Walter Ruttmann

Walter Ruttmann (28 December 1887 – 15 July 1941) was a German cinematographer and film director, and along with Hans Richter, Viking Eggeling and Oskar Fischinger was the most important German representative of abstract experimental film. He is best known for directing the semi-documentary 'city symphony' silent film Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis. His audio montage Wochenende (1930) is considered a major contribution in the development of audio plays.

Walter Ruttmann
Born(1887-12-28)28 December 1887
Died15 July 1941(1941-07-15) (aged 53)
Berlin, Germany
OccupationFilm director
Years active1921–1941
Notable work
Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt


Ruttmann was born in Frankfurt am Main; he studied architecture and painting and worked as a graphic designer. His film career began in the early 1920s. His first abstract short films, Lichtspiel: Opus I (1921) and Opus II (1923), were experiments with new forms of film expression, and the influence of these early abstract films can be seen in some of the early work of Oskar Fischinger. Ruttmann and his colleagues of the avant garde movement enriched the language of film as a medium with new formal techniques.

In 1926 he worked with Julius Pinschewer on Der Aufsteig, an experimental film advertising the GeSoLei trade fair in Düsseldorf.

Ruttmann was a prominent exponent of both avant-garde art and music. His early abstractions played at the 1929 Baden-Baden Festival to international acclaim despite their being almost eight years old. Ruttmann licensed a Wax Slicing machine from Oskar Fischinger to create special effects for Lotte Reiniger's 1926 animated fairy tale film The Adventures of Prince Achmed. Together with Erwin Piscator, he worked on the film Melody of the World (1929), though he is best remembered for Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis, 1927).

During the Nazi period he worked as an assistant to director Leni Riefenstahl on Triumph of the Will (1935). He died in Berlin in 1941 due to an embolism after surgery.

Culture and MediaEdit

Segments from Ruttmann's experimental films Lichtspiel: Opus II (1923) and Lichtspiel: Opus IV (1925) are used in the credits of the German neo-noir television series Babylon Berlin.[1]

Select filmographyEdit

Lichtspiel Opus I (1921)
Lichtspiel Opus II (1922)

Further readingEdit

  • Cowan, Michael. Walter Ruttmann and the Cinema of Multiplicity: Avant-garde-Advertising-Modernity. Amsterdam, NL: Amsterdam University Press, 2014. ISBN 9789089645852
  • Dombrug, Adrianus van. Walter Ruttmann in het beginsel. Purmerend, NL: J. Muusses, 1956.
  • Goergen, Jeanpaul. Walter Ruttmann: eine Dokumentation. Berlin: Freunde der deutschen Kinemathek, 1989. ISBN 9783927876002
  • Rogers, Holly and Jeremy Barham The Music and Sound of Experimental Film. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. ISBN 9780190469900
  • Quaresima, Leonard, editor. Walter Ruttmann: cinema, pittura, ars acustica. Calliano (Trento), Italy: Manfrini, 1994. ISBN 9788870245035


  1. ^ Vallen, Mark (2018-04-03). "The Truth About Babylon Berlin". Art For A Change. Retrieved 2020-03-22.

External linksEdit