Walter Ruttmann

ruttmann coverWalter Ruttmann and the Cinema of Multiplicity

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 avant-garde, 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 Ruttmann’s significance in light of recent transformations in film studies. Rather than a biography of a filmmaker, 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 contemporary strategies for managing the multiplicities of mass society — strategies of perception management, but also the governing of populations — from Weimar democracy to National Socialism. In so doing, it also reframes the debate concerning the relation between modernist experimentation and fascist aesthetics.


  • Winner of the Willy Haas Award for best monograph on German cinema
  • Finalist for the Kraszna Krausz book award in the category of moving image
  • Honourable mention for the book award of the British Association of Film and Television Studies Scholars

Selected Reviews