RHYTHMUS 21 (Hans Richter, 1921, Germany, 3m, BW)
10 May 1925 (Germany)
Director: Hans Richter
Black and white rectangular images fade in and out of the screen. Their movement make them sometimes look like they're panning from side to side. Their movement also make the black and white individually change from foreground to background and visa versa.
Overall, it's more avant-garde experimental abstract animation here. This one mostly involves white and black rectangles on black and white backgrounds growing larger or shrinking; I assume the rhythm is captured by the speed at which these rectangles change size. It's pretty much what you might expect from an early attempt at abstract animation; it's watchable if you're in the mood, but hardly exciting or compelling.
By the time he was zooming them in and out, I realized it was either exceptional animation or a lot of work. Many of the objects have texture, which raises the question of how he made them zoom. Well, how he made so many objects in the same shot zoom in and out. Did he somehow superimpose or is it just really good animation?
At the end of the film, Richter seems to realize he’s got the viewer and just keeps amping it up with inverses and so on. The film then becomes about the process and Richter loses any sense of “rhythm” he had going for him.
Richter's first contacts with modern art were in 1912 through the "Blaue Reiter" and in 1913 through the "Erster Deutscher Herbstsalon (de)" gallery "Der Sturm", in Berlin. In 1914 he was influenced by cubism. He contributed to the periodical Die Aktion in Berlin. His first exhibition was in Munich in 1916, and Die Aktion published as a special edition about him. In the same year he was wounded and discharged from the army and went to Zürich and joined the Dada movement.
Richter believed that the artist's duty was to be actively political, opposing war and supporting the revolution. His first abstract works were made in 1917. In 1918, he befriended Viking Eggeling, and the two experimented together with film. Richter was co-founder, in 1919, of the Association of Revolutionary Artists ("Artistes Radicaux") at Zürich. In the same year he created his first Prélude (an orchestration of a theme developed in eleven drawings). In 1920 he was a member of the November group in Berlin and contributed to the Dutch periodical De Stijl.
Throughout his career, he claimed that his 1921 film, Rhythmus 21, was the first abstract film ever created. This claim is not true: he was preceded by the Italian Futurists Bruno Corra and Arnaldo Ginna between 1911 and 1912 (as they report in the Futurist Manifesto of Cinema), as well as by fellow German artist Walter Ruttmann who produced Lichtspiel Opus 1 in 1920. Nevertheless, Richter's film Rhythmus 21 is considered an important early abstract film.
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