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A Second Life

A Second Life: German Cinema's First Decades

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    A Second Life
    Book Description:

    German cinema is best known for its art cinema and its long line of outstanding individual directors. The double spotlight on these two subject has only deepened the obscurity surrounding the popular cinema. A Second Life performs a kind of archaeology on a period largely overlooked: the first two decades of German cinema. This collection of essays by established authors refocuses the terms of a debate that will develop in the years to come concerning the historical and cultural significance of popular cinema in Wilhelmine Germany. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0352-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. 7-8)
    Thomas Elsaesser
  4. Early German Cinema: A Second Life?
    (pp. 9-38)
    Thomas Elsaesser

    German cinema is best remembered for its so-called ‘Golden Age’- the Expressionist films of the twenties - and for its long line of outstanding individual directors. But the double spotlight on art cinema and auteurs, reflecting this national cinema’s struggle for cultural respectability and a penchant for psychological introspection, has only deepened the shadows surrounding another side: the history of its popular cinema. An obvious case in point are the first two decades, where the standard histories have little to report as being worthy of detailed study. Because of Germany’s catastrophic social and political history for almost half a century,...

  5. The Kaiser’s Cinema: An Archeology of Attitudes and Audiences
    (pp. 41-50)
    Martin Loiperdinger

    Lost cultures are typical subjects for archeology, especially when they dispensed with any recognised fonn of writing or when only puzzling ruins remain to be deciphered. The cinema of the Wilhelmine period is such a culture. Very little is known about the beginnings of film in Gennany before World War I, but this is certain: it has become an exotic phenomenon, which cannot be understood in light of the modem concept of cinema.

    Just insignificant relics survive from the Wilhelmine period: a small fraction of the films shown then as well as a few of the buildings. Besides the remains...

  6. Oskar Messter, Film Pioneer: Early Cinema between Science, Spectacle, and Commerce
    (pp. 51-61)
    Martin Koerber

    Oskar Messter started at a time when three preoccupations central to the new medium of cinematography - science, spectacle and commerce - were still inextricably caught up with one another, and in the person of Messter they continually competed with each other, often in a very antagonistic way.

    From his childhood years, Messter seemed predestined for a career in film. His father had been running his own successful company, Ed.[uard] Messter, Optical and Mechanical Institute, in Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse, since 1859. Engaged in the production and retailing of optical instruments, spectacles and, in particular, microscopes and other medical instruments, the firm...

  7. The French Connection: Franco-German Film Relations before World War I
    (pp. 62-71)
    Frank Kessler and Sabine Lenk

    It is well known that before World War I the French film industry played an important, if not the leading, role in Germany. Starting with the cinema’s earliest years, and continuing well into the teens, Germany’s western neighbour dominated the international market in all relevant fields: film production, distribution, as well as exhibition. In this essay we would like to give several examples to illustrate how the French presence developed in Germany, what sort of shape it took, and how French companies and their products were received. Additionally, we will sketch the forays German companies made into the French market....

  8. The Danish Influence: David Oliver and Nordisk in Germany
    (pp. 72-78)
    Evelyn Hampicke

    The ‘Danish influence’ on early German cinema has always been proverbial, associated as it is with a procession of stars and directors who became household names in Wilhelmine Germany: from Asta Nielsen and 01afFønns to Viggo Larsen, GunnarTolnaes and Valdemar Psilander, from Stellan Rye and Urban Gad to Alfred Lind and the legendary cameraman Axel Graatkjaer. Less known is the fact that their fame depended on an international industrial infrastructure, and little understood are the ways a handful of entrepreneurs put it in place, keeping this transfer of talents going in the turbulent years that followed Germany’s declaration of war...

  9. Paul Davidson, the Frankfurt Film Scene, and AFGRUNDEN in Germany
    (pp. 79-85)
    Peter Lähn

    The year 1905 saw the emergence in many Gennan cities of the first locally oriented film companies. The permanent exhibition centres drew new consumers from all levels of society, and from the middle of 1906 onwards, ‘regular establishments’ proved so popular that the cinematography business experienced a boom. The city of Frankfurt am Main played a leading role in what was an exceptionally successful period for the development of the German film industry, from 1916-1918, The economist Karl Zimmerschied even referred to Frankfurt am Main as the birthplace of the Ufa conglomerate.! Zirnmerschied is alluding to the beginnings of an...

