15th Karlsruhe Silent Filmfestival


The 15th edition of the Karlsruhe Silent Film Festival will take place March 8 to 12, 2017.

The festival's main programme is dedicated to Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, creator of "Nosferatu", the progenitor of all Dracula films. No less famous are his other masterpieces such as "The Last Man", "Sunrise" and "Taboo". Murnau's films are full of unique imagery, often created by ingenious technical inventions such as the "unchained camera".

All of the showings feature live musical accompaniment.  

The 15th  Silent Filmfestival will take place in the ZKM Medientheater during two days (saturday and sunday). On thursday we will use the so called U-Max in the Prinz-Max-Palais. Friday the screenings will take place in the cinema Studio 3 (Kinemathek). The opening event will take place for the first time in the Stephanssaal. The "Capella Obscura" will accompany "Sunrise". 

The partners of the Festival are our long-time partners Kinemathek Karlsruhe and the ZKM (Center for Art and Media); new partners are the Stadtmuseum (PMP) and the Roncalli-Forum, which provides the festival with the Stephans-Saal.

Plakat "Sunrise" von F. W. Murnau

19:30 clock
Stephanssaal, Ständehausstraße 4

Opening Event

Sunrise FilmstillSunrise

USA, 1927 

Director: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau

 Murnau’s first Hollywood production tells an elementary story: a woman from the city - the seductress - has taken holiday lodgings with ordinary people in the countryside. She tests her arts successfully on the husband and suborns him to kill his wife at a suitable occasion. An excursion to the city is meant to provide that occasion since they plan to throw the wife overboard during a lake crossing on the way back.

“Sunrise” was awarded three Oscars, the first in film history.


19:00 clock
U-Max, Prinz-Max-Palais, Karlstraße 10

Book Presentation and film

Cover Film Bild Kunst"Film Bild Kunst"


2016 saw the publication of volume 35 in the series Zürcher Filmstudien (Zurich film studies): „Film Bild Kunst. Visuelle Ästhetik des vorklassischen Stummfilms“. Editors Jörg Schweinitz und Daniel Wiegand, both staff members of the Seminar für Filmwissenschaft (film studies department) at the University of Zurich, present their book and likewise three representative productions from the relevant decade 1909 to 1918.

The short films „Le Printemps“ (Spring) (Louis Feuillade, F 1909) and „Porcelaines tendres“ (Flexible Porcelains) (Emil Cohl, F 1909) toy with the motives and enactment techniques of tableaux vivants as a particular artistic mise-en-scene that was popular on variety and music hall stages around 1900, and on its part based on late 18th and 19th century popular image culture, in particular the phantasmagoria. Based on all these traditions, the two films play with standstill, ephemeral and lively movement up to and including dancing. How this kind of imagery aesthetics reached its zenith a decade later is palpable in the German feature „Die Liebe der Maria Bonde“ (Maria Bonde's Love) (Emerich Hanus, D 1917/18) that tells a tale of love, jealousy and death via ornate imagery aesthetics oscillating between plane and depth, the ornamental and the scenic.


Musical Accompaniment: Günter Buchwald (piano)

21:00 clock
U-Max, Prinz-Max-Palais, Karlstraße 10

Journey Into the Night

Germany, 1920/21, 98 min.

Director: F. W. Murnau

Musical Accompaniment: Eunice Martins

Only prima facie does this title appear to be mysterious, referring as it does to a painter's(!) increasing loss of sight, thus an artist depending on his vision like no other. This story is embedded in a psychological melodrama focusing on four people - a "play of passion" (Willy Haas). A physician leaves his fiancée to move with a dancer to the countryside near the sea. Both the landscape and the weather are playing vital dramaturgical functions. In the same village where the physician and the dancer live, a painter has also taken up abode. The physician succeeds to temporarily restore the artist's eyesight. Hardly has the latter regained his vision, he falls in love with the dancer who promptly leaves the doctor. A tragic turn is looming...

Jutta Brückner writes: "The reason for which "Der Gang in die Nacht" is actually more worthy of watching than its retelling leads us to assume is due to the fact that this story was not shot in overfraught sets, but in placid, clearly structured spaces and poetically photographed landscapes. Often praised for its technical virtuosity, German photo and film camera work has in this case led the emotionally charged topics, liaised with deeply rooted fears and emotions, away from the suffocating spaces in which they arose and into the vastness of a nature in whose elements they can be mirrored. That the landscape turns into a soulscape becomes particularly evident in the storm scene."


19:00 clock
Kinemathek Karlsruhe, Studio 3, Kaiserpassaage

Burning Soil

Deutschland, 1921/22, 99 min.

