)."

"Die Wunder des Films found distribution, among other places, within the left-wing distribution company Weltfilm, which is best-known as a distributor of Soviet film, but also served as an outlet for Kulturfilms and documentaries. (Alongside Beyfuß’s film, the 1929 Weltfilm catalogue also included titles such as Ruttmann’s Berlin, Symphony of a City, the Ufa Kulturfilm Das Blumenwunder [The Miracle of Flowers], and numerous films by Albrecht Viktor Blum). Beyfuß was also a collaborator with the left-wing film society Volksfilmverband (People’s Film Association), and regularly contributed to the society’s journal Film und Volk, with articles on film and medicine, colour film, sound film, and other topics. The Volksfilmverband offered an advantageous screening circuit for films like Die Wunder des Films, which toured (with Beyfuß lecturing) through the society’s local chapters in Berlin, Braunschweig, and other cities." Michael Cowan (GCM)

AA: A fascinating survey of the wonders of the real world in Kulturfilm: handheld footage, shooting from moving vehicles (trains, planes, parachutes), freeze frames, time lapse footage of flowers in bloom, animals, climbing to eagles' nests, capturing lava flow, documenting speed records in auto racing, catching accidents, including explosions, time lapse footage of birds hatching, remote control photography in hideouts for photographing giraffes, zebras and other animals sensitive to smell.

Lola Kreutzberg is profiled as a master of nature cinematography, including hidden camera work. Patience is required recording butterflies, females laying their egg and deer at play. Special skills are needed in photographing alpine skiing and storms hitting breakwaters at 11 on the Beaufort scale. Night shooting is a particular challenge. Minimal objects such as waterdrops need to be shot under the microscope. The problem is that the heat of the lamps makes water evaporate.

Documenting surgical procedures in the hospital is a matter of the greatest responsibility. Every surgery is a risk, and the presence of cameramen increases it. Special cameras are built that can be operated on pedal switches. Zeitlupe (slow motion) is demonstrated from 20 fps to 200 fps. Activities such as running and dancing can be studied in slow motion. Chemical reactions can be analyzed via the manipulation of speed. Towards the end of the fragment we learn about animation and meet Lotte Reiniger.

In tonight's main show we saw Fragment of an Empire, and in this closing show fragments of the empires of Weimar cinema. Glimpses that ignite the imagination.


AA Facebook capsule:

Tantalizing glimpses of Weimar cinema: Fritz Lang's imperious gestures directing Die Nibelungen, Robert Wiene calmly filming the passion of the Christ in I.N.R.I. with Henny Porten as Mary and Asta Nielsen as Maria Magdalena, Conrad Veidt as the deranged Ivan the Terrible in The Waxworks, E. A. Dupont reconstructing Vienna's Burgtheater for Das alte Gesetz, all in giant sets and studios. On the other side of the cinema, the wonderful variety of the documentary school called Kulturfilm: eagles' nests, flowers in bloom, exploding racing cars, hypersensitive zebras, butterflies reproducing, alpine skiing, 11 Beaufort gales, surgical operations, chemical reactions... the whole range of the visible world.

No comments: