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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a German short film documentary from 1929, 4 years before the
Nazis came into power. The original running times was 40 minutes and
this is also why this is still classified as a short film (44 minutes
max.), even if the runtime of the restored version is actually 49
minutes. The director is Walter Ruttmann, one of Germany's most famous
of the 1920s and 1930s. Now the writer stated on the title page here is
Wolfgang Ruttmann. I don't know if it is a relative of the director or
just an error as Walter Ruttmann was also known for writing his own
I don't know if this film had anything to do with the world's fair 1929 in Barcelona, but it would have made a nice way to advertise it. For this is really a multicultural movie. We see people from all areas of the world, culture and architecture from everywhere too. And sports. And a lot more. Occasionally, we see some industry shots and these are probably the most boring part of the film. We hear people talk at some occasions and when we don't we hear music in this restored version. All in all, I would say, this black-and-white movie is only worth a watch for the people depicted in there, so we see how different life was over 85 years ago and how different people were. I personally found it dragged at some occasions. Keeping this more essential at 20-25 minutes may have been the better choice. Only watch this if you really love very old black and white documentaries. Oh yeah, and you get to see George Bernard Shaw in motion here too.
'Melody of the World' is one of the very first German sound films.
Although this film was produced more than a year after 'The Jazz
Singer' (which isn't really the *first* talkie, but let it pass),
'Melody of the World' seems to be firmly convinced of its own
importance as the *first* talking picture, or at any rate the first one
seen and heard by German audiences.
We first hear the blast of a steam whistle as an ocean liner pulls out of Hamburg's harbour. A breathless narrator excitedly tells us that we're embarking on a voyage round the world, and we will be witnessing sights and sounds from many nations.
From here, the film is a melange of travelogue clips. People of diverse nationalities offer bland good-will messages directly to the camera; these are intercut with wildlife scenes from exotic climes. I suppose that the opportunity to see these things -- and, even more so, to *hear* them -- was exciting for cinema audiences in 1929.
Near the end of this film, we are treated to a rather static conversation between George Bernard Shaw and English film director Ivor Montague. Their discussion is self-conscious and stilted, with neither man displaying much screen presence. In dialogue that sounds suspiciously rehearsed, the two men agree that this wondrous new invention, the talking picture, will dissolve boundaries between nations and between people. I found this wishful thinking to be more than slightly ironic. In the days of *silent* film, movies were praised as a universal visual language that had no national barriers. It was only with the arrival of sound recording -- when each movie had to acquire its native tongue -- that films ceased to be universal.
Most of the photography in 'Melodie der Welt' is clumsy even by 1929 standards, but this is likely down to the unwieldy sound-recording equipment that was necessary at that time. More for its historical significance than for its entertainment value, I'll rate this movie 6 out of 10.
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