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Ghosts Before Breakfast (1928)

Vormittagsspuk (original title)
Hans Richter, noted for his abstract shorts, has everyday objects rebelling against their daily routine.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Werner Graeff
Walter Gronostay
Paul Hindemith
Darius Milhaud
Madeleine Milhaud
Jean Oser
Willi Pferdekamp
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Storyline

This film embraces the ideals of Dadism, as it shows a series of nonsensical images tied together by four floating bowler hats, which often transform into something else, and a clock ticking down the time. Some of the images include a man's bow-tie with a life of its own, a shooting range whose target continually changes from its standard concentric rings to a man's revolving head, a geometric pattern of guns, a group of men seemingly looking for something, a spool of a water hose, opening and closing windows, a group of people effectively hiding behind a narrow pole, a budding branch, the changing views of men's faces and the back of women's heads, human male legs in various movements, men fighting, and rotting smiles. All of this happens before men sit down for breakfast, when the bowlers find their final resting places. Written by Huggo

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Short

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Release Date:

14 July 1928 (Germany)  »

Also Known As:

Ghosts Before Breakfast  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Trivia

Only one reel containing roughly six minutes of footage survived the Nazi Party's attempted purge of the film. See more »

Crazy Credits

In the English version, the opening title card states: "The Nazis destroyed the sound version of this film as 'degenerate art'. It shows that even objects revolt against regimentation." See more »

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User Reviews

 
Domestic Insanity
8 December 2008 | by See all my reviews

Well, I'm pretty much speechless. Avant-garde cinema often does that to me. What can I say? What can I possibly say about a film that features eerie floating bowler hats terrorising a group of young businessmen? Director Hans Richter developed a reputation for bizarre, abstract film-making, and I can certainly say that 'Ghosts Before Breakfast (1928)' fits the bill nicely. There's a certain charm to it – a rhythmic editing tempo that retains its momentum throughout the running time, even if there appears to be little apparent connection between the wacky visual sequences with which Richter presents us. The best way to describe the film is that it presents ordinary-looking household objects behaving in peculiar ways, whether that be the levitating hats, the disappearing beards, the self-spooling fire hose or the rickety ladder that doesn't lead to anywhere. Whether the director is trying to make some sort of obscure philosophical point, or simply having fun with all manner of optical trickery, fans of the surreal will surely relish this brief snippet of domestic insanity.

Richter uses stop-motion animation extensively, it being one of the simplest ways to simulate motion. The result of this technique is movement that is oddly fractured and dream-like, a warped reality that doesn't quite make rational sense {director Norman McLaren also recognised how disorientatingly-unreal this pixilation technique feels, and later used it to interesting effect in his own short film, 'Neighbours (1952)'}. The flying hats are probably dangling on wires, though I couldn't spot any, and it must have taken a lot of practice to perform the aerial motion without tangling the support lines. Also present in the director's bag of tricks are numerous double-exposures, cross-fades and blurred photography. Richter delights in toying with the concept of time, frequently repeating the same shots over and over – sometimes reversed, sometimes sped up, sometimes slowed down – such that the characters' movements lead nowhere. Is he implying something about our everyday dependence upon trivial household possessions, and that we can't get anywhere without them? Well, I don't know; I just thought it was zany.


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