A grey day in Berlin. One of the manies in March. After sleeping long but without really wanting to go outside I read the programme of the Arsenal and found this little jewel of a silent movie that I have been wanting to see for a long time. Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Grosstadt is a film by German experimental film director Walter Ruttmann, who employed a range of new visual and editing techniques to portray one day of Berlin. The “movie-track” to Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz in a way.
The film transfers you back in time into a city that does not exist like this anymore, the scene as the train enters the then imposing Anhalter Bahnhof might stand symbolically. Now, people play football on the fields where the rails used to be. Only a piece of wall remains to remind.
But more impressive than the portray of the lively, crowded and vibrating life of the modern Berlin of the 20′s, is the atmosphere and freshness of the film. The rhythm of the images suck you in and make you live the day yourself, get you working, have lunch, cross the street when there is a little space, and dance the nights in Berlin.
Modern times were the times of greasy machine turning and producing. And the metros passing and stopping spitting out people. Machines and traffic made the world. But also entertainment: I loved the hommage to Charlie Chaplin, whose shoes can be seen shortly on the movie screen. Chaplin took up the theme in his movie Modern Times in 1936.
But Ruttmann also showed the other side of the pulsating Berlin, the poor, the beggars, the homeless kids on the streets.
After this wonderful play of light and darkness, of images composed to be felt, I left the cinema to the rainy streets of the Leipziger Platz, surrounded by skyscrapers (built as in Berlin Babylon, 2001). Constructing my own movie of my Berlin.
You can watch the movie here.