  10. Munich’s First Fiction Feature: DIE WAHRHEIT
    (pp. 86-92)
    Jan-Christopher Horak

    While Berlin was the centre of the German film industry in the first half of the 20th century, Munich could after 1919 claim the title of Germany’s second city of cinema. The Geisel-gasteig Studios and the Sluart Webbs Atelier in Griinwald, the Amold & Richter Studios in Schwabing, as well as other production facilities, turned out a steady stream of films throughout the twenties, thirties and forties. In the post-World War II period, Munich’s Bavaria Studios in Geiselgasteig actually advanced to West Germany’s most important production centre, when most of the Berlin studios were taken under Russian control in 1945,...

  11. Moving Images of America in Early German Cinema
    (pp. 93-100)
    Deniz Göktürk

    For George Grosz and his friends America was a thrilling imaginary space which they knew from the adventure novels of their childhood - Grosz told of copying by hand as a boy of nine a whole volume of lames Fenimore Cooper’sLeatherstocking Tales- and which they found revived in the movies. They would dress up as urban cowboys at studio parties, portray themselves in American style, or even Americanize their names, and they frequently depicted American scenes in their sketches and paintings, which drew on the realm of adventure novels and movies, providing them with fantasies of liberation and...

  12. Early German Film Comedy, 1895-1917
    (pp. 103-113)
    Thomas Brandlmeier

    Like it or not, every version of Gennan film history takes the Skladanowsky Brothers as its point of departure. Their Wintergarten programme was geared to international variety: the exotic, the foreign, the grotesque. No German folk dancing here, but Italian country dancing and Cossack dancing. No horses or dogs performing dressage, but ‘kangaroo boxing’. No ‘Jahn - the Father of Gymnastics,’ but the ‘comic horizontal bars.’ In 1896 they presented short staged comic scenes, not set at the Munich Octoberfest, but at the Tivoli in Copenhagen, not at Berlin zoo, but Stockholm zoo. The scene outside the Tivoli is famous:...

  13. The Spectator as Accomplice in Emst Lubitsch’s SCHUHPALAST PINKUS
    (pp. 114-117)
    Karsten Witte

    Most comedies deal with money and desire. The common denominator of both is circulation. Hence, the almost physical urge of film comedies for movement. If for obvious technical reasons the early camera could not move or pan around, then the objects and the actors could move around the camera. Comedy depends on rapid and excessive movement, slow motion in the psychologil: al sense would almost automatically mean a more elevated genre: melodrama or tragedy. The rapid movement inherent in comedy produces a lot of disorientation and confusion. The space tends to get fragmented, the roles people play tend to lose...

  14. Asta Nielsen and Female Narration: The Early Films
    (pp. 118-122)
    Heide Schliipmann

    Asta Nielsen’s film debut in 1910 occurred at a time of radical changes in the cinematic public sphere. As the cinema was leaving behind its connection with travelling fairs and the variety theatre, where it had originated, it entered into competition with the theatre and prepared itself to become the mass medium of the 20th century. The Nielsen persona intervened in this process of transformation. She used the return of drama in film in order to create in the cinema what the theatre had missed out on: to become a place of female self-determination, where gender relations might be redefined....

  15. Melodrama and Narrative Space: Franz Hofer’s HEIDENROSLEIN
    (pp. 123-131)
    Michael Wedel

    If the methodological distinction between a ‘cinema of attractions’ and a ‘cinema of narrative integration’¹ has contributed anything to the understanding of early cinema, it was to have sharpened one’s sensibility for the manifold ways in which the individual style of a film mediates transitions and inaugurates differentiations in the cinema’s ‘discursive reality’ among other contemporary forms of cultural production and popular entertainment. The abstraction inherent in trying to chart these two modes of cinematic practice in the form of a set of parameters - froolality and direct audience address on the one hand, continuity editing and the creation of...

