Zille Films: Aestheticizing Socioeconomic Injustice in Weimar Berlin

CERS graduate lecture by Andréas-Benjamin Seyfert, PhD Candidate at the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies, UCLA

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Watch the recording of graduate student lecture Zille Films: Aestheticizing Socioeconomic Injustice in Weimar Berlin by Andréas-Benjamin Seyfert, PhD Candidate at the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies, UCLA. The webinar took place on February 7, 2023.


The Berlin graphic artist Heinrich Zille captured the Weimar Republic zeitgeist by satirizing and humanizing the lives of the urban poor in his drawings, photographs and captions. Zill became somewhat of a cult figure by the end of his life, bridging the gap between rich and poor through his widely popular illustrations. During this period, Zille's artworks were incorporated into other forms of popular culture. Albums, bars, balls, music, and films emerged, transforming Zille's characters and their milieu into consumer culture commodities. Ben's talk explores Zille films, arguing that they constituted their own film subgenre between 1925 and 1929, less reflective of the graphic artist who inspired them, but rather providing a starting point for a variety of socio-cultural interpretations of what it meant to be poor in Weimar Berlin. Zille's sketches sparked widely different films, many of which were politically at odds with one another. As such, culturally, the films mirrored Germany's own political polarization on the hot-button topic of impoverishment, particularly with downward social mobility a frequent and widespread occurrence in the country's interwar economy.


Andréas-Benjamin Seyfert is a PhD Candidate at the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies at UCLA. Ben's thesis focuses on the lost films of the late Weimar Republic, and his forthcoming publications include a volume about émigré filmmaker Wilhelm Thiele for Berghahn Books and an essay in the volume Aesthetics in Transition for Bloomsbury Academic. His previous publications include a chapter on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in cinema (Wallstein, 2016) and the methodic removal of German-Jewish talent from the Nazi film industry in 1933 (Berghahn, 2021). In addition to his concentration in gender studies, he holds a graduate certificate in digital humanities.

Photograph of the speaker by Aphinop Khuiphum. The original image has been cropped


Kalani Michell is Assistant Professor of Germanic Languages at the University of California Los Angeles. Prior to this, she worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the research collective (Graduiertenkolleg) “Configurations of Film” and as an Assistant Professor (wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin) in Media Studies at the Goethe University Frankfurt. She has taught and written about a wide range of media, including photography, comics, installation and performance art, print culture, film and media theory, sound studies, and media historiography.


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Duration: 01:27:04



Okay. So good afternoon,  

everyone, and welcome to the Center for European 

and Russian Studies and especially welcome to  

our quarterly graduate student lecture series. 

My name is Laurie Kain Hart, and I'm Professor  

of Anthropology and Global Studies and Director 

of the Center for European and Russian Studies.  

As is our custom here at UCLA, I 

want to acknowledge, first of all,  

that we are here on the territory of the Gabrielino/Tongva 

peoples, who are the traditional land caretakers of  

Tovaangar, the Los Angeles basin, and South 

Channel Islands. As a land grant institution,

we pay our respects to the ancestors, 

elders, and relatives and relations past,  

present and emerging. I would also like to thank 

our center's Executive Director, Liana Grancea,  

and our Outreach Director Lenka Unge, 

for their work on today's event and all else.   

I'm really happy to welcome Ben Seyfert,

Andréas-Benjamin Seyfert, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the  

Department of European Languages 

and Transcultural Studies at UCLA.

Ben's thesis focuses on the lost films of the late

Weimar Republic and his forthcoming publications  

include a volume about émigré filmmaker

Wilhelm Thiele for Bergen Books,  

and an essay in the volume Aesthetics 

in Transition for Bloomsbury Academic.  

His previous publications include a 

chapter on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe  

in cinema and the methodic removal of 

German-Jewish talent in the Nazi film Industry in 1933,

again from Bergen in 2021. In addition 

to his concentration in gender studies,  

he holds a graduate certificate 

in digital humanities.  

I'd also like to welcome Kalani Michell, who has 

kindly agreed to be our discussion today.  

She is Assistant Professor of Germanic Languages 

at the University of California, Los Angeles.  

Prior to this, she worked as a postdoctoral 

fellow in the research collective "Configurations  

of Films" and is an Assistant Professor in 

Media Studies at the University of Frankfurt.

She has taught and written about a wide range of 

media, including photography, comics, installation  

and performance art, print culture, film and media 

theory, sound studies, and media historiography.  

Her research on German cinema has examined 

concepts of surveillance, memory and  

home movies in Thomas Heise's "Barluschke", in 

East, West, and Center, invisibility techniques  

in a sci-fi film from the Third Reich, and 

experiments with moving image formats

in the late sixties. She has published 

on a variety of art and media topics.  

And currently, professor Michell is preparing 

her monograph "All in the Same Box: Unhinging  

Audiovisual Media in the 1960s and 1970s," which 

explores the transnational expansion of art,  

film and other medial objects outside of 

conventional exhibition contents during  

this time period. So we are really privileged 

to have professor Michell here with us today.


Can I ask the audience please, to put any 

questions that you have during or after  

the presentation in the Q&A box? And we will ask 

them of the presenters during the Q&A period.  

So with that, welcome, Ben! And I will turn the 

podium to you. Thank you, professor Hart,  

for this generous introduction. And good 

afternoon, everyone. I'm so grateful to be here  

today with all of you, and I wanted to extend a 

special thank you to Liana, Lenka, and Laurie Hart  

at the UCLA Center for European and 

Russian Studies for inviting me to  

give this 2022 graduate student lecture.

I'm truly honored and humbled to be here.  

So we can move on to the next slide. Perfect.

Thank you so much. During the interwar  

period in Germany, political tensions rose due to 

a financial crisis that included a long stretch  

of hyperinflation and the Great Depression. Heinrich Zille

was a graphic artist whose work provides us with a  

window into this period of wealth disparity.

His drawings, photographs and captions became  

iconic and capture the spirit of Weimar Berlin in 

a way that is both humorous and profoundly human.  

Sellers Art appeared in magazines and albums 

and even in consumer culture products like bars,  

balls, music and films. Between 1925 and 1929, a 

subgenre of films called Zille Films was born.  

While these films did reflect the hard 

realities of Germany's interwar economy,  

they also obscured their political messaging 

through a polished film art.  

From its origin to its conclusion, the Zille 

subgenre of films has undergone an incredible  

esthetic progression. From a privileged outsider's 

perspective, filmmakers like Gerhard Lamprecht  

and Carl Boese depicted the plight of the poor in 

films like Slums of Berlin from 1925, Tough Guys,  

Easy Girls from 1927 showing a clear contrast 

between the affluent protagonists and the  

impoverished urban areas they encountered without 

suggesting any political transformation. 

Then Phil Jutzi's Mother Krause's Journey to 

Happiness proposed a revolutionary solution  

advocating for the adoption of a communist 

way of life to solve Germany's socioeconomic  

inequalities. The Zille subgenre thus 

closely mirrored the political tension  

between traditional and progressive values 

in Germany. We can move on to the next slide.  

