Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927) torrent download

Berlin: Symphony of a Great City

1927

Documentary

7.6

Synopsis

A train speeds through the country on its way to Berlin, then gradually slows down as it pulls into the station. It is very early in the morning, about 5:00 AM, and the great city is mostly quiet. But before long there are some signs of activity, and a few early risers are to be seen on the streets. Soon the new day is well underway - it's just a typical day in Berlin, but a day full of life and energy.

Director

Walter Ruttmann

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by J. Steed 10 /10

SPLENDID EXAMPLE OF FILMIC FUNCTIONALISM

Classic and splendid film that is still fascinating to watch. Walter Ruttmann did not make a documentary about Berlin, although 75 after date it certainly can be considered a document about a Berlin that is no more, he composed a film that tries to catch the essence of the atmosphere of a big city. The film is a good example of the art style Neue Sachlichkeit (functionalism): it is a cross-section of Berlin's life in which every element is equally important, shown without comment and in its totality it is the expression of the joy of Berlin's life. It is not a film about the life of Berliners, it is Berlin seen as a living mechanism.

The subtitle referring to Großstadt (big city) is the key, it could have been any other city. The idea as such is not the makers' prerogative. Elsewhere the fascination with the hustle and bustle of the big city was also present as was the idea to catch this on this film and in music: e.g. Cavalcanti in France made a film about Paris and the US Ferde Grofé composed his musical suite Metropolis (1927) with New York in his mind. The irony of all these endeavours is that the film or music is abstract, but that the result is a romanticizing view.

Ruttmann made several abstract film and he refers to them in the beginning with abstract horizontal lines dissolving to rail way tracks. In my view the rest of the film is also abstract. Although we see real people and situations the brilliant editing constantly keeps the film abstract: the situation and the people in a shot are not important, important is the juxtaposition to other shots: is the composition varied enough?. Thus we see a filmic composition (in stead of a musical one) and the subtitle Symphony is just. As with every composition the theme has to be modulated to keep it interesting and it is here where the weakness of the film is. The building up from the start and elaboration up to the beginning of the afternoon is splendid, precise and exiting; but from that point it bogs down for a while: we see another shop, another street etc. without adding much to what already was. It may be that Ruttmann was aware of this, note how quickly he finishes the afternoon to continue with the night-life and then immediately all the excitement and filmic fun is back.

In an 1939 interview cameraman Karl Freund said that everything possible was filmed using only candid cameras. I have my doubts. Let's take for example the sequence of the drowning lady: how could he make an extreme close-up with a hidden camera in such a brilliant angle? (By the way: if she really tried to commit suicide, was Freund himself not only one of the gaping bystanders without doing anything to save her?) How could he foresee the right angle to film the prostitute picking up her client near the cornered shop window? Not that it matters for the quality of the film, but it proofs the old adagium: filming is deceiving.

Reviewed by Bobs-9 N/A

A Beautiful and haunting film

`Berlin, Symphony of a Great City' is a film I've watched over and over with fascination. I think it's true that it is not so much about the people of Berlin, although we see many of them, but the city itself as a huge living, breathing organism. Back in the 1930s filmmaker John Grierson apparently wrote that this film `created nothing,' and that it violated the first principles of documentary by showing us nothing of importance but beautiful images. Looking at it more than 70 years after its creation, however, its documentary value seems evident to me, at least. I find it fascinating just to see what the people, clothing, uniforms, vehicles, streets, parks, restaurants, shops, theaters, nightclubs, and factories looked like in that distant time and place. It's amazing to contemplate how soon this complex, sophisticated society would be consumed in the most primitive debauchery. Do these people really look that much different from those we see on our streets every day? It makes me wonder what we're all potentially capable of.

Some slight differences do seem apparent, however. When a fight breaks out in a public place today, people usually try to ignore it, or even duck their heads and run for cover. But in a scene where two men argue violently in the street, the Berliners of the 1920s crowd in close around the combatants, and even try to separate them and arbitrate the dispute, before a policeman moves in. Whether this was typically European at that time, or just typical of its era, I really can't say, but it seems strange to me today.

Although I think the majority of this film was shot in a candid manner, and looks it, it's obvious that not quite all of it was un-staged, as a previous commentator has pointed out. For example, look at the argument scene just mentioned. Considering one of the camera angles (probably from a 2nd floor window), the argument must have been staged at the exact spot where this camera could catch it, and the crowd's reaction, from above. In addition, a second camera was in place at street level to move in close, which hardly suggests a serendipitous event.

A good musical score is vitally important to bring this film to life. It's too bad the original score has been lost. It would be fascinating to know what it was like. But I think the one written by Timothy Brock for the Kino edition is superb in that it captures its changing moods and rhythms. If, as one internet reviewer commented, it seems a bit melancholy, that may be apropos considering that this beautiful city, and a great many of its inhabitants, would be consumed in fire less than 20 years later.

Reviewed by Snow Leopard N/A

A Fascinating Classic

This fascinating classic never loses its ability to capture the attention and stimulate the imagination of its viewers. The technique is creative and resourceful, the photography is beautiful, and the images are memorable. Everything fits together to make the idea work wonderfully well.

The opening sequence with the train is an exciting and well-conceived way to start the movie. As the pace picks up, the rush of images creates an abstract but very realistic sensation, and this train 'ride' is so enjoyable that you almost don't want it to stop.

But it's when the train reaches the station that the main part of the movie begins, presenting a very interesting stylized portrait of a typical day in Berlin, through a carefully-chosen variety of scenes and sights. It's interesting to see how the train imagery keeps coming back from time to time, and this, along with the obvious passage of time as the day progresses, gives it a coherence that makes it much more than just a collage of interesting images and scenes.

There are many interesting individual sequences, but what makes it such a gem is the way that everything fits together. The overall effect is remarkable, and it really has to be seen to be appreciated.

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