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Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927)

Dude, what up with the lederhosen?
Dude, what up with the lederhosen?

Genre: Silent Avant-Garde Documentary (Germany)

Starring: Berlin, Deutschland's Capital.

Directed By: Walter Ruttmann

Overview: A day in the life of a majestic and imposing city from early morning until late at night.


The director's career was pretty much short films, and this seems to be his greatest achievement. There are indeed people in this film and from time to time there is a mote of 'acting', scenes like a distressed woman jumping off a bridge, into a river, while shocked onlookers watch. Though the focus is usually in the crowd setting, those occasional moments do add poignancy to the mood of this production.
Rating: 8


I expected a majorly Eisensteinian work. It's a silent film without dialogue, that studies the life of a city. I mean when there's no story, you have to focus on the look right? I must say I was disappointed in my expectations. The spectacular moments amounted to perhaps ten or fifteen minutes of this hour long show, and though that's enough when you toss in a tale to boot, I found we weren't left with enough, no matter how much rustic memorabilia this has.
Rating: 8


The only intertitles stated the end of one act and the beginning of the next act. It would have been better flow had they simply been defined by the clock that was often used, instead of 'closing the curtain' so to speak, it would have made for a better edit. I also wished that I spoke German, since the advertisements, the shop windows the nightlife neon and the newspaper headlines were prevalent. It would have added perhaps to the experience. From time to time the words were animated and exciting, but overall, the words should have been less ever-present.
Rating: 5


The story of a day in the life of Berlin. My girl mentioned "uh this could be any city. What defines it as being Berlin?" She was right. If the words hadn't been there, it could have been any industrialized nation. It could even have been mistaken for an American city, if we hadn't seen soldiers and policemen in obvious German uniforms. More cultural phenomena, more city-specific landmarks, less everyday. If Paris or London had a film like this done, there'd no doubt where we were.
Rating: 6


Frankly disappointing. Had I never seen an Eisensteinian film, perhaps I'd be more moved. If I never learned the styles of Germans Lang and Murnau or Viennese Stroheim, maybe I'd be more likely to say "that was cool". Maybe if this German was better at making movies, I'd have given him a higher score. Maybe not. The 'grand musical symphony' was really not all that great either.
Rating: 6

Oh sorry, the only city this could possibly be is Berlin, my mistake...
Oh sorry, the only city this could possibly be is Berlin, my mistake...

Overall Rating: 66% (Symphony Of A Pretty Generic City)

I've always had a deep respect for this other critic who had a blog there for a while. In fact I'd say that he inspired me to avoid or see certain films. Given that I was engrossed in the era of 1920 (and still am), when I heard about this Baraka-like montage piece, but in a present day that is now anything but, to hear this cynic of a critic speak of this film in this fashion, I knew I'd just love it, since our tastes are so similar. I guess this is the first film where we've disagreed just enough to prove that we're different people. I guess that's a good thing.

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