In the Weimar Republic, there wasn't much of 

a change in Zille's art style. His characters,  

commonly known as "Zille-Typen", Zille types, 

were primarily working class Berliners.  

These characters have a timeless 

realism with a hint of naivete.  

What really made them stand out, was the unique 

"Zille-Milljöh," this is a slang term  

that comes from the Berlin dialect and is derived 

from the word "milieu". Zille often portrayed  

his characters in the streets, often surrounded by 

kids joyously playing or reaching out to adults,  

usually for sustenance, food or love.

The terms Zille-Typen and Milljöh were  

well known in Weimar culture. These styles 

and themes were precise enough to justify  

their own appellations, yet influential 

enough to inspire homages and imitations.  

Though a prominent German illustrator and 

social critic whose work brought awareness  

to marginalized groups in German

society during the Weimar period,  

Zille described his politics as

ideological rather than partizan.  

He stood to serve those in need. And I 

think we can move on to the next slide.

He wrote: Since the communists are saying what 

socialists used to want to do, but did not,  

I have become a communist. The truth is

that I stand aside, serving the hungry,  

and the starving whom I know personally. His 

interest in social issues began after he moved to  

Berlin and started training as a lithographer. 

He made his debut at the Berlin Secession in 1901,  

but was dismissed due to his leftist leanings. 

Zille made a name for himself by publishing  

his work in various albums and magazines

such as Lustige Blätter and Simplicissimus.  

His fame skyrocketed during the hyperinflation 

period due to his acerbic and satirical commentary  

on the everyday struggles of Berliners. His 

work also shed light on the desperate and  

destitute dwellings of the lower classes 

of German society. At the core of a social  

criticism was a powerful accusation, the willful 

neglect of the underprivileged by those in power  

and the lack of welfare programs

constitute a form of manslaughter.  

His captivating picture books and portfolios 

earned him much acclaim, leading to his election  

to the Prussian Academy of Art in 1924 despite 

previously having been derided as a gutter artist.  

In his work, Heinrich Ziller responded to the 

socioeconomic and political tensions of his  

time with biting satire. His art was a glimmer 

of hope in the despairing atmosphere of the time,  

highlighting and celebrating the shared humanity 

and resilience of all. His contemporaries, however,  

often overlooked the realism of everyday 

hardship evident in his sketches. 

While some saw his art as optimistic, Zille refused to 

be labeled simply as a cartoonist or caricaturist.  

At a ball thrown in his honor in 1925, where 

attendees were disguised as Zille types,  

the artist rejected the label of 

humorous artist. According to a  

photograph of the event annotated by him, 

Zille said: No, it was not my ball at all.  

And it is not true that I am a humorous artist 

either. My pictures were made to cry rather than  

to laugh. He captured the complexity of life, 

presenting a realistic picture of his time,  

showing both the joys and pains of underprivileged 

Berliners. We can move on to the next slide.  

Gerhard Lamprecht's journey to create a new 

cinematic subgenre, to what was then known  

as the street film, began when he was introduced 

to the graphic artist through screenwriter Luise  

Heilborn-Körbitz, whose brother Adolf had

been a friend of Zille for many years.  

After forming a collaborative partnership, 

Heilborn-Körbitz crafted a screenplay,  

and Lamprecht took it into production at 

the Glass House Studio in Berlin, Tempelhof.

With his cinematographer Karl Hasselmann, 

Lamprecht strived to create an objective  

foundation for subjective creation by bringing the 

outside world into the studio through the lens of  

realism, even brought actual unhoused individuals 

into the studio. These individuals were paid   

ten marks for being in the background,

fifteen marks for participating in any other way,

and twenty-five marks for playing a character.

In comparison, Zille was paid 6,000 marks

for his participation, while Bernhard Goetzke and

Aud Egede-Nissen, seasoned actors playing the leads,

received 4,500 and 9,660 marks, respectively.

Slums of Berlin takes us on an exploration into

the social issue of reintegrating felons into

society. We can move on to the next slide.

We get to do this through the lens of famous 

artist Heinrich Zille's sketches. We follow  

disgraced engineer Robert Kramer, played by 

Goetzke, on his journey as a white collar  

worker turned blue collar outsider after a time 

spent in prison for perjuring himself in court  

to save a young woman's honor. We meet Emma, 

played by Egede-Nissen, a sex worker who  

saves Robert's life when he attempts suicide.

The tragedy is that as Robert's life improves, 

Emma's turns to for the worse. The story was 

allegedly based on real life roots  

in Zille's youth and the opening scene,

we even see the artist himself at work  

at his easel and a studio, a replica of his 

workshop. As he draws, the two-dimensional  

image dissolves into a live action scene.

Watch as actors are carefully positioned to  

mirror the drawings composition. 

Let's take a look at the clip.  

The National Film Corporation's 

promotional campaign for the Slums  

of Berlin was a huge success. 

We can move on to the next line.  

They capitalized on the film's novel, 

documentary-like realism and the fame  

of the artist, resulting in it becoming the 

nation's top box office sensation of 1925.  

On the eve of the premiere, Adolf  

interviewed Zille for the Berlin  

Radio Hour broadcast across 12 German

radio networks. Rudolf Arnheim praised  

the film's naturalism, while cinematograph lauded 

its genuine compassion towards the poor. On the  

day of the premiere, the crowds were so big and 

the police had to intervene to regulate them.  

The film was showing simultaneously in 16 Berlin 

cinemas. It even fared remarkably well abroad,  

despite national focus on domestic 

rather than international distribution.  

We can move on to the next slide. After the 

successful debut of his first Zille-based  

film, director Lamprecht created three more movies 

that echoed similar themes, People to  

Each Other, Children of No Importance, and 

Under the Lantern between 1926 and 1928,  

all centered around the lives 

of working class Berliners.  

Lamprecht stepped away from his film-inspired 

style, using what he had learned to craft his  

own stories in the same setting. People 

to Each Other examines the struggles of  

characters from varying social backgrounds 

who are forced to suffer under the tyranny  

of a ruthless and selfish landlord, hinting at 

the government's lack of a social safety net.  

Children of No Importance, on the other hand, 

is a moral tale that implores an affluent  

audience to act as good samaritans devoid of 

the need to make any real political changes.  

Lastly, Under the Lantern poignantly delves 

into the hardships of a marginalized sex  

worker, tugging at the heartstrings of viewers.

Zille, although not directly involved,  

still held Lamprecht in high regard 

and reportedly watched his later films.  

After Slums of Berlin's smashing  

success at the Box Office, filmmakers and 

production companies were inspired to create  

films set in the poorer areas of Berlin.

Despite Zille's request, many of these films 

were released without his talent attached, such 

as The Fallen by Rudolf Walther-Fein from 1926,  

which explored the corruption and alcoholism among 

the working class, and Our Daily Bread from 1926 by  

Constantin J. David, which focused on a factory 

strike. Critics saw the connection to Zille's  

work and highlighted it in their reviews.

In response, Zille took out newspaper ads to  

prohibit the use of his name as a marketing 

tool in connection to motion pictures. So his  

interests in the medium of cinema was ignited.

