Walter Riezler’s “‘Form,’ Photo, and Film” (1929)
Translated from the German by David Britt. From Between Two Worlds: A Sourcebook of
Central European Avant-Gardes, 1910-1930. (The MIT Press. Cambridge, MA: 2002).
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It was quite right to show some samples of the “feature film,” since for the time being this is the mainstay of public showings. And here something of a historical retrospect is already possible: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari already looks like a document from a past age, which might be referred to as “classic,” did it not retain so many primitive characteristics…From this to the great Russian film Ten Days that Shook the World marks another vast step. Here, the element of theatricality is almost entirely eliminated; invented or composed action is replaced by history, presented with a claim to truth and “reality,” and affecting every receptive viewer accordingly, despite the admixture of a tendentious “message.” …
What was almost more important, and certainly newer, was the showing of what are called “avant-garde films”: the work of those who hope to develop film into an entirely autonomous art form. This was fascinating and thought provoking in the extreme — although one feels that the course of future evolution is far from clear. On the contrary, paths lead off in all directions, and it is certain that some of them will lead nowhere…It was a strange sensation to observe such disparate experiments in such rapid succession. One thing was surprising: even in this new “art,” which seems to be so much the product of modern “civilization,” distinctions of nationality remained unexpectedly clear.
[Originally published as “‘Form,’ Foto und Film,” in Die Form (1929)]