Walter Ruttmann is known as a key figure of early avant-garde cinema, a pioneer in experimental animation and the creative force behind one of the silent period's most celebrated montage films 'Berlin: Symphony of a Great City' (1927). But like many of his contemporaries in the Weimar avant-garde film scene, Ruttmann also worked in advertising, and he would go on to make numerous other types of "useful" films, such as industrial films, medical films and - more controversially - National Socialist propaganda. The first study of Ruttmann in English, 'Walter Ruttmann and the Cinema of Multiplicity' sheds light on this neglected aspect of Ruttmann's filmmaking, but it also rethinks his significance in light of recent transformations in film studies. Rather than a biography of Ruttmann, the book offers a critical reflection on the imbrications between avant-garde and industrial society in the early 20th century. In particular, it shows how Ruttmann's filmmaking incorporated and enacted strategies for managing the multiplicities of mass society from Weimar democracy to National Socialism. In so doing, it also reframes the debate concerning the relation between modernist experimentation and fascist aesthetics. -Michael Cowan is Associate Professor, at the Department of German Studies and Program in World Cinemas at McGill University, Canada.
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