In his own words: I watched with amazement as  

a man who was neither painter nor graphic artist, 

painted and drew with photography, beautifully and  

skillfully. These young camera artists were able 

to show authentic life and their characters move,

while Zille shared in the 

success of Slums of Berlin,

his lack of technical prowess meant he was unable 

to bridge the gap between still photography  

and motion pictures himself. He thus sought to 

recreate what he had learned from Lamprecht and  

his crew and wrote a screenplay

collaborating with his friend.

In the resulting 1926 film, The Ones

Down There directed by Victor Jansen  

and cinematographer Carl Drews, aimed to 

capture the squalid living conditions in the  

basement apartments of art's Berlin, dwellings 

deemed unsuitable for human habitation yet  

where thousands of families still lived. This 

gender swapped tale on the Slums of Berlin  

formula begins with a medium close shot 

of Heinrich Zille drawing, throughout  

the film, we see many of his familiar 

compositions and camera movements.  

The two filmmakers endeavoring to 

give the film a realistic esthetic.  

The film emphasizes the consequences of criminal 

disrepute, similar to Slums of Berlin  

and follows the story of Ilse, hardworking

secretary in a doctor's office  

who discovers her father, a train conductor 

wrongfully convicted for manslaughter, has  

been in prison for over a decade. Critics praise 

the film for its art and captivating story.  

However, some argued that The Ones Down There did 

not quite live up to its predecessor's novelty,  

claiming that some plot elements, 

individual scenes and even images  

seem to have been entirely borrowed from Slums 

of Berlin. We can move on to the next slide.  

In the second phase of Zille films, 

culture critics began to take issue with  

the exploitative nature of the films.

These films portrayed the impoverished as  

one homogenous group - criminals, sex workers 

and beggars - instead of complex individuals  

or victims of their circumstances. They also 

perpetuated the damaging idea that the wealthy  

were superior to the poor, rarely casting the 

latter as protagonists. They supported the  

political agenda of the wealthy conservatives, who 

were often in control of production and direction,  

and the belief that the poor were not 

capable of telling their own stories.  

This drew a critique from the political left,

with Siegfried Kracauer claiming that Zille

films favored predestination rather than

systemic change. He argued that they  

portrayed the working class environment as 

a hell, from which some of the isolated,  

poor person needed to be rescued. Kracauer was 

deeply concerned with how film art was used to  

gloss over and obscure the harsh reality 

of poverty and socioeconomic injustice.  

He argued that society used romantic imagery to 

make poverty more palatable, and in so doing it  

perpetuated injustice. As Kracauer put it, society 

disguises the sites of misery in romantic garb so  

as to perpetuate them and lavishes pity on 

them, because here it doesn't cost a cent.  

He saw Zille films as an example of this, 

where people from privileged classes  

extended help to a few of the poor, 

pretending to be benevolent and thereby  

securing moral support from the masses.

This act of feigned pity merely kept the  

underlings in their place and

reinforced existing inequalities.  

His friend Walter Benjamin shared this view, 

noting that the bourgeois productive apparatus  

had succeeded in transforming even abject poverty 

by apprehending it in a fashionably perfected  

manner into an object of enjoyment. We can move on 

to the next slide. In 1927, the romanticized fairy  

tale Tough Guys, Easy Girls was released.

It was based on the novel Martin Overbeck:  

The Novel of a Rich Young Man

by Felix Salten. It was mild in its  

critique of social inequality. Screenwriter Luise

Heilborn-Körbitz and Zille, fresh off their hit,

Slums of Berlin, were tapped to bring 

this adaptation to life with artists

providing illustrations to bring the milieu to life.  

Gustav Fröhlich, who had just played

a similar lead role in Metropolis,  

stars as Martin Overbeck, a wealthy young heir 

who is brought into contact with the underworld.  

Martin masquerades as a working class man 

to impress his crush and retaliate against  

his father, who doesn't think he can be 

financially independent. As he navigates  

through the underprivileged urban milieu,

he learns valuable life lessons. Eventually,  

he reconciles with his father. Tough Guys,

Easy Girls is a faithful adaptation  

of Salten's novel and stands apart from Zille's 

previous two street films by its conventional  

studio esthetics and focus on supposedly 

apolitical but in fact, conservative themes.  

We can move on to the next story. The story is a 

bourgeois fantasy, portraying impoverishment as a  

blessing in disguise and offends the status quo.

It claims that everyone shares responsibility  

for the world's socioeconomic inequalities

and consequently no one in particular

is to blame. The film serves as a right wing 

conservative way of looking at the world,  

the causes and consequences of inequality 

in society. It portrays poverty not as  

an issue to be addressed, but as a 

predetermined fate and even as a right

of passage for a frivolous, rich young boy.

It invokes vague concepts such as destiny,  

human nature, and the unalterable state of the 

world to explain socioeconomic inequality.

The film and the novel appear to be advocates 

for the status quo and blame the contrasting  

lifestyles of the big city for anesthetizing 

people to the plight of their fellow men. 

I think we can move on to the next slide.  

A left wing paper expressed outrage at 

this view and commented: According to this film,  

no one has it better in this world than a 

proletarian. His life is about fresh air  

and dance. The best parts of the film are the 

actors playing popular types who not only save  

the entire picture, but romanticize it as well.

With Tough Guys, Easy Girls Zille films  

stirred up a lot of controversy. Not only were 

they overtly reflecting right wing ideals,  

they also had a much more artificial 

studio-like esthetic, which diverged  

from the more realistic films of the time. 

This didn't go unnoticed by Lotte Eisner,  

who in her 1955 book The Haunted Screen heavily 

critiqued films like G.W. Pabst's Joyless Street  

from 1925, which she saw as an exploitation 

of the picturesque aspects of misery.  

I think we can move on to the next slide. She

argued that these films were overly melodramatic,  

sentimental and symbolic. She wrote slum films 

with studio built sets cannot escape their due  

punishment, even when venturing into actual poor 

neighborhoods. The visual style remains indelible.  

Eisner did still give recognition to 

Lamprecht's poverty-themed films, praising  

their human and simple concepts.

But Tough Guys, Easy Girls by director Carl  

Boese clearly belongs in the category of the 

kind of esthetic Eisner was criticizing.  

The film's visuals stand out for their 

polished look. Instead of the low key  

lighting and documentary style of the 

earlier Zille films, this one uses high key  

lighting and a theatrical approach.

It pays a lot of attention  

to detail and composition, even

recreating scenes from Zille's visual  

repertory, such as the 1925 sketch dancing 

couples, seen in the previous slide, sorry.  

The focus was not on the cultural 

specificities of the Berlin streets,  

but instead on the universal joy of communal 

bathing and dancing. However, the style of  

the film made the characters appear artificial 

rather than real. The costumes chosen for the  

actors by the wardrobe department only added to 

this effect. For the National Film Corporation,

the decision to focus on universal 

conventions rather than cultural specifics  

was made to broaden the film's commercial appeal.

