Posters from famous as well as rarely seen or lost Berlin UFA films from the 1920s and 30s portray women as heroines or seductresses, debutantes or harlots. From Sumurun to Metropolis, women are vying for power in male-dominated films.
Universum Film AG (UFA), founded in 1917 near Berlin, was Germany’s leading film production company during the interwar years. With its critically acclaimed films and major stars, UFA became an important international rival of the American film industry.
In its early decades, UFA accompanied film releases with elaborate advertising campaigns. In Berlin and Vienna, the two German-language cinema capitals, exclusive movie premiere posters were presented on advertising pillars, walls, and billboards weeks before the release of a new film. Frequently, UFA commissioned up to three large-scale graphic artworks for major productions.
With this selection of UFA posters, the Goethe-Institut examines the range of female images from the era, as embodied by actresses like Pola Negri, Marlene Dietrich, Brigitte Helm, and Lilian Harvey. The posters illustrate classic films, such as those by Ernst Lubitsch and Fritz Lang, two directors who later went on to major careers in Hollywood. In addition to canonical works of international cinema history, largely forgotten UFA titles are also examined, such as Robert A. Stemmle’s Dangerous Crossing
and Karl Hartl’s F.P.1 Doesn't Answer
For their advertising campaigns, UFA commissioned some of the best graphic designers of the time – artists such as, Theo Matejko, Josef Fenneker, Werner Graul, Robert L. Leonard, and Peter Pewas. Their illustrative works, like the films being promoted, were deeply influenced by the contemporary 1920s artistic movements of Expressionism and Neue Sachlichkeit.
While in Washington, this exhibition will be accompanied by screenings of two films from the exhibition in order to further contend with the depth of women’s roles in the cinema of the 1920s and 30s:
Thursday, March 8, 6:30 pm
Thursday, March 15, 6:30 pm
The Congress Dances (Der Kongress Tanzt)
The UFA-Plakat: Filmpremieren 1918 bis 1943
is a joint project by the Austrian National Library, the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek, and the Goethe-Institut.
Early UFA Film Posters: Projecting Women
originally curated by Jutta Brendemühl, Goethe-Institut Toronto. Recurated and expanded for Washington, D.C. by Peter Sproule, Goethe-Institut Washington.