“Why don’t you make a film about Berlin – without a story?” Allegedly a casual question from screenwriter Carl Mayer inspired director Walter Ruttmann to a masterpiece. Ruttmann’s documentary Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis, which premiered in Berlin’s Tauentzien Palace in September 1927, meticulously recounts a day in the life of the old capital of the German Reich. From the deserted streets at daybreak to the bustle of the day and the amusements of the night – Walter Ruttmann’s cameras are always in on the action. We encounter workers, white-collar workers and schoolchildren, observe senior councillors going about their business, follow models on the catwalk, and see beggars in the depths of poverty. The rhythm of the metropolis is unrelenting when cars, streetcars and express trains clatter through the scene.
Applying montage techniques which were revolutionary at the time, Ruttmann, a trained architect and painter, presents the big city with all its contrasts: love, marriage and death, the bloody work in the slaughterhouse, light summer days at the Wannsee and the exoticism of the zoo. Berlin – die Sinfonie der Großstadt shows a city that no longer exists. In this respect, Walter Ruttmann’s film is one of the most significant contemporary documents of Berlin between the two world wars. For one evening, Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall will be transformed into a huge silent movie cinema. Guy Bovet will prevail at the organ. The Swiss master of his craft is one of the most famous organists of our times, as well as a professed cineaste and altogether musical all-rounder. Roll it!