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Untitled Document

A film series and special events at the Zeughauskino at the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, will mark the 200th birthday of Richard Wagner

April 25 to May 31, 2013


Under the title “Wagner-Kino” (Wagner Cinema) a film series and related special events dedicated to Wagner’s reception in the medium of film will take place in April and May 2013 on the occasion of Richard Wagner’s 200th birthday (May 22, 1813). This event encompasses 20 film programs. The film screenings will be enhanced by introductions, discussions and musical performances. A symposium, as well as an accompanying book to be published in spring 2013, offer the opportunity to delve much deeper into the contents of this subject.

The reception of Richard Wagner at the cinema and by cinema is by no means limited to screen adaptations of his biography and his operas or the use of individual musical motifs in film soundtracks. They range from examinations of Wagner’s subject matter and characters, through a continuation of his leitmotif techniques and use of certain instrumentation, to the attempts to conceptualize cinema as a form of a total work of art. Wagner’s idea of a synthesis of all artistic means of expression in the form of a total production, which should overwhelm the audience and sweep it into an ecstatic undertow, had already been taken up and developed further by several movie directors during the era of silent films. The German film director Hans-Jürgen Syberberg dealt intensively with this approach in the 1970s and 1980s, and the media artist Christoph Schlingensief also belongs to this tradition.

Wagner’s biography and his political positions are mirrored in the radical changes and condemnations of his times. His claim to absoluteness, like Wagner’s ideological attitudes (particularly his rigid anti-Semitism), made him into an important reference point within National Socialist cultural politics. Consequently, from today’s standpoint, it is almost impossible to detach Wagner from the context of this specific reception history. This aspect has been dealt with in films in diverse ways. The Ride of the Valkyries, for instance, was reinterpreted into a universal musical code for Fascism, which has experienced numerous ironic refractions and new interpretations up through the most recent film history.

If nothing else, the cinema’s special affinity to Wagner results from the subject matter and characters with which Wagner was engaged in his operas. Giants and dwarfs, knights and dragons, gods and magicians, undead seafarers or young men searching for the Holy Grail are the motifs, which were continuously popular throughout film history and which belong to the fixed inventory of movie genres (fantasy films, horror movies, science fiction). We encounter other constellations of characters – such as the fatal love triangle in Tristan and Isolde – especially in American melodramas.

The various reference points, which can be produced between Wagner’s work, aesthetics and ideology on the one hand and cinematography on the other, are mirrored in a multifaceted film cycle. The program extends from the early screen adaptations of opera in the silent film era up to modern science fiction fairytales. Both feature films and documentaries will be shown, alongside experimental films and animation, as well as clips from newsreels.


The Event Location

The film screenings and accompanying special events will take place at the Zeughauskino at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin. This cinema is known for its ambitious retrospectives and scholarly film series. The Zeughauskino staff has long-standing experience in dealing with valuable archival copies. The films of the “Retrospective” are regularly shown at the Zeughauskino within the context of the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale)


The Team

Jan Drehmel, jdrehmel[at]
Kristina Jaspers, kjaspers[at]
Steffen Vogt, Dr. phil., svogt[at]

August 2012


►Download Programme (PDF)



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