To reflect this decision, they translated to less  

Berlin dialects and the intertitles to different 

versions of the film. So it became, you know,  

they were swapping dialect, the dialect from 

Cologne. Basically, the intertitles were just  

swapped to reflect the different dialects.

So no longer the Berlin specificity.  

This sparks questions from reporters in Austria 

who wanted to know why the intertitles had been  

adapted to Viennese dialect. This trend was part 

of a larger movement in Weimar culture. By 1928,  

the name Zille had become associated with 

certain estheticized working class topos.  

For example, Hogan's Alley from 1925 

was advertised as being set in the  

Zille neighborhood of New York and Number 17,

also from 1928, was marketed as taking  

place in the Zille neighborhood of London.

By the end of his life, Heinrich Zille had transcended  

his Berlin roots, and his name had come to 

represent the urban poor in a more general sense.  

So we can move on to the next slide now. Carl 

Boese's second Zille film, Children of the Streets  

from 1929, was visually distinguished by the same 

low key lighting that had been a hallmark of the  

Lamprecht street films since the Slums of Berlin.

This was likely due to its cameraman  

Karl Hasselmann, who had 

worked on the Lamprecht film.  

The title was taken from one of Zille's most popular 

picture albums, which had sold an impressive  

the title, the film had no real connection  

to Zille. It was an adaptation of a Hans J. Rehfisch's 

play Raid from 1927, and the film focuses  

on a working class family whose matriarch 

is arrested for deceiving her customers by  

using a faulty scale at her grocery stand.

Although Children of the Streets appears to  

address urban poverty, it ultimately sides with 

the forces of power and privilege. The arrest of  

the family matriarch is revealed to be justified, 

and this tendency to side with authority reflects  

a broader tendency of Zille films to appear to 

offer solidarity to the poor, while actually  

adopting a distinctly non-working class gaze.

All Zille films prior to Children of the Street  

had outsiders to the Zille milieu as their 

protagonists. Robert Kramer,

depending on whether in German or in 

English, the engineer from Slums of Berlin,  

Ilse Michels, the secretary from The Ones Down 

There, and Martin Overbeck, a rich heir from Tough  

Guys, Easy Girls were all outsiders thrust into 

contact with Berlin's deprived city dwellers,

so with this, with the lower classes, 

usually due to some unfortunate circumstance.  

Notably, none of these characters 

spoke in the Berlin dialect. Instead,  

they spoke high German, indicating their 

distance from the underprivileged milieu.  

Ultimately, the Zille films could 

be both a force of solidarity  

and a way for the ruling class to evade 

responsibility for social inequalities.  

So it's hard to look back...

We can we can move on to the next line.  

Perfect. It's hard to look back at this specific 

film Mother Krause's Journey to Happiness  

from 1929 without reflecting on the ethical 

questions surrounding its posthumous production.  

Because obviously then it did not involve the 

artist himself. Zille passed away in August 1929,  

after two strokes earlier that year, 

and theater owners paid tribute to his  

passing by releasing his previous works.

All the ones that we already looked at.  

And some even went further. Big City Children from 

a new Zille movie and a shameless attempt 

to capitalize on the artist's death had  

absolutely nothing to do with Zille and was just 

retroactively, after even having been shot,  

named a Zille film. His friends

by logic felt that cinema had not 

done justice to the artist's memory, and   

approached the Prometheus Film Collective to show 

the artist's revolutionary potential for the first  

time on screen. Mother Krause stands as a testament 

to this as it contains a clear articulation of  

German communist ideology during the rise of right 

wing extremism. The art of Heinrich Zille was  

unique for the milieu it depicted because 

of its bright colors and realistic figures.  

While his contemporaries took a more political 

approach to depicting the struggles of the  

working classes, Zille's artworks focused 

on the everyday life of the urban poor in a  

lighter manner. His art was echoed, though, in 

the work of his close friend Käthe-Kollwitz, who  

used dark palettes and distorted forms to express 

anguish and to make strong political statements.

[...] transposed Kollwitz's

darker esthetic and emphasis to   

Zille film Mother Krause. This film 

was far more politically tendentious than any of  

Zille's previous movies that he had been 

involved in. And some, including Heinrich  

Zille's son Hans, objected, saying that it 

would not have been in his father's spirit.  

So to understand a little bit more, by 1929, 

Prometheus had developed a name for themselves

as distributors of films from the Soviet

studio Mezhrabpom in Germany,  

as well as their own fiction and documentary 

films with a distinctive Marxist feel.  

A Marxist film. These movies explored 

the relationship between the labor of  

the working class and capitalism's 

economic and political structures.

For their project on Zille, Prometheus chose 

the director Phil Jutzi just off his recent  

documentary Short Blood, May 1929, a piece 

about the Berlin police shooting unarmed men and  

women in on May 1st, 1929, resulting

in the death of peaceful protesters.  

And we can move on to the next slide.  

They chose the same location for Mother Krause 

and cast non-professionals in principal roles.

As scholar and archivist Chris Horak 

wrote, the film combined documentary,  

agitprop, and proletarian melodrama, Soviet 

montage, and German moving camera, film acting  

and amateur theater proved to be both a commercial 

success and a powerful form of propaganda.  

This darkly realist film opens on a working class 

neighborhood in Berlin, where Mother Krause lives  

in a small tenement with her adult son Paul, and 

a young child. Paul is an alcoholic who steals  

the money Mother Krause earns from selling 

newspapers. This leads to her committing the  

ultimate act of despair in the film's 

climax when she sees no other way out of  

and ritualistically makes a pot of coffee 

before opening the gas tap to kill herself  

and the infant child in her care.

Tragically, it's all in vain. Had she held  

on just a little longer, Mother Krause could 

have joined a communist organization, and that  

would have helped her out of debt. The film's 

message is clear: Communism is the revolutionary  

solution to the socioeconomic ills afflicting 

the German population in the Weimar Republic.  

To kind of visualize all these things that 

I've been describing, let's watch a clip.

So the introduction of sound films in 1929 and 

the collapse of the worldwide market changed the  

landscape of filmmaking, leading to the decline of 

independent left wing cinema and the strengthening  

of the conservative narrative. The Prometheus 

film company, which had previously produced  

up to 15 films a year, only released four short 

films in 1931, and just one feature film

To Whom Does the World Belong

in 1932. The Nazi Party's ascent  

to power the following year effectively silenced 

all leftist opposition with UFA, Weimar  

Germany's premier studio, headed by conservative 

nationalist media mogul Alfred Hugenber.  

UFA, which was relatively unscathed by the Wall 

Street crash, released the short Zille-typen  

in 1929, directed by Johannes Guter,

the sound film starred Trude Lieske and  

Paul Heideman with dialog penned by Willi 

Kollo and music composed by Robert Gilbert,

including the song Mensch, du hast 'ne Zille-Figur'

ad Claire Waldoff's Das Lied vom Vater Zille

was also released at the same time. And 

the lyrics from that song read like an epitaph  

to Zille's life. The people's pleasures and woes,

that was your medium. Jutzi's film was a reaction  

to the dominance, popular culture trend 

that was veering to the right. Its use of  

communist advocacy stands out as a rare cinematic 

example of defiance against the rise of fascism.  

