"Berlin, Symphony of a Great City" (1928)

a.ka. Berlin, Die Sinfonie Der Grosstadt

Berlin: Symphony Of A Great City
a.k.a. Berlin, Die Sinfonie Der Grosstadt

Produced in Germany by Fox-Europa
Directed by Walter Ruttmann
Scenario by Karl Freund and Walter Ruttmann
Special musical score composed by Edmund Meisel.

Based on an idea by Carl Mayer who withdrew from the production in the early stages disagreeing with Ruttman's superficial and formalized approach to depiction of life in the big city.

Cinemantography by Relmar Kuntze, Robert Baberske and Laszlo Shaffer who took over a year to photograph the film which covered an impressionistic view of life in Berlin from dawn to midnight. Most of the film was shot using movie cameras concealed in vans and suitcases to get realistic effects. A special jazz score with a 75 piece orchestra was commissioned for the film, and the film was edited to accompany the music. Unfortunately the score has been lost.

The film is a cross section of the life and rhythm of a late spring day in Berlin, from dawn to midnight, a symphony of visual impressions, admirably edited, and based on the ideas and methods of Dziga Vertov. In Soviet Russia, Vertov's radical films were well received, but by the late 20's, Vertov's radical films were banned in Germany. Many of the sequences are metaphorical; the crowds and cattle; the legs of dancers, two pairs of legs going to a hotel, a montage of legs; a sleeping man compared to an elephant. People going to work, children to school, businessmen eating in fine restaurants, workmen eating out of paper bags . . . a very good depiction of any big city.

The director, Walter Ruttmann, said in 1928, "Since I began in the cinema, I had the idea of making something out of life, of creating a symphonic film out of the millions of energies that comprise the life of a big city. For the night scenes, the chief cameraman, Reimar Kuntze, developed a hypersensitize film stock so that we could avoid using artificial light."

copyright 2001 by John DeBartolo. All rights reserved.

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