Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hans Richter: Filmstudie

Hans Richter: Filmstudie (1926).

The German modernist Hans Richter (1888 - 1976) was a painter, graphic artist and experimental filmmaker.

He initially painted in a cubist style, but moved into film - being best known for his experiments in avantgarde cinema. He was also a founding member of the Dada movement.

He is quoted as saying:

"Influenced by cubism and its search for structure, but not satisfied with what it offered, I found myself between 1913-1918 increasingly faced with the conflict of suppressing spontaneous expression in order to gain an objective understanding of a fundamental principle with which I could control the ‘heap of fragments’ inherited from the cubists.

Thus I gradually lost interest in the subject – in any subject – and focused instead on the positive-negative (white-black) opposition, which at least gave me a working hypothesis whereby I could organize the relationship of one part of a painting to the other."

His film Filmstudie (1926) is by some seen as a move into Surrealism. It was the first film in which Richter started integrating photographs into his film experiments.

'Filmstudie' (or 'Film Study' as was its English language title) is a "highly evocative non-narrative film that connects human faces, floating eyeballs, and abstract forms through a series of poetic visual associations.

Observing that 'as a painter as well as a film maker, [he doesn’t] see any contradiction between natural and abstract forms', Richter claimed that 'Film Study' 'develops abstract forms as part of the world we live in, as its nearest expression underlying the unending manifoldness of appearances'.

Running for approximately four minutes, the film is composed of 45 'shots' lasting for between two and six seconds, each of which is bridged by a cut that either connects a geometric shape to rays of varying intensity or analogizes a photographic object to an abstract form. To cite just two examples, brief shots of birds on a pier alternate with dots in the same positions while an image of a man smashing the ground with a hammer is intercut with swaths of light whose orientation resembles that of his legs."

Suggested further reading: here, here and here for example. Hans Richter's film 'Rhythm 23' has previously been featured on Rare Autumn.

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