So now we can go to the next slide.  

When the Nazis rose to power in 1933, they 

removed a plaque commemorating Heinrich Zille  

from his former residence and defamed

him in the same breath as his friend.

Despite this, Zille's popularity continued.

According to research conducted by [. . .],

this is when he was recast as 

a fascist. Otto Paust, SA member and  

journalist, altered Zola's captions, suppressed 

drawings, and wrote new introductions which still  

circulate in antiquarian bookshops and libraries 

with no indication of their Nazi origin today.  

After the war, Zille was reinstated in the 

GDR as a socialist trailblazer. [. . .]  

wrote that the artist's work belonged to the 

German communist art tradition, but nuanced  

the statement by saying that his accusations 

against capitalist society did not mean he was  

an advocate for revolutionary actions.

This ongoing presence in the Third Reich,  

though co-opted, is testament Zille's 

enduring popularity with the German people.  

So by examining three films, like we just did, inspired

by the works of Heinrich Zille, the Slums of Berlin,  

Tough Guys, Easy Girls, and Mother Krause's 

Journey to Happiness, this lecture has shown  

how the artist's work provided a canvas for 

people to project their own political beliefs.  

The success of the first street films 

sparked a wave of similar films, often  

without Zille's talent being explicitly attached. 

The literary adaptation Tough Guys, Easy Girls,  

could resonate with viewers across German speaking 

territories, demonstrating the adoption of  

Zille's estheticised working-class types beyond 

the cultural specificity of Berlin. The films made  

during the artist's lifetime reflect the attitude 

of the dominant class in Weimar Germany, which was  

largely conservative, leaving the working class 

with little more than sympathy and charity.  

Last, Mother Krause highlights the 

potential of left wing cinema to  

challenge the rising tide of fascism 

and to advocate for a political alternative.  

The enduring legacy of Zille's art, its

capacity to be interpreted differently by  

each individual, allowing it to be embraced and 

co-opted by both those on the left and the right  

of the political spectrum.

Thank you very much.  

Great! Thank you very much, Ben. Laurie, 

go ahead. Yeah, thank you so much, Ben. And  

let me pass it then to Professor Michell. That was 

such a rich presentation. I have many questions.  

I think we're all very privileged, especially 

to see all of these visual archival materials,  

including the film bits. And I guess I would 

just ask you maybe with this first question  

and then we can get to perhaps more specific 

questions and any questions from the audience.  

Please put them into the chat. We have 

time for them. So your work more broadly  

also is interested in these kind of pure textual 

elements of Weimar film. And I think, for example,  

your dissertation project, as I understand it, 

is also interested in the canon and not only what  

gets left out of the canon, but it's kind of 

a meta reflection on problems of the canon.  

Can you say something about Zille and how he 

fits in or doesn't fit in in the current state  

of the literature, what is considered to be

kind of Weimar cinema and Weimar visual  

culture. And you reference some pretty important 

critics, such as Kracauer, Benjamin, Eisner as  

well as kind of left wing kind of filmmakers who are 

perhaps interested in more of a Soviet esthetic.  

A lot of people were critical of Zille, so 

maybe can you tell us what is the state of  

the literature at the moment? And can you also 

tell us how you got interested in this project,  

how you found these materials? Does that fit 

in with your kind of broader interests around a  

different understanding of of how to write film 

history, specifically Weimar film history?

Thank you, Professor Michell, and thank you so 

much also for just taking the time to do this.  

And there's no one better to just react to 

it because you have such incredible insight  

into these materials yourself and because 

also you're familiar with the work that I do.  

So thank you so much for your question. 

I do think that Zille films are  

really nowadays only seen partially because so 

many of the films that I discussed today are  

lost or maybe just hidden away in archives.

And so we have an incomplete picture. Gerhard  

Lamprecht, the one that made kind of the 

starting films, is an interesting case. He  

was one of the founders of the Deutsche

Kinemathek, the German Cinematheque in Berlin,  

and therefore his own collection, including 

his films, were kind of the basis for the  

collection there. And these films are preserved, 

which they probably wouldn't be otherwise, 

which we can't say about, for instance the Karl Buse 

films. The trailer that you saw is the only piece  

that we still have of one of the two films. 

The other one is completely lost, and I had  

to reconstitute it, kind of piece the pieces, 

pieces and things together through reviews,  

pictures, screenplay, all of that to kind of get 

a better picture of what the films might be.  

And I think that as I approach this through 

the films that I had seen, I gained kind of a  

fuller understanding of what the corpus was 

and why people were so critical of these films  

that we don't necessarily know how much Zille was 

actually involved and how much control he had over  

them. He was kind of used in a way, just like he 

was used later on throughout the 20th century as  

a figure that clearly resonated with people.

His art resonated with people. But I think it's  

an interesting case because it shows 

how art can be denatured, how art can,  

because of the collaborative medium of film, can 

take on very, very different kind of resonances.  

And I really saw these three trends in the small 

corpus, and I thought it was so interesting  

because of what it says still today about 

how we look on to others from a perspective of  

privilege and how this, who tells stories,

who gets that privilege, matters. And  

taking those stories away from people,

it can happen from different people within  

the apparatus making movies or telling stories. 

It can be a publisher, it can be a distribution  

company. It can be so many different aspects. And 

that really fits into my work, as you pointed out,  

because what I'm trying to do is tell history, 

film history, by the stories of films that we can  

no longer see, because I want to see what stories 

lay hidden there, because we are often too scared  

to not look at the things we cannot see.

And oftentimes we no longer have access  

to them. And oftentimes the stories that 

are hidden there tell us a completely new  

thing about the world. Sometimes as very 

confirming other aspects of what we already know.  

Thank you so much for that question.

Thank you. And we do  

have a question kind of related to that, 

but I think you already discussed it.  

Where did you manage to see the 

ones down there and Tough Guys,  

Easy Girls? I cannot find those anywhere 

online or on DVD. I think all of us,  

who are interested in this era of film, can 

sympathize with questions like this. But yeah,  

okay. So I think you already answer that kind of 

archival piecing together of different voices.  

And I think the issue with Zille's 

illustrations and the captioning is especially  

important because you're also discussing 

these various aspects of invisible film labor  

that contribute to an understanding 

of Zille as a name, as a proper name  

that signifies a certain group in the public 

imaginary, and how easily that can be co-opted  

simply by changing the caption of an image.

So that really shows the power of all these  

different textual elements. Maybe we can 

go back. So I was really interested in the first  

sketch that you had of Zille, and then I found 

myself later on during your presentation,  

sympathizing with what Kracauer said. This is 

an image of the masses. You are not  

identifying individuality or uniqueness.

This is a homogenous group. However, my  

perspective on that very much changed when we saw 

the clip in, I think it was in the Slums of Berlin,

and we saw the illustrator, the Zille 

illustrator, pondering for quite a  

while before you then get the typical 

artist sketch hands from above, bird's eye view,  

and then you enter this moment of kind of 

imagination and co-creation with the work,  

and what happens after that is quite interesting 

because the clip that you then see when this  

drawing becomes live is that you, as a viewer, 

pay attention to all these individual elements  

of a so-called homogenous group. So I guess I'm 

just wondering what your scholarly position is  

on some of these critiques of maybe, I think you 

call that kind of the maybe the second wave of  

Zille films, going over the second moment 

or trend or interpretation of these films.  