Regie: F. W. Murnau


Musical Accompaniment:  Eunice Martins (piano)  


Following the death of his farmer father, ambitious Johannes leaves his home and thus also the farmgirl Maria working there. He becomes the secretary of a count. By chance, Johannes discovers the secret of the barren field which holds a petroleum well. Soon after the count's death, Johannes gets married to the former's widow Helga just to get hold of the field, becoming manager of an oil company in the wake of this move. When Helga discovers he married her solely of greed, a catastrophe ensues as Helga commits suicide. Johannes returns to the farm, now managed by his brother, meeting Maria once again who is still employed there...

Many motives of later Murnau films, for instance the contrast between life in the city and in the country, are already part of this film which can indeed be interpreted as the story of a failed social climbing. <

21:30 clock
Kinemathek Karlsruhe, Studio 3, Kaiserpassaage

The Golem, how he came into the world

The Golem 1920 PosterGermany, 1920, 84 min.

Director: Paul Wegener

Musical Accompaniment: Günter Buchwald (piano)

“The ghetto of Prague during the 16th century: From his study of the position of the stars, Rabbi Loew suspects that the Jews in the ghetto are about to suffer a catastrophe. As it happens, the kaiser commands that they leave his dominion. To protect his congregation from the the forced expulsion, Loew ... creates with his assistant Famulus the Golem out ofa piece of clay, following an ancient ritual. The Golem saves the life of the kaiser. In gratitude, the kaiser rescinds his edict against the jews. But Famulus secretly brings the creature to life again in order to kill the hated nobleman - with fatale consequences.
“This second Golem film is a milestone in the history of cinema. Namely because it creates relationship to modern art. Not the way "Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari" ... relate to Expressionist painting, but to an imaginary architecture of symbol-filled sculpture.

Eugen Tannenbaum, BZ am Mittag, 30. Oktober 1920

Programme in the context of “Weeks against Racisme”


15:00 clock
ZKM, Medientheater

Programme 6

Foto Ausschnitt Das Maedchen ohne VaterlandThe Merry Jail

Germany, 1917, 57 Min.
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Musical Accompaniment (both films): Reinhold Keil (Grand piano)

We shall not even try to relate the whole content of this film, so rich in narrative and confusions alike, which is based on the very well-known operetta "Die Fledermaus". Just as in "Die Austernprinzessin" or in „Die Finanzen des Großherzogs“, Harry Liedtke once again plays an aristocrat, in this case not bankrupt but sentenced to a term in prison since he has disturbed the peace after having had taken a cup too much. Is it possible to turn an operetta into a film? Lubitsch can do it!

The Girl without a Country

Germany, 1912,  32 Min.

Director: Urban Gad, with Asta Nielsen


The film's subtitle "an episode from the Balcan War" pinpoints the production both temporally and geographically. A mole uses the gypsy Zidra who is pretty as a picture to spy out a border fortress. While she is sent to seduce one of the fortress officers, she happens to actually fall for him. That doesn't bode well...

19:00 clock
ZKM, Medientheater

Film Concert: Nosferatu

Nosferatu window koloriertGermany, 1921/22, 96 min.

Director: F. W. Murnau

Musical Accompaniment: Friedrich Egri and Ensemble

„We are assured, that a number of ladies who ... attended the Nosferatu premiere had a bad night. And this seems perfectly credible, for in the field of literature only Hoffmann, Poe, and (writer, cabaret artist and filmmaker Hanns Heinz) Ewers have succeeded in injecting horror into art with such perfection. ... The Nosferatu film is a sensation, for it radically departs from the well-worn path of the hundreds of newly resurrected love stories and the mechanical adventure ... „ Hans Wollenberg, Lichtbildbühne Nr. 11, March 1922.


22:00 clock
ZKM, Medientheater

Programme 7

Marizza, called the  Smuggler Madonna

(1920/21)‚ Fragment 13 min .

Director: F. W. Murnau

Musical Accompaniment: Karlsruher Improvisationsensemble (both films)

 For a long time, the sole surviving fragment of this film was inaccessible until finally, some years ago, its owner donated it to the Cineteca Nazionale in Rom which restored it in due course. Marizza, as a role comparable to Asta Nielsen's female lead in „Das Mädchen ohne Vaterland“, has the task to turn the border soldiers' heads. This is how the Lichtbildbühne review of 21. 1. 1922 interpreted the film: „Hot-blooded Tzwetta Tzatschewa embodied the lead role, powerfully supported by Twardowski, Haskel and Sandrock. Particularly enjoyable the excellent photography by Karl Freund“.

The Finances of the Grand Duke

(1923/24), 80 min.

