Seven 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, accompanied film releases in its early decades with elaborate advertising campaigns. Frequently, up to three graphic artworks were commissioned for large productions. In Berlin and Vienna, the two German-language cinema capitals, exclusive movie premiere posters were commissioned by UFA and presented on advertising pillars, walls, and billboards weeks before the release.
With seven early posters, the Goethe-Institut is showing the range of female images of that era, embodied by actresses such as Pola Negri, Brigitte Helm, and Sybille Schmitz. The posters also illustrate some films by directors who later went on to Hollywood: Ernst Lubitsch is represented with Sumurun
, Fritz Lang with Metropolis
. In addition to advertising classic films that went down in international film history, also being shown are largely forgotten UFA titles such as Robert A. Stemmle’s Dangerous Crossing
and Karl Hartl’s F.P.1 Doesn't Answer
The posters were designed by the best graphic designers of their time; artists such as Robert L. Leonard, Theo Matejko, Josef Fenneker, Werner Graul, Heinz Schulz-Neudamm, and Peter Pewas. Their works, like the films they promote, were influenced by the contemporary 1920s styles of Expressionism and Neue Sachlichkeit. Following the takeover of power by the National Socialists in 1933, the state gradually began to exert control over the entire German film industry.
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 pm
Thursday, March 15, 6 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.
Poster selection and accompanying readings curated by Jutta Brendemühl, Goethe-Institut Toronto