OPUS I (Walter Ruttmann, 1921, Germany, 13m, Col)
Lichtspiel Opus 1. (1921)
1 April 1921 (Germany)
Director: Walter Ruttmann (as Walther Ruttmann)
Against a dark background, several bright, curved or rounded shapes pulse towards the center of the screen, one at a time. They are followed by many other shapes, some irregular, some pointed, others rounded. The abstract shapes move into or across the screen in harmony with the musical score.
In 1914 World War I disrupted the lives of millions of people world wide, and Ruttmann was no exception. He served as a lieutenant in the German army durring the war, and when the war ended in 1918 he became increasingly dissatisfied with the medium of painting. The main problem Ruttmann saw in the medium was its inherently static nature. A painter could attempt to capture some sense of motion in his paintings, but the paintings were, in the end, fixed in place forever. We are told that Ruttmann made a comment, shortly after the end of the war, to the effect that it made no sense to continue painting, unless the paintings could be set in motion(Starr).
In 1921, in Frankfort, Germany, he realized this desire with the release of his first abstract film, and indeed the first abstract film the world had ever seen: Lichtspiel Opus I. As is evident from its title, the film combined the separate art forms of painting and music into one work. The film featured moving patterns of light set to a custom score, written specially for Lichtspiel Opus I by Max Butting. The film was a great success, making a lasting impression on people such as Bernhard Diebold, film reviewer for the Frankfurter Zeitung, and Oskar Fischinger, future avant-garde filmmaker in his own right. Ruttmann went on to produce three more completely abstract films, Opus II, Opus III, and Opus IV, which were all well recieved at the time.
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