Absolute Advertising: Walter Ruttmann and the Weimar Advertising Film

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Essays by members
Cinema Journal, University of Texas Press

Examining Walter Ruttmann’s early animated advertisements in relation both to his Opus films and to contemporary advertising psychology, this article argues that advertising, far from representing a marginal phenomenon or a compromise of artistic integrity, was central to Ruttmann’s professional identity as an avant-garde filmmaker. In so doing, I also seek to reframe our understanding of abstract animation in the 1920s as a form profoundly compatible with capitalist modernity and its regulation of perception. Through their combination of abstraction and figuration, Ruttmann’s advertisements sought to incorporate contemporary theories of advertising pleasure and activate spectatorial competencies specific to the newly commodified spheres of post–World War I Germany.