Color film of Berlin in 1900

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Alexanderplatz, in Berlin of 1900. (Berlin Channel)

Although three decades had passed since the Franco-Prussian War and another decade and a half awaited World War I, the Berliners in this 1900 color film (with some 1914 scenes toward the end) of their city appear depressed. The elegance of their civic environment cannot have been to blame. Perhaps the militarism that seems to have infused their society was responsible. Next on tap, after this film of not quite five minutes is over, is a film, also in color, of Berlin in 1936, after Hitler’s rise, and then in 1945, after the end of World War II. Much different. And then one from 1954.

After it I watched a recent tourist film listing the top 10 attractions of Berlin. For all the great old buildings that almost unaccountably survive, Berlin in this film was very, very ugly. I was there with my brother, Tony, in 2004 or thereabouts, and as much as we tried to keep within the ambit of beautiful architecture – mostly in the former eastern sector of the once-divided city – the place seemed soulless. The non-architectural explanations for that are many, but the architectural ones should not be discounted.

[Note: Leon Krier, who knows Europe past and present far better than I do, warns me that many of the shots in the first film “are from Paris, Munich, St Petersburg. Moscow, Vienna and other European places.” And yet, the Berlin Channel labels the film as Berlin. I went through it again and could not find anything that was obviously not in Berlin, especially based on the shopfront signs, which were German so far as I could tell, but these could be in Munich or Vienna for all I know, and Leon knows so much more than I do. I would take him at his word. So let the viewer beware!]

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Portait of Stalin along the Unter den Linden, in Berlin of 1945. (Berlin Channel)

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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One Response to Color film of Berlin in 1900

  1. Alec says:

    As you’ve stated, not all scenes were from Berlin, those that werent however, were in front of Munichs Feldherrnhalle (easily recognisable by its 3 arched bays). I would like to leave you the link to a german forum that has collected a substantial ammount of old Photographs of Berlin. But beware! Its incredibly depressing if you know the current state of the city. https://www.stadtbild-deutschland.org/forum/index.php?thread/260-berlin-in-alten-bildern/&pageNo=1

    Like

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