Ruttman-Weekend

Ruttman-Weekend - amu rwmh_WW.MMWMW.WH~1.Wflm 91.mfimflm,“m «gym a MTV WWNN — the whole which gives birth to each separate part which binds

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Unformatted text preview: amu- rwmh._WW-.MMWMW.WH~1( .Wflm 91.....mfimflm ,“m. «gym. a MTV WWNN — the whole which gives birth to each separate part, which binds these parts into one complete entity, and the image whereof the author, and later the spectator, experiences the given theme.” (Translated from the Russian by Val Telberg) 3mm SOUND MONTAGE: A PROPOS DE RUTTMANN By Paul Falkenberg Landmarks in the history of the Cinema are, as a rule, as notice- able as they are self—explanatory and remain as fascinating today" as they Were when first shown. We could leave elaborate commentary then to historical special- ists, were it not for the creator of such landmarks, the artists who deserve to be remembered. In motion pictures the personal sign- ature always has been, and still is, the exception, particularly in an age Where the “faceless crowd” threatens to cancel out the indi- vidual note and proposes to dispense with the personal touch. One more reason to pay hommage to personalities creative in this cooperative-collectiVe medium of film. Walther Ruttmann left the imprint of his personality on evory one of his films, from Berlin to the Melody of the World. In devel- oping this new genre of poetic film essay, Ruttmann clearly realized that to make sense as a film poet he would have to make sense cinematically. In any medium the poet’s task consists. in Milton’s words, of "untwisting:r all the chains that tie the hidden soul of harmony . . .” This hidden soul Ruttmann started out to discover by the use of association in creating his dynamic, multiform and syncretic mon- tages. “This approach, which today is still somewhat neglected and frowned upon, ofiers the most fascinating and important possibili- ties of montage-editing . . .” Hans Richter wrote that thirty years ago. It still holds true today. As a sound craftsman Rnttmann bases his procedure on the straightforward use of his tool, the film. He 60 performs the intrinsic task of the film-i incidentally, exemplified in an ideal dissociate, er naker —- editor {which he, merger). lle associates the out of the incongruous. hination of images and sounds produces iation from clearly and I I I A ssociative sequence is to bring out. This involves constant probing not unlike the composer's search for tonality within a strongly chromatic tex- ture of sounds. In joining the context of a sequence while retaining its content char dividuality and pools it w and subsequent shots. The , each image actcristics, releases some of its in ith similar contributions from preceding chain reaction of the lil ' posed sequence, thus presenting the ty 1 n ‘- the Gestalt of an age, a socrety, an idea. And as this poetic creatiori evolves more cinematicallv, Le. visually, the birth of the film poem takes place before our very eyes ~— the hitherto unrelated inter- what had been foreign twine, the opposite melt into each other, has become familiar, nothing is extraneous or incur longer, similia contrariis cttmntur. The ephemeral becomes the re. flection of the permanent. in the edited association the film is horn Such a film-maker was Walther ' and a musician. His instrument was discipline of his medium perme field of Radio. In 1930 the Ber missioned him to do a sound-d fifteen minutes Ruttmann evokes men, from Friday night when w the alarm clock calls the yawnin igruous any littlltttultn: a pioneer, a poet that of him. And thus, the ates l'luttniannis only effort in the litt Broadcasting System had com- ocuinentary, entitled Weekend. In the “melody” of lives of common ork ends to Monday morning when I g weekender to the daily grind. He recorded this erat sonare not on records but on sound-film. Thus he achieved the freedom which he required technicallv to perform his task. He needed minute “cuts,” sliced to microscopic thinness You cannot cut records that way. And there was no magnetic tape .q nus-vb nun-av. nun-on. mm».