Diagonal Symphony

Lines proceed, recede, and make angles in what Frederick Kiesler describes as “an experiment to discover the basic principles of the organization of time intervals in the film medium.” Curves also appear. German. Original title: Symphonie diagonale

Whether the film succeeds as an “experiment” (and what exactly it’s trying to experiment with in experimenting with “an organization… medium.”) is above my head; but the images Eggeling creates are enchanting and beautiful. Unlike Hans Richter’s Rhythm 21—which left me equally puzzled but less amused—Diagonal Symphony plays with lines, curves, and the process of drawing/erasing rather than a more rigid interplay of shapes. Although symmetry still exists, it exists between frames (one frame being an image, the next being its mirror) rather than in one frame: inter-frame symmetry, not intra-frame. The intra-frame compositions, however, remind of German Expressionism: weird angles, violent diagonals giving the film the appearance of an Expressionist urban scene in which the flashing neon lights of a city street are presented in canted-angled close-ups: left, right, left, right. One recurring image in particular looks like a smoking cigarette, undercutting abstraction somewhat. Experimental motion: Emotion.

Diagonal Symphony: affective rather than effective. Cause remains unknown. Experiment a failure?

Viking Eggeling, 1924


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