German Film 1
Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou’s
Die Frau im Mond (1929)
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Part I
Introduction
The 4 lectures
• 1. Die Frau im Mond (1929) (screening
Thursday 1st week, 7.45pm)
• 2. Zu neuen Ufern (1937)
• 3. In jenen Tagen (1947) (screening
Thurs 3rd week, 7.45pm)
• 3. Das Mädchen Rosemarie (1958)
My general line
• Slogan: “The meaning of a film is its
use”
– Cf. For a large class of cases--though not for all--in which we
employ the word "meaning" it can be defined thus: the
meaning of a word is its use in the language.
Ludwig Wittgestein, Philosophical Investigations, §43
• Occasions where film is used
– Cf. We don’t start from certain words, but from certain
occasions or activities.’ (p. 3)
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lectures and Conversations on
Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief (1938,
published 1966)
More on my general line
• Just focusing on reception, conditions of
distribution v. looking at developing
conventions of narrative cinema. “Ordinary
Language” of film
– Cf. “Our common stock of words embodies all th edistinctions men
have found worth drawing, and the connexions they have found
worth marking, in lifetimes of many generations”
– J. L. Austin, ‘A Pleas for Excuses,’ Philosophical Papers 3rd ed., p.
182
• Narrative cinema: film used for reflecting on
our reasons for doing things
– Cf. Heidegger, Being and Time, §18. Encountering things as part
of a purpose, towards an aim. Always already involved in reasons
for doing things
1st example:
• A film from 1929
– Transition from silent to sound (Ich küsse ihre
Hand , Madame premiere 17 Jan 1929)
– Pre-Wall St crash/political success of NSDAP
– Material easily available: Gandert, Gero, ed. Der
Film Der Weimarer Republik 1929: Ein Handbuch
Der Zeitgenössischen Kritik. Berlin: de Gruyter,
1993
Lang/Harbou Die Frau im
Mond
• Lang/Harbou’s last silent film
• Popular success plus Critical
engagement with developing
conventions of narrative cinema
• Question of the right sort of narrative
explicitly addressed in the reception
Frau im Mond: the plot
• Helius disappointed in love embarking
on moon voyage with Manfeldt. Evil
financial syndicate trying to gain access
to gold reserves on the moon
Part II
Reception of Lang and Harbou’s
film
Reception of the film
• “Der ganze Phantasterei der Vorgeschichte und die
ganze Utopie der Mondfahrt scheint nur in Szene
gesetzt, damit sich die beiden endlich finden […]. Die
Liebesgeschichte vermag den großen Apparat nicht
zu durchdringen.”
• D. "„Frau Im Mond.“ Ufa-Palast Am Zoo." Der Abend,
16th October 1929
• “The cosmic enterprise was staged with a surprising
veracity of vision; the plot was pitiable for its
emotional shortcomings.”
• Kracauer, Siegried. From Caligari to Hitler: A
Psychological History of German Film. Princeton:
Princeton UP, 1947, p. 151.
• Ziese, Max. "Fritz Lang: „Frau Im Mond“." Deutsche
Allgemeine Zeitung, 16th October 1929.
More recent assessment of
Frau im Mond
• Reactionary modernism?
– Cf. Rainer Eisfeld’s afterword to Harbou,
Thea von. Die Frau Im Mond. Edited by
Rainer Eisfeld. Munich: Heyne, 1989.
Counter-example
• Asphalt (1929), dir.
Joe May. Starring
Gustav Fröhlich and
Betty Amann.
• Reviews available in
Gandert 1993.
Part III
Reasons for doing things on the
moon
Professor Manfeldt’s idolatry of gold
reserves in Die Frau im Mond (1929).
Reasons for doing things in the novel
• “»Wer wandert, der kommt ans Ziel […]. Ja,
ja — nur muß man den Ehrgeiz zu Hause
lassen. Wer einfach wandert und wandert,
der wird es zuletzt erleben, daß alle Dinge
der Welt ihm entgegengehen. Sie kommen
ganz sacht auf ihn zu und sagen: Da sind
wir!« (Die Frau im Mond, pp. 94-95).
• “»Ich habe die Wahrheit getan. Begreifst du
mich nicht? Die Wahrheit ist, daß ich lieber
mit dir in den Wüsten des Mondes sterben
will, als ohne dich leben in den Paradiesen
der Erde«” (Die Frau im Mond, p. 206).
Intellectual context
• Heidegger’s Being and Time (1927)
• Critical commentary: Adorno, Theodor
W. Jargon Der Eigentlichkeit. Frankfurt
a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1964.
The axis of action
Crossing the axis of action
Showing people’s backs
Cinematic traditions
Cinematic traditions
Bordwell, David. The Way Hollywood Tells It:
Story and Style in Modern Movies. Berkeley:
University of California Press, 2006.
Bordwell, David, Janet Staiger, and Kristin
Thompson. The Classical Hollywood Cinema:
Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960.
London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985
The material world in the foreground
in sharper focus than the characters
Foregrounding objects
Administering medical
assistance on the moon
Lunar exploration as a suitable
subject for being filmed
Movement by or in front of the
camera
Cultural context
• Neufeld, Michael J. "Weimar Culture
and Futuristic Technology: The Rocketry
and Spaceflight Fad in Germany, 192319233." Technology and Culture 31, no.
4 (1990): 525-52.
Uses of photography
• Anonymous. "Ausstellung Film Und
Photo." Berliner Börsen-Zeitung, 16th
October 1929
• “ein riesiges Aufgebot von Effekten,
deren Schauwert nicht allzu groß ist, mit
innerer Leere.”
• D. "„Frau Im Mond.“ Ufa-Palast Am Zoo." Der
Abend, 16th October 1929
Recent assessment
• Die Frau im Mond “is a film in which
Lang seems to bypass character in
favor of a drama of technology.”
• Gunning, Tom. The Films of Fritz Lang:
Allegories of Vision and Modernity. London: bfi,
2000, p. 173

German Film 1913-1994