Do you think they missed the mark? Do you think 

there was something there that was overseen?  

Is it just representative of maybe the context 

of Weimar film critique at the time? What is  

your interpretation of that? Thank you so much. 

I love that I get to put in my two cents as well.  

I think I agree with Lotte Eisner 

in her assessment of these films.  

I think that the first wave comes out of kind of more 

leftist leaning, but still conservative kind of  

center, if there is a center, but privileged look 

at the working classes because

Garhard Lamprecht's films really try to understand.

There's aspects of it that are stereotypical,

but the same kind of stereotypical aspects, 

you will see in Zille's work as well.  

There's kind of like elements of a caricature, 

but never quite the human aspects.

The careful situation in kind of a documentary 

style, the always trying to veer towards  

compassion. Those aspects, I think, make 

those movies valuable. They make them  

valuable for the audiences at the time, 

people able to see themselves on screen  

but also maybe change their minds about whether 

maybe they've, you know, thought that the poor  

deserve what they are going through.

And I think that that's properly what Zille's  

art did. And Zille's art, when criticized by 

the left, is usually nuanced because they say he  

doesn't go far enough. But they do appreciate his 

work. And I think this is kind of where I stand on  

the first wave. I do take offense, I think just 

like Kracauer does, just like Walter Benjamin  

and Lotte Eisner do to the second wave.

I do think that just doing a literary adaptation  

of works that are pretty conservative in 

their messaging, thinking that basically  

everything's just a matter of fate or the poor 

deserve what they are going through,  

and then using the Zille name basically

as illustration or as a marketing ploy,  

there is something deeply wrong with that to me.

So I would say that that was an interesting kind  

of swing to the right. And this swing to

the right is the one that we've always  

heard from the critics in the canon

of film history, from people that actually  

had seen these films, but then never really had an 

explanation of the films because they're lost.  

So we are missing the analysis,

even though we have  

censorship cards that detail all of the 

intertitles, although we have the pictures,  

we know what these films looked like. We know 

what they used, what aspects of the style  

as illustrations they used. All of that is 

known to us. They weren't really discussed.  

And so I think that would explain them, the 

last kind of avenging of Zille name, that  

his friends on the communist side wanted 

to create for him and which has become,  

over time, the most lasting 

articulation of the Zille film. I think that  

the most written about any of these films would 

be about Mother Krause's Journey to Happiness.  

Also, just because it's such a rare vision 

of the world that we don't have in the rest of  

the films of this time. Thank you. That's 

very helpful. We have one more question  

from the audience members, from Aomar 

Boum: I love your presentation. Can you  

reflect on these sketches in relation to 

sketches by other artists during the 1930s?  

Yeah, I want to know about this, too. Especially 

in terms of what these forms of writing tell  

us about social history. Great talk!  

Thank you, and thank you for the compliment.  

I think that that's such an interesting thing 

to think in terms of the art, art in terms of  

writing as well and especially with Zille, 

whose captions were so integral to his work.

They were oftentimes the punch line, he really 

worked with creating these beautiful  

sketches that could be seen on their own.

And oftentimes the caption would change  

depending on the venue that they would be 

published. But they were always taken  

from him and would kind of give 

us a perspective onto the image. 

I think that he is a very

typical artist for a certain kind of  

art that we will see, that's common

in kind of the press of the time.  

When you look at a lot of the funny papers 

that were circulating, a lot of the satirical  

papers, you will find ZIlle-like illustrations. 

But there's something about his work that made  

him so much more popular. Maybe also 

the fact that he didn't just do this,  

but also published in albums. But I 

think there's something deeper.  

I think that has to do with the fact that he 

touched a nerve while people were suffering.

The middle classes, basically if you think the 

middle class existed at the end of World War I,  

but because of the hyperinflation, the continuous 

inflation of prices, all their savings would have  

dwindled only really the high, high classes, or 

people that were entrepreneurs, that were constantly  

making big bucks could survive and 

have kind of money on the side.  

So certain people managed to make it through those 

years, but no longer had any savings. So not  

having savings, not having that, and knowing 

that you could very easily become poor,  

I think raised people's interest in what 

they before might have considered the other.  

There's something interesting about other aspects 

of media culture around Zille, the Zille balls.  

This is kind of, it was my entrance into 

it because I thought it was fascinating how  

I never understood slumming culture. People 

going into slums and gawking at people  

and kind of having this fascination. But I wanted 

to understand where this passive fascination came  

from, because I found it so disturbing. And 

in this period, the Zille balls, I heard were  

balls where people dressed up as poor people 

and even some people that were actually poor,  

were turned away because they didn't 

look look realistic enough.  

It just is kind of a common thing that happened 

during this time. A lot of these rag balls where  

there were even slopes where people

would  go from high class basically  

down into poverty. And that was part of kind 

of the whole culture, cultural experience of  

these Zille balls. So there's something about 

this that I think tells us psychologically  

why he might have been so popular.

I think that there was an interest to  

empathy, have empathy and connect with 

something that you might become yourself.  

But also, I think in terms 

of trauma, if you look at  

Freud's theory, beyond the pleasure 

principle, there's this idea that we repeat  

something, a trauma in our mind. Why, even though 

it's not pleasurable to us, let's think like  

during World War I, all the soldiers that have a 

post-traumatic stress, they keep reliving.  

This is not something that gives us pleasure. 

And Freud says, why do people go to do stuff  

that doesn't give them pleasure? And he came 

up with the idea that we want to rehearse the  

moment of trauma, to gain mastery of it, 

because basically we want to die on our  

own terms. And trauma is a response to an event 

that we identify as potentially killing us.  

And so the repetition is a way for us 

to gain mastery, compulsive mastery.  

And I think that this obsession with Zille 

has something to do with the trauma incurred  

by the German people during this time, about 

the economic situation they were in.  

Then I wrote down, I don't know, probably 

three questions while you were talking,  

but there's some from the audience 

that we should get to.  

And then I know Laurie has a 

question toy. So Scott White says:

Is it fair or reasonable to suggest that Zille 

films in the context of proletariat films or even  

New Objectivity contributed to what would 

eventually be "Nazi aesthetic" along with,  

say, Bergfilme - Mountain Films? That's a 

good question. Actually, I don't think so.  

I think that Bergfilme very much you see the 

trajectory, you see kind of this idealization  

of nature. You see that idealization of a certain 

kind of German that is healthy. And Zille films  

pointed the finger to something that was very... 

to the Nazi ideology... uncomfortable because  

it pointed to something intrinsic in our society 

where the poor were marginalized because of  

certain actions not being taken by the 

conservative right, by the people in charge.  

