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Lichtspiel Opus I (Ruttmann, Walter), 1921

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time] which he intends to realize using film: «An art for the eye that differs from painting in that it takes place in time (like music). Hence a completely new type of artist that has hitherto been only latent will emerge, placed somewhere between painting and music. … In any case, the new art can count on a considerably larger audience than painting currently enjoys …«


Despite immense technical difficulties and without any official support, Ruttmann achieved his aim after years of intensive work: his first film, «Opus 1», was officially premiered in 1921. It was accompanied by a specially composed string quartet by Max Butting, and the three Opus films that followed until 1925 also had dedicated pieces of music. This distinguishes Ruttmann's approach from later attempts to interpret existing music visually, of the kind that made Oskar Fischinger famous. However, such works always retain their illustrative character.

The painterly, abstract images in Ruttmann's films are created with an apparatus he developed himself, which he even patented. So his method can be


summed up like this: accelerated modern perceptions need a new art, but there is no technical solution available for this. It is only by inventing an apparatus that Ruttmann becomes a pioneer of the so-called «absolute film.» The film camera, a pragmatic machine, has to be combined with a new aesthetic machine to bring the film to itself, to help it achieve its own absolute pictorial quality consisting only of colours and shapes, that no longer needs to copy the outside world. Today, in the age of computer animation and video clips, this step seems just as natural as it was revolutionary and disturbing at the time.

Without being aware of each other, several artists were working on related ideas, and in 1925 the acclaimed matineé screening of «The absolute Film» took place in Berlin. Advertising and feature films also took up these ideas and built in absolute elements. But these abstract notions never developed into a real mass art, and Ruttmann soon distanced himself from «absolute fashion.»

At this time a new mass medium was emerging that was soon to become the equal of the cinema: radio. There is a paradoxical parallel with film: silent films have no sound—radio has no image. For this reason

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