The Weimar Republic of Germany, covering the post-World War I period of civil and governmental strife, witnessed a great struggle among a variety of ideologies, a struggle for which the arts provided one important arena. Leftist individuals and organizations critiqued mainstream art production and attempted to counter what they perceived as its conservative-to-reactionary influence on public opinion. In this groundbreaking study, Bruce Murray focuses on the leftist counter-current in Weimar cinema, offering an alternative critical approach to the traditional one of close readings of the classical films.
Beginning with a brief review of pre-Weimar cinema (1896-1918), he analyzes the film activity of the Social Democratic Party, the German Communists, and independent leftists in the Weimar era. Leftist filmmakers, journalists, and commentators, who in many cases contributed significantly to marginal leftist as well as mainstream cinema, have, until now, received little scholarly attention. Drawing on exhaustive archival research and personal interviews, Murray shows how the plurality of aesthetic models represented in the work of individuals who participated in leftist experiments with cinema in the 1920S collapsed as Germany underwent the transition from parliamentary democracy to fascist dictatorship. He suggests that leftists shared responsibility for that collapse and asserts the value of such insights for those who contemplate alternatives to institutional forms of cinematic discourse today.