  16. Cinema from the Writing Desk: Detective Films in Imperial Germany
    (pp. 132-141)
    Tilo Knops

    As long as the German detective film from the Wilhelmine period had been practically forgotten, Siegfried Kracauer’s verdict could remain unchallenged, that a German detective genre was hardly conceivable at that time.¹ Since the beginning of the nineties, however, even this ‘unknown galaxy’ of early German films has been rediscovered, and Kracauer’s pronouncement has faded from view; the films of the Stuart Webbs detective series alone refute it. Specific characteristics of the Stuart Webbs films have now been worked ouf²: while productions such as the Sherlock Holmes series from Nordisk, the Nick Carter films from Eclair, the Nick Winter films...

  17. Emst Reicher alias Stuart Webbs: King of the German Film Detectives
    (pp. 142-150)
    Sebastian Hesse

    ‘What makes this film different from all the other detective films? The strictest logic, only sensations that are really credible, and psychological development.’¹ So ran the advertisement from Continental-Kunstfilm GmbH in the spring of 1914 for DIE GEHEIMNISVOLLE VILLA (‘The Villa of Mysteries’),² the first in a series of Stuart Webbs films, the longest-running detective film series and one which was to shape the style of German cinema. By 1926 fifty films had been made,³ all of them with Emst Reicher⁴ in the leading role, In most of them, Reicher was leading actor, scriptwriter and producer rolled into one. It...

  18. The Faces of Stellan Rye
    (pp. 151-159)
    Casper Tybjerg

    Most discussions of DER STUDENT VON PRAG have tended to stress the contribution of Hanns Heinz Ewers, the writer of the screenplay, and Paul Wegener, the star of the film; they are both often credited with being the real ‘author’ of the film. In the following, I shall not attempt to resolve this question of ‘authorship’ in favour of one or another of the three. Instead, I will try to shed a little more light on the life and career of its director Stellan Rye.

    From 1904, Rye - who came from a Danish military family and in 1900 became...

  19. HOMUNCULUS: A Project for a Modem Cinema
    (pp. 160-167)
    Leonardo Quaresima

    Research on HOMUNCULUS encounters a number of objective difficulties whose obviousness is in this case no mere ritual. Directed by Ono Rippert and based on a script by Robert Reinert for Deutsche Bioscop. HOMUNCULUS was conceived as a film in six parts, a ‘series of self-contained dramas interconnected through the title-figure’¹: the first fOUf (HOMUNCULUS, DAS GEHEIMNISVOLLE BUCH, DIE LIEBESTRAGODIE DES HOMUNCULUS, DIE RACHE DES HOMUNCULUS) premiered at the Mannorhaus in Berlin in the course of the second half of 1916; the last two (DIE VERNICHTUNG DER MENSCHHEIT and DAS ENDE DES HOMUNCULUS) in the beginning of 1917. The film...

  20. Julius Pinschewer: A Trade-mark Cinema
    (pp. 168-174)
    Jeanpaul Goergen

    The advertising film is practically as old as the cinema itself. Already in 1896 Georges Méliès made advertising films built on the principles of trick-amazement, of the fabulous and the grotesque, for example, letters swirling in the air and finally organizing themselves into a brand name; Méliès’ son was able to demolish huge amounts of chocolate; and, with the help of a hair-lotion, the bald-headed filmmaker turns into an Orang-Utan-like being.¹

    In 1896/7 Oskar Messter showed the advertising film BADE ZU HAUSE, which promoted a ‘wave-pool-swing’ (Wellenbadschaukel) of the Moosdorf & Hochhausler com pany from Berlin-TreptQw.² In August 1911 Paul...

