Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Historical Avant-Garde: Germany/Sweden/Hungary: Abstract and Absolute Film

Hans Richter, Rhythmus 21, 1921, (3 min)

An interesting dada animation full of pulsating and sliding rectangles and squares. At one point it almost feels as though we are falling down through a square tunnel. Watching, without the sound, the shapes start to have a rigid form of dance in relationship to each other.

Hans Richter, Vormittagsspuk (Ghosts Before Breakfast), 1928, (9 min)

Even though the viewer can sometimes see the mechanics of how the objects moved through space, to accomplish such a task in 1928 shows the level of innovation at the time. The use of stop-motion animation, repetition and reverse filming seem to illustrate the title by conveying a sense of the unknown "mover of objects". Some uses of the people lead me to think they are the "unseen" by they way they were filmed moving though space --- sideways and seeming to climb the walls. My favourite scene is the where the line of people disappear into the light post.

Walther Ruttmann, Lichtspiel: Opus I (Lightplay: Opus I), 1921, (11 min)

The growing tunnel like structure remind me of an opening of portals to another time or space. The flying strokes of colour that follow remind me of trapped souls trying in vain to find their way and the obstacles they face on their journey. This animation reminded me of a synesthesia experience, even if it did not fully follow the music.

Viking Eggeling, Symphonie Diagonale (Diagonal Symphony), 1924, (7 min)

The title card, by Frederick J. Kiesler states, "It [Symphonie Diagonale] is an experiment to discover the basic principles of the organization of time intervals in the film medium." The "characters" move in such a way to suggest a visual language being shown to the viewer; a code playing out on the screen. Watching it silently, I could hear a jazz number based the visuals.

Laszlo Maholy-Nagy, Ein Lichtspiel schwarz weiss grau (LightPlay: Black-White-Gray), 1930,  (6 min)

The title sequence was an interesting shadow play and revealing of the visual and lingual greyscale --- schwarz, weiss, und grau. It looks as though Maholy-Nagy changed film stocks at one point while filming the same "setup". The whole film reminds me of an experiment with a strong light source pointed at "setup", of rotating shiny objects and mirrors, to understand how layers of such objects would translate to film.

Oscar Fischinger, Optical Poem, 1938, (7 min)

I am going to write this one like a critic blurb:
Delightful! Truly a synesthetic moment! Like watching a dance troupe on screen performing in time to Liszt.

There is that, and the fact I could not get Bugs Bunny out of my head.

On a more serious note, this type of animation to music, so closely to the music is some feat. I was especially impressed with the circles shrinking as the notes were fading --- that and the rows of either squares or triangles to the sound of musical marching.

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, J. S. Bach, from Fantasia, (visual design: Oscar Fischinger), 1940, (9 min)

I was impressed with the lighting highlighting the instrument being played, ex. the drum lit in time to the drummer hitting it. Then there are the layers of silhouettes from the musicians which "highlight" the rows of musicians as the music continues. I really enjoyed the effect when the scene changes to the clouds, and the bows of the violins look like rain falling.

1 comment:

  1. Jess,

    Very astute observation about the squares' dance-like movement in "Rhythmus 21!" I did not watch this one on mute, and so I overlooked that during my first viewing. After reading what you wrote, however, I went back and watched " Rhythmus 21" in silence and I was fascinated by the movement; it's quite neat!

    Great entry!