Symphonie Diagonal (1925)

Symphonie Diagonal is one of my favourtite experimental short films, although it exists today only in fragments. In this short film, the emphasis is on objectively analyzed movement rather than expressiveness on the surface patterning of lines into clearly defined movements, controlled by a mechanical, almost metronomic tempo: vertical and horizontal, straight and curved, light and dark, strong and weak, disappearing and emerging. Various ‘expressions’ of line are presented at a controlled, mechanical tempo, revealing the film’s acute observation of the organization of time intervals. Visual imagery has a melodic quality, like a musical composition visually expressed.

Symphonie Diagonal has been described as absolute film and Visual Music. Itself film’s title suggests musical associations and Eggeling himself referred to his early drawing experiments as orchestrations. It was considered by many to be the "first" true abstraction in animation. He explored the depiction of movement, first in scroll drawings and then on film. In 1922 Eggeling bought a motion picture camera, and working without Richter, sought to create a new kind of cinema. In 1923 he showed a now lost, 10 minute film based on an earlier scroll titled Horizontal-vertical Orchestra. In the summer of 1923 he began work on Symphonie Diagonale. Paper cut-outs and then tin foil figures were photographed a frame at a time. He spent three or four years on it and died less than three weeks after its first showing in 1925.

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