- .ur~mpmwn- yum-H-e-I-n. Wyn-W We”... .,..m wwwmw «av-“'Wm‘“' " 61 in those days. Only film will give you this ear, the trained ear of the musician, discov the harmonies and dissonances in the vast ma flexibility. lluttmann's ercd the inner score, ss of sounds he choose to record. He spurns “mixing” techniques [barely developed in Germany at that time) which might have given him an easily co- ordinated consonance. He never eschews the birthright and late of film: subsequence in space. Yet, he manages this restriction with such imaginative mastery that sounds, obviously following each other in the space of the recorded track, seem to originate concur- rently in time, at the same moment, seem to overlap each other and harmonize like chords. Weekend is undoubtedly a sound~montagc. But it it cannot be classified as a motion picture, it is without mistake the work of u film-maker. Following the Berlin film, a silent Work, and his first sound film Melody of the World, Weekend appears as the logical sequel to the first and the epilogue to the second film. 011 hearing it today, Weekend may seem somewhat parochial in its use of the typically German Vernacular, quotation and music. But its common denominator, the warm reflection of human experience, and the driving, dynamic rhythm of its form, make this work a document of man’s hope and desperation that is still valid today and alive with meaning. Listening to this montage, it seems dcceivingly simple. but just as modern poetry has shaped our literary taste, so have montage techniques influenced our visual and aural habits. rlilcl' all, ltutt- menu’s H’eehemi has received the supreme accolade, liohcver silently and anonymously, when musigne concrete presented itself before a public unaware of its ancestry. liutttnann's artistic pcrspicacity was early recognized by the cognoscenti. I recall the morning when he introduced me to liené Clair on the set of Le dormer Millmrduirc. in the course of the conversation, Clair remarked: . . goe nous n’cnons ricn ujo'nté de nonvetm (1 ce que Walther nous a appris darts res films, at snrtout dons 5a Melodie du Monde.” There was much truth in this com- pliment as there was Gallic charm and compliment. Ruttmann knew that his breakthrough was incontcstahle, and he would have liked to have it appreciated more widely. He wanted acceptance by society when at the same time he realized that the poet’s fate carries with it a load of loneliness. Hence the tragedy of his life. Hence his search for success and acceptance in Fascist 62 Italy, and. worst of all, in Nazi Germany, as assistant of, of all people, Leni Riefenstahl. (Less than two years before, he had summed up his impression of her picture Dos Blane Lick! in a French pun of his own coinage; Beauties. Beauté and Bétise. Beauty and Stupid- ity.) This collaboration did not work. of course. it never could have. i am tempted to assume that deep down in himself Ruttman knew all this, and that eventually, he accepted loneliness. And once you accept isolation it does not matter where you live out your life of inner solitude. He had been fond of quating Cocteau’s bitter word -— Tom les pays sent inhabitable. So. it might not have mat- tered any longer to him where he lived his life, and in what manner he lived it out. In alcoholic oblivion, for example, as was the case of Ruttmann. At least that is the end which the memory of a friend- ship would like to grant him. And that is the reason why I have never bothered to focus the historian’s searching eye on the actual details and circumstances of his death. After all the poet writes his own predictions and his own epitaph. What i dimly felt when I heard Weekend many years ago, I am almost certain of now, with the wisdom of hindsight: Ruttmonn “knew” it all in some mysterious fashion, even in those melioribus armis before Hitler. His clan. vital was still too strong to give up life itself, even if he could not meet life’s terms. There was a sort of existentialist desperation in him. It can be heard at the end of his Weekend montage. lt winds up as it began: a male voice, interrupted by the eternal, inevitable “intereuts” of daily life, tries to obtain the telephone connection he had started out to get before. The last numeral of the phone number is the last sound of the montage. This last numeral in German is Null. Zero in English. The term {or the absolute Nothing. And the voice that speaks this number, speaks it intensely, des- perately, is the voice of ——- Walther Ruttmann. .. ‘m-u-HW' ...
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This note was uploaded on 10/22/2009 for the course VIS 262 taught by Professor Keithj.sanborn during the Spring '08 term at Princeton.

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Ruttman-Weekend - amu rwmh_WW.MMWMW.WH~1.Wflm 91.mfimflm,“m «gym a MTV WWNN — the whole which gives birth to each separate part which binds

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