And I think that when you look more at

kind of the film like Mother Krause,  

I can see where you're coming from because of the 

marching, because of kind of like all of this, you  

see certain aspects that you will see on either 

side of the political parties. That was kind of  

an expression of how people saw themselves as 

political individuals is to express themselves  

marching and voicing themselves that way.

But I do see some, maybe lots of nuances with Zille,

maybe there's the national flavor of it, the 

fact that they speak Berlin dialect. But that's  

not something I think that would have also been 

so interesting to Nazis because they were more  

interested in a unified German. So a unified 

meaning without the dialect, the high German. So  

I think there's too much left leaning 

in Zille, that still comes through that.  

Now we can consider him a precursor. These 

films, I think certain ones, yes. Because of  

the kind of trajectory of silencing his voice. 

So whenever his voice is kind of more and more  

silenced and a more conservative voice takes 

over, I think we can start seeing something  

about the Nazi regime that were to come. I 

don't know if that answers your question.  

Great! Thank you. Another question from the 

audience from Bruno Witzel-Souza: Thank you for  

this great presentation. Can you please comment 

on whether and how they represented World War I  

veterans in particular? I was wondering about the 

relationship between the low socioeconomic status  

of low rank ex-military and the resentment of 

the veterans in post World War I era that  

connected with the rise of paramilitary 

and right-wing extremism in the 1920s.  

Yeah, this is a great question. I mean, artists 

like George Grosz really did an incredible work  

at capturing this. Interestingly, Zille started 

during World War I also as a cartoonist. So  

a lot of his early work is about active military 

and veterans. And it's oftentimes kind of like  

a tongue in cheek way. And in a lot of 

these veterans ended up in poverty.  

So in that sense, they are part of the landscape 

that Zille is describing. I think that the  

movies that were inspired of his art didn't 

necessarily focus on these individuals.  

It was very much, you can see them maybe in 

the background some of them, maybe you can 

spot them. They're part of the arsenal, but 

I don't think they are part of the stories.  

And it would have been interesting 

to see if Zille had lived longer,  

if he had maybe made a movie 

about a specific social issue.  

I just know that there's other aspects 

that were more or as important to him  

and mostly had to do with housing. It had 

to do with the state of women having to  

make a living off of sex work and kind 

of being considered the lowest of the low.  

He didn't see them that way. And

children were extremely important.  

I think Gerhard Lamprecht's Children of No 

Importance is probably the one that has the most  

to do with what was so important 

to Zille, which is children.

Thank you. And I think Laurie

had a question as well?

I do. So let me pop up for a second.

Thank you. Thank you so much. I mean, I'm sure we'll 

have more questions. I'd like to hear  

Kalani's questions, but I will just intervene 

with one of my own. Actually, just a general  

comment, which is this has just been a fantastic 

presentation. And I'm really intrigued by your  

theory of trauma, among other things,

you know, for this sort of pick

up on these themes and pictures and

Zille himself. Two short questions.

One, your final comment on Zille's 

interpretability, sort of his flexibility in  

the interpretation interest me. This is all

new material to me, so forgive my ignorance,  

but I'm curious as to your thoughts 

about why his art was so interpretable,  

so flexible in that sense. You know,

like is Goya's art that's flexible?  

Is Gross' art that flexible? What is it about 

Zille's art that lends itself to this kind of  

latitude of interpretation? And my other 

question is just a short one about the term,  

which is just so interesting. Is it currently

still a term in use? And if so, what 

kind of a gloss do people generally think of it?

Do they think of it as a critical leftist term? Do  

they think of it as a sort of joke term? So those 

are my two questions. Thank you so much. Thank  

you so much. Those are great questions. I'll start 

with the first one. Second one first, because it's  

the easiest to answer. No, unfortunately, Zille films

are no longer a subgenre, it's no longer a genre.

And I think his art is still very much 

popular in certain areas. For instance,  

Berlin has a museum for him. There's a group 

that's even like, so there's a theater group that  

does performances. So there's this kind of aspect 

to his kind of legacy continuing to this day,  

but there's no longer kind 

of an association with it.  

And I think the interesting thing is that it 

was really taken back through the GDR as  

as a national artist. And so he is seen as 

a trailblazer still for left politics.  

But to come back to your first question,  

which is interesting. Why is his art 

so malleable? Why do so many people  

decide to interpret it in certain 

ways that are so political?  

And I think that has to do with his ability to 

draw self-identification. When you see his art  

through how how kind they are, through

the knowing eye, he lived among these  

people. It's not a critical view in

the sense of trying very hard  

to make a point about them politically. There is 

that aspect but it's mostly in the captions.  

And what he's trying to show is a shared humanity, 

and that's what he's trying to show. And when you  

have someone that their main focus is to 

provoke your identification on your understanding  

of a shared humanity, it draws people in and 

it draws people into self-identification, and

draws people into bringing their own political 

ideas to the one that's created on into art.  

I think that's the key to understanding his 

popularity with so many people. But it's also,  

I think, key to understanding 

why he was so easily co-opted.  

Thank you. And I think there aren't any more 

questions in the chat. If anybody does have them,  

bring them up. Otherwise I will just take over 

and then put all my questions out there.  

I like Laurie's word flexible, on the 

flexibility of these drawings. And I  

want to go back just to these moments of the  

inter-animation. So these moments when these films,  

as far as you can tell through your archival 

research, moments when the film decide we're  

going to animate this drawing, we're going to take 

this drawing. And I think you used a couple of words.  

So I think you use recall, I think 

maybe even reenact came up or repeat.  

And I'm wondering this idea of flexibility. I'm 

wondering if this can be a way maybe to understand  

the relationship between Zille politics and the 

politics that perhaps were more familiar with the  

kind of left-wing Soviet film esthetic montage, to 

kind of understand these as perhaps not a relation  

of hostility or opposition or difference, but that 

perhaps precisely in this moment of flexibility,  

this moment when the drawing comes to 

life, the moment you don't really know  

what it's going to be. You as a viewer, you're 

involved that that what happens there is, you're  

involved in this moment of co-creation and

imagining and imagining something else than the  

regular scenes of poverty that you are used to 

seeing, something else that sheds light on the  

everyday. And it reminded me of Eisenstein's 

writings on Disney, which for a lot of people  

doesn't fit in with Eisenstein's politics. 

But he's very fascinated with Disney films,  

and he was fascinated precisely because of what he 

called the plasticity of animation, that there is  

this moment when you know what to expect.

And that for him was really interesting. It  

had a certain potential to it. So I guess I'm 

wondering in these film clips, when the  

drawings become a source for the film, for 

imagining, for co-creation, for something else,  

can you describe perhaps the different ways 

in which they become a point of departure that  

perhaps leads to a political possibility to think 

or imagine or see differently or otherwise?  

Thank you so much. I mean, for someone that 

hasn't watched these films, you have like  

a perfect description analysis of it. This is so 

fascinating. I was mostly, when you were talking,  

thinking of Mother Krause, because 

as you saw, even in part of it,  

the montage is very Soviet-like, kind of 

these clashing images that create meaning  

and rhythm to create meaning.

I don't think that the earlier  

films have that as much. And so then 

I was starting to think more about how does  

Mother Krause embed kind of Zille into it? 