  21. Newsreel Images of the Military and War, 1914-1918
    (pp. 175-184)
    Wolfgang Miihl-Benninghaus

    In the nationally oriented culture of theKaiserreich,with its great enthusiasm for all things military, battle, war and heroism, flickering images of torpedo boats at high sea, troops returning from the spring parade or battleship launches were shown with great success on Gennany’s first cinema screens. This gave rise to a regular stream of films featuring Wilhelmine forces, initially from Skladanowsky and Messter, and later from other companies. The filming of military set-pieces such as UBERFALL AUF SCHLOSS BONCOURT, THEODOR KORNER, DIE SCHLACHT BEl GETTYSBURG or LIEB YATERLAND, MAGST RUHIG SEIN² provided the military with thematic and representational accounts...

  22. Learning from the Enemy: German Film Propaganda in World War I
    (pp. 185-191)
    Rainer Rather

    When Goebbels in his speeches about film and propaganda tried to emphasize the specifics of Nazi propaganda, he inevitably mentioned the attempts Gennany had made in this area during World War I. Needless to say, in retrospect these fonner efforts looked quite poor. For instance, speaking on 15 February 1941, on the occasion of the Reichsfilmkammer war meeting, Goebbels argued that propaganda gained a new role because of the war:

    This was so in the World War, too, only then we Gennans had not understood it yet. In the World War the English chances for victory were based essentially on...

  23. The Reason and Magic of Steel: Industrial and Urban Discourses in DIE POLDIHUTTE
    (pp. 192-201)
    Kimberly O’Quinn

    The factory became one of the initial cinematic landscapes when the Lumiere Brothers opened the gates and filmed LA SORTIE DES USINES LUMIÈRE in 1895. In 1916, a German documentary toured a steel factory in another innovative exploration of this working class locale. In the twenty-one years from LA SORTIE DES USINES LUMIÈRE to DAS STAHLWERK DER POLDlHUTTE WAHREND DES WELTKRIEGES (‘The Poldihiitte Steelworks During the World War’), the cinema, technology and city life continued to mesh and transfonn as well depict the changing visual perception of time and space. With these transformations in mind, this essay will try to...

  24. Max Mack: The Invisible Author
    (pp. 205-212)
    Michael Wedel

    Looking back in 1920, at the end of what indeed was to remain the most productive decade of his career, Max Mack was convinced that future historians would acknowledge the significance of his films for the development of German cinema.¹ By then he had directed nearly 100 films of all conceivable genres, among them some of the most successful and popular films the German cinema of the teens had produced. Ironically, however, when critical or trade attention was paid to these films, it often happened without his name being mentioned at all. Mack’s DER ANDERE, the firstAutorenfilm,based on...

  25. From Peripetia to Plot Point: Heinrich Lautensack and ZWEIMAL GELEBT (1912)
    (pp. 213-218)
    Jürgen Kasten

    In Gennan cinema history 1912 was to be the year of the two-acter. Films of over 600 metres in length were marketed as blockbusters, and in the selections of films sent for exhibition in provincial cinemas, it was stressed that they included a two-acter.¹ It was also the year in which Gerhard Lamprecht’s index of German silent films first made any real reference to scriptwriters. Lamprecht lists nine film writers for 1912. Although this almost certainly underestimates the numbers for 1912 and the preceding years, the advent of the twoacter at least helped acknowledge the existence of qualified scriptwriters in...

  26. Giuseppe Becce and RICHARD WAGNER: Paradoxes of the First German Film Score
    (pp. 219-224)
    Ennio Simeon

    Such was the praise of the film RICHARD WAGNER¹ in theMoving Picture Worldof November 29th, 1913, by the American critic Stephen W. Bush. In Germany, on the other hand, opinions were more divided: while the trade press judged rather positively, the daily press and the journals of the cinema reformers were more laconic or sceptical, if not altogether malicious. In theFrankfurter Zeitungof September 3rd, 1913, Leopold Schwarzschild, for example, emphasized the moments of unintentional humour: Wagner’s father is on his deathbed and ‘doesn’t pass away silently but instead seems to die a horrible death, suffocated by...

