Excerpt from Komposition in Blau (Composition in Blue), 1935, by Oskar Fischinger. The full film, in a new HD transfer from nitrate, is on the brand new Oskar Fischinger: Visual Music DVD! More info, title list, trailer, and ORDER info here: centerforvisualmusic.org/Fischinger/newdvd.htm
"Erna Niemeyer-Soupault also claims that she photographed Rhythmus 21 and Rhythmus 23 in 1925 and 1926, and that these films were based on visual designs that Eggeling had laid out. Contradicting hers are two other asserions. First, Werner Graeff (who certainly doesn't hold Richter blameless in his treatment of collaborators) claims that he worked on Rhythmus 23 (which, when he met Richter, was called Fuge in Rot und Grun) and that it was completed in 1922. Second, Marion von Hofacker states (without giving the evidence) in her "Chronology" of Richter's career (in Foster, Hans Richter) that Film ist Rhythmus was shown at the final Dada soiree, Soiree du coeur de barbe. Against Graeff's claim is the fact that the publicity flyer for Novembergruppe's Filmmatinee, for May 3, 1925, lists only one film by Richter, Film ist Rhythmus. Given Richter's support for causes like those espoused by the Novembergruppe, it is hard to imagine that Rhythmus 23 would not have been shown it had been finished. And Hofacker's misidentification of Film ist Rhythmus as Rhythmus 23 - actually, the test strip that Richter showed under the title Film ist Rhythmus is only part of the middle of Rhythmus 23 - weighs against the authority of her assertions." (R. Bruce Elder, Harmony and Dissent: Film and Avant-Garde Art Movements in the Early Twentieth Century, p195)
"Born in Sweden to a family of German origin, Viking Eggeling emigrated to Germany at the age of 17, where he became a bookkeeper, and studied art history as well as painting. From 1911 to 1915 he lived in Paris, then moved to Switzerland at the outbreak of World War I. In Zurich he became a associated with the Dada movement, became a friend of Hans Richter, Jean Arp, Tristan Tzara, and Marcel Janco. With the end of the Great War he moved to Germany with Richter where both explored the depiction of movement, first in scroll drawings and then on film. In 1922 Eggeling bought a motion picture camera, and working without Richter, sought to create a new kind of cinema. Axel Olson, a young Swedish painter, wrote to his parents in 1922 that Eggeling was working to “evolve a musical-cubistic style of film—completely divorced from the naturalistic style.” In 1923 he showed a now lost, 10 minute film based on an earlier scroll titled Horizontal-vertical Orchestra. In the summer of 1923 he began work on Symphonie Diagonale. Paper cut-outs and then tin foil figures were photographed a frame at a time. Completed in 1924, the film was shown for the first time (privately) on November 5. On May 3, 1925 it was presented to the public in Germany; sixteen days later Eggeling died in Berlin." (Louise O’Konor, Viking Eggeling 1880–1925)
"While he was working on Symphonie Diagonale, Eggeling was evolving a theory based on his film experiments and his studies of form and colour. He called his theory Eidodynamik [visual dynamics]. Little is kown about it, but the fundamental principle was the projection of coloured lights against the sky to bear the elements of form." (Jennifer Valcke, Static Films and Moving Pictures: Montage in Avant-Garde Photography and Film, p172)
"Richter, on the other hand, decided to adopt an entirely new strategy: rather than attempting to visually orchestrate formal patterns, he focused instead on the temporality of the cinematic viewing experience by emphasizing movement and the shifting relationship of form elements in time. His major creative breakthrough, in other words, was the discovery of cinematic rhythm, which he then used as the title of his first film, Film ist Rhythmus: Rhythmus ’21 (Film is Rhythm: Rhythm 21, 1921). For Richter, rhythm, “as the essence of emotional expression”, was connected to a Bergsonian life force: 'Rhythm expresses something different from thought. The meaning of both is incommensurable. Rhythm cannot be explained completely by thought nor can thought be put in terms of rhythm, or converted or reproduced. They both find their connection and identity in common and universal human life, the life principle, from which they spring and upon which they can build further'.
The determining impulse for all of Richter’s early film work, visual rhythm, as articulated time, was used to organize the constituent spatial elements of a film into a unified whole.
In Rhythmus ’21, generally considered to be the first completely abstract film, Richter used these principles to create a work of remarkable structural cohesion. Completed by using stop motion and forward and backward printing in addition to an animation table, the film consists of a continuous flow of rectangular and square shapes that “move” forward, backward, vertically, and horizontally across the screen. Syncopated by an uneven rhythm, forms grow, break apart and are fused together in a variety of configurations for just over three minutes (at silent speed). The constantly shifting forms render the spatial situation of the film ambivalent, an idea that is reinforced when Richter reverses the figure-background relationship by switching, on two occasions, from positive to negative film.
In so doing, Richter draws attention to the flat rectangular surface of the screen, destroying the perspectival spatial illusion assumed to be integral to film’s photographic base, and emphasizing instead the kinetic play of contrasts of position, proportion and light distribution. By restricting himself to the use of square shapes and thus simplifying his compositions, Richter was able to concentrate on the arrangement of the essential elements of cinema: movement, time and light. Disavowing the beauty of “form” for its own sake, Rhythmus ’21 instead expresses emotional content through the mutual interaction of forms moving in contrast and relation to one another. Nowhere is this more evident than in the final “crescendo” of the film, in which all of the disparate shapes of the film briefly coalesce into a Mondrian-like spatial grid before decomposing into a field of pure light.
According to Richter, the original version of Rhythmus ’21 was never shown publicly in Berlin. At the behest of Theo van Doesberg, however, it was shown in Paris in 1921, with Richter introduced as a Dane due to anti-German sentiment. In May 1922, Richter travelled with van Doesberg and El Lissitzky to the First International Congress of Progressive Artists, where they formed the International Faction of Constructivism. In a group manifesto, written by Richter, they define the progressive artist 'as one who denies and fights the predominance of subjectivity in art and does not create his work on the basis of random chance, but rather on the new principles of artistic creation by systematically organizing the media to a generally understandable expression'." (Richard Suchenski, Hans Richter, http://sensesofcinema.com/2009/great-directors/hans-richter/)