Absolute film

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Four frames from "Diagonal-Symphonie"

Absolute film is an experimental film movement that was popularized by a group of artists in Germany in the 1920s: Hans Richter, Walter Ruttmann, Oskar Fischinger and the Swede Viking Eggeling.

These artists present different approaches to abstraction-in-motion: as an analogue to music, or as the creation of an absolute language of form, a desire common to early abstract art. Ruttmann wrote of his film work as "painting in time". [1] They used rudimentary handicraft, techniques, and language in their short motion pictures that refuted the reproduction of the natural world, instead, focusing on light and form in the dimension of time, impossible to represent in static visual arts.

In 1926, Hans Richter stated that the absolute film originated in the scroll sketches that Viking Eggeling made in 1917–1918.[2]


Absolute film was shaped by early 20th century art movements such as Cubism, Expressionism, Dadaism, Suprematism, Futurism, and possible others.[3] These art movements were beginning to gain momentum in the 1910's. Many authors have described abstract film as visual paintings because of their resemblance to art.[4] It wasn't until the 1920's that abstract artists began connecting art with cinema and created the Absolute Film movement. Absolute film pioneers sought to create short length and breathtaking films that used elements such as art, film, movement, and music. [5] Some of the earliest and most influential absolute films include the Opus series (1921–1925) by Walter Ruttmann, and the Rhythmus series (1921–1925) by Hans Richter.[6]

Musical Influence[edit]

Music was an extremely influential aspects of absolute film and Other than art, one of the biggest elements used by Abstract Film directors. Absolute film directors are known to use musical elements such as rhythm/tempo, dynamics, and fluidity.[7] These directors sought to use this to add a sense of motion and harmony to the images in their films that was new to cinema, and was intended to leave audiences in awe.[8] In her article "Visual Music" Maura McDonnell even compared these film's to musical compositions due to their careful articulation of timing and dynamics.[9]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ "C Keefer - Space Light Art excerpt". www.centerforvisualmusic.org.
  2. ^ G: Zeitschrift für elementare Gestaltung, nr 5-6, 1926, p.5. English reprint edition edited by Detlef Mertins & Michael W. Jennings; Translated by Steven Lindberg & Margareta Ingrid Christian; Tate Publishing, 2010.
  3. ^ "The Avant-Garde Cinema of the 1920s: Connections to Futurism, Precisionism, and Suprematism". Leonardo. 17 (2): 108–112. Jan 14, 1984 – via Project MUSE.
  4. ^ "Avant-Garde Film". BRILL. 1 January 2007 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "Moritz-Absolute Films of the 1920s". www.centerforvisualmusic.org.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Rogowski, Christian (15 December 2018). "The Many Faces of Weimar Cinema: Rediscovering Germany's Filmic Legacy". Camden House – via Google Books.
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ McDonnell, Maura. "CEC — eContact! 15.4 — Visual Music by Maura McDonnell". CEC - Canadian Electroacoustic Community.
  10. ^ "CVM-Moritz-AbsoluteFilm". www.centerforvisualmusic.org.


  • James, David, The Most Typical Avant-Garde [UC Press]
  • Malcolm Le Grice, Abstract Film and Beyond. [MIT Press, 1981]
  • William Moritz, Optical Poetry. [Indiana University Press, 2004]
  • Sitney, P. Adams, Visionary Film [Oxford University Press, 2002]
  • William Wees, Light Moving in Time. [University of California Press, 1992]
  • Bassan, Raphaël, Cinema and abstraction : from Bruno Corra to Hugo Verlinde Senses of Cinema, No. 61, December 2011