Melodie der Welt (1929)

aka Melody of the World
Article 4279 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-2-2013
Directed by Walter Ruttmann
Featuring Ivan Koval-Samborsky, Renee Stobrawa, Grace Chiang
Country: Germany
What it is: Abstract documentary

A visual and musical symphony is composed about the universalities of human existence around the glove.

Much of what I’ve been watching lately have been listings from Walt Lee’s Reference Guide to Fantastic Films, and it’s one of the first books I’ve encountered that includes a lot of abstract films, the argument being that abstraction is to some extent borderline fantasy. He includes this film because there are a few scenes of abstract shapes, and I think that means the shots at the beginning and end of the movie that are supposed to emulate looking at the planets in outer space. If so, then you should know that these scenes are very short, and that makes the film extremely marginal in terms of its fantastic content at best.

Still, I have a real admiration for this audacious film. If any film I’ve seen could be said to be about everything, this might be the one. It covers a plethora of human experiences, with scenes from around the globe juxtaposed with each other showing how universal many of these experiences are. It’s structured like a piece of music, and much of the soundtrack is music in the conventional sense. However, it will occasionally include ambient sounds and dialogue used in musical ways as well. The juxtaposition of images is often fascinating and witty, flowing from one them to the next, and even without the juxtaposition, some of the scenes are very interesting to watch. There are a few recurring characters to tie the whole thing together, though that’s a far cry from saying that this movie really has a plot. For an abstract movie, it’s a bit on the long side (it’s forty-eight minutes long), but it managed to do a very good job of holding my attention.

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