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October 03, 2006

People on Sunday: Siodmak et al

So why did I pick this film? Well like most of the others it appears in the list of Germany’s most significant films. It is part of the BFI’s ‘History of The Avant-Garde’ series of DVDs.

People on Sunday

The film came out in 1929 and was shot before the great depression had started. As such it could be seen as representing a false optimism of people living out their lives in a micro way assuming that macro factors were taking care of themselves.

Robert Siodmak

Edgar G. Ulmer

Severaral of its makers went on to become important directors in Hollywood after leaving Germany when it turned Nazi. They were Edgar Ulmer, Billy Wilder, Robert Siodmak, Fred Zinnemann.

Most of these directors went onto to make major contributions to the American ‘genre’ of ’ noir’ thrillers. Whilst some uninspired commentaries on the web fail to see the connection the film noir sensibility of dark forces bubbling under the surface of society arguably reflects both Neue Sachlichkeit and expressionist elements born of pre-Nazi and Nazi society.

The direction of the film is credited to Siodmak and Ulmer however it seems as though both Wilder and Zinnemann did some directing. The film was a collaborative effort.

Brigitte Borchert & Wolfgang von Waltershausen

It was one of a number of films which became highly influential amongst documentary and documentary style film-makers. Philip Kemp’s notes to the BFI DVD version cite Renoir’s thirties films Italian Neo-realism and the British ‘Free Cinema’ movement of the 1950s. It owes its origins more to developments within Neue Sachlichkeit than Vertov’s truly radical in film-making and political terms 1929 film ‘Man With a Movie Camera’. Here some in depth comparative research would be useful.

The Original Mass Observation Book of 1937

One important person that Kemp has missed out was Humphrey Jennings. Jennings’ surrealistically inspired input into the Griersonion British documentary movement and then his wartime output has very close links with this style of ethnographic ‘quasi-documentary’ film making. Jennings was a very strongly accredited influence with the Free Cinema Movement. Like the makers of People on Sunday they were concerned with the leisure activities of ordinary people. That Jennings was a founding member of the British Mass-Observation Movement with its development of the qualitative research technique of observation is also an indicator that this film was seen by Jennings.

Christl Ehlers the Film Extra

An important element of People on Sunday was that the actors were ordinary people not trained actors. The nearest to being an actor was Annie Shreyer who sometimes became a film extra.

An interesting interview with the other main woman in the film Brigitte Borchert is included in the BFI sleevneotes. Borchert comments that although the film was successful with the critics the ordinary people she worked with were unimpressed: ‘They said they saw things like that every day and would rather have seen a kitsch movie; they were right: they go to the movies to forget about their hard lives”. Unwittingly Borchert had summarised the main contents of Horkheimer and Adorno’s ‘_The Culture Industry’ several years before it was written!

Brigitte Borchert & Wolfgang von Waltershausen Swimming

For a good range of photographs Deutsch film portal. (Please note at time of writing the photo entitled Borchert is mis-titled).

September 29, 2006

Weimar & Nazi Cinema Bibliography and Resources: Evaluation

Weimar and Nazi Cinema Resource Evaluation


Any academically based site needs to have ats its heart a reliable and well mantained route into resources. Some of these sources will be signposts to highly specialised resources which may be in public or private institutions.

There are other simple resource pages consisting of a bibliography. a filmography and a webliography which are being continually updated and developed, part of your work will be to contribute to these. They are to be left as basic lists. It is in this space that comparison and evaluation will take place.

Why Evaluation

I am particularly keen to be evaluating available web resources. For somebody coming fresh to this area of study a Google search would turn up at times millions of hits on somebody like Fritz Lang. Many of these hits especially those on the first couple of web pages of a search are commercial ones.

It is important objective to turn this whole blog into a ‘virtual’ space where people from all over the globe interested in Weimar and Nazi cinema can visit. Whatever their current level of knowledge and viewing experience from ‘A’ level to postgraduate student, or non students interested in cinema, Germany, Europe their visit should be a good experience.

Course Task

One of the task for all the members of the course team is to work on developing this resource. There will be a graded annotation system from 1 – 5 stars. Before any stars are formally awarded there must be a minimum of 5 argued contributions for each entry and consensus must be reached. Prior to consensus there will be a provisional grade awarded. The key points of the argument will be set against the the entry. It will be possible to have comparative entries.

For example there can be a review of lets us say the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Fritz Lang and the Wikipedia entry on Lang. Where Wikipedia is deemed to be weaker the team may decided to edit the entry as a collaboration or else it can adress the issues by adding to work on Fritz Lang in the blog. If it is felt that the knowledge base is insuficient then a contribution via the Wiki discussion page may be entered.

This will be part of the formal tasks for the course. It will encourage independent research skills, increase the individual knowledge base, encourage collaborative learning and teamwork. Engage with Web 2 communication technologies, contribute to the global community of knowledge in a (virtual ) concrete way. It should also be fun and satisfying and give free reign to the pedant in all of us :-).

How to do this

1) If you have access to your own blog you can link into this one by linking in via the ‘blog this’ button. Alternatively you can add to the comments box which you will find below this entry. You will be able to add hyperlinks so that readers can directly access the resources that you have chosen to compare.

What can an Evaluation contain?

It would be useful if the level of assumed knowledge is identified. For example the Enclyclopedia Britannica article hyperlinked below assumes very little or no knowledge.

This book review is from an academic journal and assumes a much higher level of knowledge.

Some internet sources will also have embedded links. It would be useful if you can follow these links and make some assessment of whether they are useful and to whom they may be useful etc.

You should also comment on how well researched the resource is and you may wish to make some comments on weaknesses or strengths of the reaerch methods used.

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