  27. Early German Film: The Stylistics in Comparative Context
    (pp. 225-236)
    Barry Salt

    Far more American films than German films were shown in Germany in 1912, as can be seen on page 10 of Emilie Altenloh’sZur Soziologie des Kino.²This was not the case in France in the same year, for instance, though that was about to change. So why did German audiences in 1912 watch more American films than German films, and indeed more than those from any other European country? Of course, there were more American films available, but I think that there were other reasons as well. I think American films were already more attractive to audiences, even before...

  28. Self-Referentiality in Early German Cinema
    (pp. 237-245)
    Sabine Hake

    The Wilhelmine cinema, simply because so little is known about it, is frequently described as technically inferior and formally undeveloped.¹ Siegfried Kracauer’s dictum that the cinema before World War I must be seen as ‘prehistory, an archaic period insignificant in itself² has done much to contribute to this impression. It is the purpose of this essay to challenge such perceptions and draw attention to one particular trait of this ‘other’ early German cinema, its disposition toward a self-referentiality that draws attention to the cinema and foregrounds its stylistic means and emotional effects. The re-presentations of cinema, for instance in the...

  29. Of Artists and Tourists: ‘Locating’ Holland in Two Early German Films
    (pp. 246-255)
    Ivo Blam

    In the Desmet collection of the Nederlands Filmmuseum, two remarkable Gennan fiction films can be found, DES MEERES UNO DER LIEBE WELLEN (1912) and AUF EINSAMER INSEL (1913). Each was shot in a well-known Dutch tourist attraction: Volendam, where Christoph Mtilleneisen filmed DES MEERES UND DER LIEBE WELLEN for Dekage, and the Island of Marken, where Joseph Delmont did location work for AUF EINSAMER INSEL, an Eiko production. These two German ‘adventures’ in the Netherlands are no isolated cases, for they are part of larger trends: the emergence of artists’ colonies at sites of outstanding beauty, and the simultaneous expansion...

  30. Stylistic Expressivity in DIE LANDSTRASSE
    (pp. 256-263)
    Kristin Thompson

    Over the past decade, historians have begun to find the teens an extraordinarily rich field for exploration by film historians.¹ A decade previously summed up by CABIRIA, THE BIRTH OF ANATION, Thomas Ioee, Charlie Chaplin, and the early Swedish cinema has now revealed an enonnous international variety previously little suspected.

    Older histories also treated the teens simply as the period in which the cinema gained an ability to tell a clear story, primarily through continuity editing. During this era, films supposedly went from being theatrical to being ‘cinematic’ through an increasing use of editing and camera movement. Yet these two...

  31. Two ‘Stylists’ of the Teens: Franz Hofer and Yevgenii Bauer
    (pp. 264-276)
    Yuri Tsivian

    As far as the European cinema is concerned, I see the teens as a relatively unknown period squeezed between relatively well-known ones: the cinema of the twenties (the various avantgardes) and the pioneers’ decade (of the Lumieres, Gaumont and Pathé in France, Paul, Hepworth and Williamson in Britain, and Messter in Gennany).

    In comparison with these, films of the teens are often considered less interesting (which is unfair) and unoriginal (which is not true). Only because the cinema of the teens was trying to reach middle-class audiences and, in order to achieve this, wanted to look as respectable as it...

  32. The Voyeur at Wilhelm’s Court: Franz Rafer
    (pp. 277-284)
    Elena Dagrada

    If it is true that theGiornate del cinema mutoat Pordenone often give their audience the joy of discovering an unrecognized talent, then 1990 hoomed the tradition with a new, discreetly presented gift. After Yevgenii Bauer, the ‘little big genius’ of Russian cinematography which Pordenone ‘discovered’ the year before, another unrecognized director has taken up his rightful place in the early cinema’s pantheon: Franz Hafer, six of whose films were shown at Pordenone, in the retrospective dedicated to the Gennan cinema before CALIGARI.

    Born in Germany but educated in Vienna, little or nothing seems to be known about Hafer....

  33. Notes
    (pp. 285-336)
  34. THE GERMAN CINEMA 1895-1917 A Classified Bibliography
    (pp. 337-345)
  35. Publication Acknowledgements
    (pp. 346-348)
  36. List of Contributors
    (pp. 349-352)