And it does so in an interesting way because  

since Zille has image and text, so does 

silent film. So what it does is it recreates, 

it stages certain scenes that for an audience 

member will be: oh my gosh, there it is.


I know this scene, I know the scene. And then 

there comes the caption. This is the caption  

that I know from Zille. And it would be kind 

of a scene, maybe of a child not accepting food and  

like an answer from the adult. And that's 

the caption. You know, certain things like that.  

And that kind of aspect of

sprinkling that into a narrative  

is the tendency that a lot of these have.

It's kind of a flavor. It becomes  

kind of a part of describing the characters in 

a way that is familiar to the audience, but also  

that is extremely like Zille. And then kind of 

continuing the narrative that you have that is  

opposed to that. And I think that that was kind 

of the goal as well for the previous movies,  

to a certain extent. I think Lamprecht did the 

most interesting part where he really decided to  

go listen to Zille, take a story from his life and 

try and use that to become the main narrative.  

I think so much of that is lost in the

later films, where there is this either  

a play, or a novel, or this story that is supposed 

to lead the audience to accept the political  

agenda. That sort of narrative, where then Zille 

just becomes kind of an illustration, but kind of  

a an illustration that doesn't quite fit in 

as well as in a movie like Slums of Berlin.  

And I would assume the ones down there, 

because it's a similar story, again,  

crafted by Zille himself, kind of a gender flipped 

story like Slums of Berlin. And when I was reading  

reviews and descriptions and also just the 

intertitles that survived from the film,  

I recognize certain captions being captions 

from Zille, so doing the same thing. So I had  

assumed that those images were used then, and 

the reviewers were, some of them were  

indicating that they were the same kind of idea 

of using a still image and then dissolving into  

the visuals of live action were used

again and again in that specific film.  

So that must have been something 

that's still appreciated  

because he decided to use that for the film, which 

is probably the one he had the most control over,  

but also the one that is the most forgotten 

and the most underappreciated. And also  

simply because it's lost, but also because 

it wasn't, it didn't come out the same way,  

didn't have a big backing the 

same way as other movies did.  

That's fascinating. That moment where you 

said kind of people in the audience say: 

Oh, I recognize this and I recognize the caption 

because it's at once a way, of course, to   

animate the audience, to get them interested. But 

it also can have the opposite effect. So it kind  

of instead of being immersed in the narrative of

the film, what if they remind themselves of at  

that moment is kind of like: oh, remember when 

I opened this illustrated thing and I was with  

these people and we were talking about this?

It takes you out of the cinematic  

concept. Yeah, exactly. 

And it also inserts that every day in  

a very unique way. It takes them out 

of the cinema where you're kind of a  

homogenous group of people and puts you into 

like whatever milieu you're associated with,  

your family, your friends, etc. So it's quite an 

interesting move. It is associative in that way.  

I never thought about it, but it's true, and I 

think that that's actually a very productive way  

to make people think because they feel empathy, 

but maybe less self-identification in that moment  

of alienation because it makes them removed, 

because they are reminded of that materiality.  

That is fascinating. I never thought of all that. 

And I mean, did you like early fan culture and  

like film memories and things like this?

The way that that works and the temporality  

of that moment I think is also really 

fascinating, along with the intermediary.  

Also, just because it draws attention to 

process over product, I'm not going to just  

show you the final drawing and then we're going 

to dissolve in something else. I'm going to show  

you how the drawing is made, going to pause,

I'm going to... And so you're really thinking about  

work and labor and what goes into the process of 

imagining rather than just kind of these... I think  

I wrote down what you said about what Kracauer 

said, kind of predestination. That things are, you  

have these kind of these finished

products and they're quite problematic.  

But I do wonder if they are finished in that 

way, in the way in which they are presented.  

I maybe if I can ask, do we have time for one 

more question? Sure. One more question is okay.  

Okay. I'll ask just one more question. So 

just thinking about Zilla's drawings and  

the trajectory and his esthetics over time, 

you've looked at so many different kinds.  

It's not only perhaps we should think 

of the films that changed and adapted to  

kind of new media thinking about the 

relationship between film and photography, 

sound. And that's something that Zille

was also interested in and commented on.  

But I'm wondering if his drawings also 

changed over time in relation to his  

idea of the cameras kind of this apparatus 

or this instrument that can be drawn with.  

Can you see him in his drawings reflecting 

on media technology and change during  

this time, either in perspectives or style or sketches

aesthetic? The first ones we kind of saw were   

very kind of a lot of sketch and kind of a

darkness to them. I am wondering,  

if he was watching even the way in which his 

illustrations and his name was being co-opted  

in films. I'm wondering if his drawings 

reacted to that in some way over time.  

I love that. I actually was looking very, very hard 

to find exactly that, because I thought it would  

have been interesting in a way to get maybe Zille to

react more, because it was very hard to kind of  

get his voice into my research. And that  

was something that was very important to me.  

And as you can tell, I didn't select 

any attacks or any images,  

because it was very, very few and far between.

There were certain ones where he had one  

particular color image where there are some 

filmmakers and the singer that I was  

mentioning, sitting around a table 

and talking. That was one sketch. And then  

there was another sketch where it's like 

poorer individuals saying: Oh, I want to  

be... Let me go make a movie. Oh, you 

want to make a movie? That kind of thing.  

That was the only few sketches. Of 

course, I'm not an art historian and  

I'm not an expert, so I didn't just dive into 

what I could find, but I didn't really find  

all that much. And as I was saying, kind of 

his art became consistent. Once he found this  

way of drawing, that became kind of 

the iconic style of his drawings.  

And they are very much, if you know Wilhelm

Busch, he's a very, Max and Moritz is something  

that he did. This is something that is kind of 

akin. But Wilhelm Bush didn't have kind of the  

social justice aspect that Zille's art had. But it is 

very much in that vein of drawing, so just from  

the style of the art, style that I can recognize.

But it does have a grittiness to it that  

is slightly different. And so I 

don't see an evolution in his work  

from that time period, and his reaction to 

the medium are few and far between. However,  

he was also a photographer. And his photographs, 

there's certain photographs that still survive  

in albums today, but it's very under 

appreciated compared to his drawings.  

And I think that maybe if we were to look more at 

an evolution in that photography, which I haven't  

done, we could maybe see traces of his interest 

in that moving image becoming a part of that art.  

Thank you. Thank you, Ben, for this amazing

talk. It really opened a lot of new thoughts, I think,

for all the audience and ourselves.

And thank you, professor Michell, for  

a wonderful series of questions. I would like to 

invite our audience to check out our website  

for upcoming talks. Next Tuesday we have a talk 

on Italian imperialism. And on Friday evening,  

it's co-sponsoring a film, a documentary on Ukraine. 

So just to give you a heads up about those  

events. And with that, just one more thanks for

a wonderful presentation and conversation.

Thank you for this incredible opportunity for 

a graduate student to present their work.  

I really appreciate it. Such a joy! Thank 

you, Ben. Thanks, Laurie. Thank you. Kalani.

Duration: 01:27:04