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walter ruttmann (1887-1941)

German film-maker – *1887 Germany 1941 Russia

Ruttmann made avant-garde films – the Opus series, from 1922 to 1925, and a major documentary Berlin, Symphony of a City in 1929, showing the city's activities from early morning to midnight. Interested in how spectators perceive sound, on 15 May 1930 he premiered a film without pictures, Wochenende (weekend). The audience take their seats, the lights go out, the sound is heard and all that can be seen is a blank screen. Walter Ruttmann soon abandoned his avant-garde ideas in favour of Nazi ideology: he advised Hitler's film-maker Leni Riefenstahl and made films like Die deutsche Waffenschmiede or Deutsche Panzer (both in 1940). He was killed on the Russian front, shooting propaganda newsreels.

Wochenende (weekend)
(1929-30) 11:17
Weekend is unique of it's kind. Twenty years later this editing technique will be improved, to form the basis of concrete music - even if Pierre Schaeffer quickly abandoned what he called anecdotal sound for more concrete research. This work can be regarded as the first image-less film.

(Guy Marc Hinant, in: an anthology of noise & electronic music, sub rosa 160, 2001)


«Ruttmann came to film, and hence to radio, from painting. He understood what made visual rhythm in the plastic arts and was practiced in the language of abstraction characteristic of the "absolute film". In 1928 Ruttmann recorded a brief sound montage (300 feet), which was broadcast as Wochenende (weekend). His admirer and fellow filmmaker Hans Richter published the following description of Weekend: There was no picture, just sound (which was broadcast). It was the story of a weekend, from the moment the train leaves the city until the whispering lovers are separated by the approaching, home-struggling crowd. It was a symphony of sound, speech-fragments and silence woven into a poem.»

(Mark E. Cory, in: wireless imagination - sound, radio, and the avant-garde, MIT press, 1992)


«Le pouvoir y a veillé: l'armée allemande compte un opérateur dans chacune de ses sections, et des opérateurs de talent et de grand courage vont réussir là où Griffith avait échoué en 1914, puisque chaque régiment possède sa PK (compagnie de propagande), une coordination cinéma-armée-propagande, c'est-à-dire image-tactique-scénario, chargée de regrouper et de traiter instantanément l'information.

Le cinéma de la KP reprend donc le travail de Leni Riefenstahl et de ses films, où tout selon elle est vrai, mais où tout se déroule dans un temps intensif proche cette fois du temps réel de la guerre-éclair, de l'authentique vitesse de l'assaut technique.»

(Paul Virilio: GUERRE ET CINEMA , Cahiers du Cinéma, 1984, p.102)

walter ruttmann - weekend (metamkine mkcd010)
anthology of noise & electronic music (sub rosa sr160)
jean-luc godard - weekend (1967)

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