Director: F. W. Murnau


Murnau's sole comedy rests in some typical patterns of the genre: Harry Liedtke plays a bankrupt aristocrat (one of his favourite roles, cf. his roles in the two Lubitsch productions „Das fidele Gefängnis“ and „Die Austernprinzessin“), trying to save his fabled Dukedom; a Russian Grand Duchess having fallen in love with his photo falls from the sky, so to speak; a beginning revolution is mainly defeated by the court cook. Regarding the time of production of this film it is useful to take notice of contemporary political connections: Just four years after the October Revolution, the Russian navy(!) comes to the aid of the Grand Duchess and the Duke in order to put a stop on the game of the revolutionaries who are actually no more than corrupt footpads. Since this is a comedy, there is a happy ending.


The Karlsruher Improvisations-Ensemble are: Matthias Vogt (piano), Hartmut Nieder (Flute) and Bhadra Herbert Nofer (Percussion)


11:30 clock
ZKM, Medientheater

Matinee - The Lost Shadow

(1920/21) 75 min.,
Direcor: Rochus Gliese
Musical Accompaniment: Andreas Benz (Klavier)

 A truly (Gothic) romantic subject matter: Young musician Sebaldus loves beautiful Barbara who has grown up in the castle of Countess Durande; but he is too shy to speak his mind while she yearns for him with all her heart. Then one day, a demonic shadow player appears at the castle feast and gives unhappy Sebaldus a magic violin to help him win his beloved's heart. The price he wants is Sebaldus' shadow. Doom takes its course!

A whole network of connections: Rochus Gliese was the "Sunrise" set designer and created the costumes for „Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam“; Karl Freund was the cinematographer of many Murnau films; Greta Schröder, female lead in "Nosferatu", appears in this film opposite Paul Wegener and Lyda Salmonova, both of whom also starred in the content-wise very similar „Der Student von Prag“ and, of course, in the Golem film.

15:00 clock
ZKM, Medientheater


Fairy Tales and Enchantments

The Films: Ballett of Sylphides, Tulipes, Magic Roses, Cinderalla, Director: Albert Capellani (16 min.); Tit for Tat (OT: La peine du taliion), Easter Eggs, Trip to Jupiter, Sleeping Beauty, Director: Albert Capellani (14 min.)

Whole programme: ca. 60 Minutes (without pause)

Musical Accompaniment: Children's Ensembles of the Badisches Konservatorium, directed by Sylvia Jürges; Frieder Egri (grand piano), Konstanze Ihle (Percussion).

Short films have recently regained increased popularity with audiences of all age groups. This has inspired us to present a programme of shorts brimming with fantasy. In a number of cases, these films are abundantly coloured - as is well-known, silents were neither silent nor just produced in black and white. Several contemporary colour technologies were available, with almost all of them visible in the films selected for this programme. The show opens with a short ballet film, then goes on to offer e.g. magic flowers, a fantastic voyage to Jupiter (presented as a dream!), and two lively fairy tale productions by Alberto Cappellani, with many well-staged dance and mass scenes. /p>


17:00 clock
ZKM, Medientheater


The Water Magician  min.

Director:  Kenji Mizoguchi

Japanes benshi: KATAOKA Ichirō,
Musical Accompaniment: Reiko Emura (grand piano)

A performer with a travelling fairground troupe in Japan with a spectacular water fountain dancing number falls in love with a poor coachman. In order to enable him to study law in faraway Tokyo, she borrows money to give him. But the pressure of her creditor puts her in straits from which there is no way out. This Kenji Mizoguchi masterpiece is one of the great classics of Japanese silent film: the impressive portrait of a strong woman.(Stummfilmtage Bonn)

20:00 clock
ZKM, Medientheater

Closing event: Faust

Les quat' cents farces du diable

The Merry frolics of Satan
Director: Georges Meliés, F, 1906 17 min.
Musical Accompaniment: Ochestre Barbenfouillis
The film, an updated comedic adaptation of the Faust legend, follows the adventures of an engineer who barters with the Devil for superhuman powers and is forced to face the consequencesKurzfilm von Georges Meliès


Germany, 1925/26, 107 min.

Regie: F. W. Murnau

Musical Accompaniment: Reiko EMURA (Grand Piano), Yuki MUKAI (violon)


Based on Goethe's classic drama, the man of letters and author Hans Kyser had written the script for this film which tried to distinguish itself from the classic yet failed to completely do so. The production tells the story of academic Faust who is seduced by Mephistopheles following a row between the latter and Archangel Gabriel in which Mephistopheles had claimed he could cause each and every human to divert from God's design...

While the critics remained divided regarding this film, the public made it a success. Willy Haas found some conciliatory words: „ ... Surely: this „Faust“ is not Murnau's opus magnum. But it is the absolute prerogative of such important productive geniuses of film direction to err a little from time to time. Even where he errs, he remains one of the most important film people of our time.“