'On The Set' At Berlin's Deutsche Kinemathek

The Cinematheque francaise exhibition "On the Set" is currently on display at the Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin.

A snapshot from 1937 catches Cary Grant and Grace Moore filming When You're In Love. This image is included in the exhibit "On The Set" at Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin.

A snapshot from 1937 catches Cary Grant and Grace Moore filming When You're In Love. This image is included in the exhibit "On The Set" at Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin. Courtesy of Collection Isabelle Champion hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Collection Isabelle Champion

Black and white photographs of movie sets in Paris, Babelsberg and Hollywood show the early days of filmmaking and how directors and crews constructed their film sets. The exhibit also documents the incredible progress filmmaking went through during the beginning of the twentieth century.

"On the Set" marks the 100 year anniversary of the Studio Babelsberg.

Peter Mänz, from Deutsche Kinemathek, says the first studio in Babelsberg, a glass studio, was built and opened in 1912.

"You can see the studio without artificial light, with the early cameras, with the early cinematographers in this exhibition, and of course during 1910 and 1939 many things changed. The sound movies came up, the technical equipment, especially in Hollywood, exploded."

Mänz says most of the images are unpublished vintage photographs. They show directors such as F. W. Murnau preparing a shoot for his silent movie Der Letzte Mann using miniature cars and American film pioneer D.W. Griffith during the filming of his first sound movie Abraham Lincoln in 1930.

The exhibition also captures film stars like Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin and Ingrid Bergmann. In one image, Bergmann poses with her dog Buzzy on the set of Intermezzo, the first American movie the Swedish actress starred in.

Paris, Babelsberg and Hollywood were the centers of filmmaking before World War Two and had much in common, Peter Mänz says.

"They had a tight connection, and there are directors that worked in all three cities. For example, Fritz Lang who started his career in Babelsberg, and then he emigrated to Paris where he shot his film Liliom, and then he made a career in Hollywood, and then he returned to Germany after the war."

Ingrid Bergmann talks to her dog Buzzy on the set of Intermezzo.

Ingrid Bergmann talks to her dog Buzzy on the set of Intermezzo. Courtesy of Collection Isabelle Champion hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Collection Isabelle Champion

Parallel to "On the Set," Peter Mänz has put together the exhibition "Berlin-Babelsberg, Today," which presents set photography covering the last 10 years, a period in which Berlin-Babelsberg has rejoined the international film community with productions such as Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Bastards, Stephen Daldry's The Reader, and Roland Emmerich's Anonymous.

"And what is interesting when you compare the early photographs when you see David W. Griffith on the set looking for a special view he wants to shoot, or you see Roman Polanski on the set of The Pianist, you really feel this special atmosphere. What we also show in this exhibition are films by the so called "Berlin School," directors like Christian Petzold who work in a different way, without music, who work on location and are very close with the actors, so I would says these films transport the essence of the city of Berlin."

Studio Babelsberg has gone through turbulent times, from the glory days of the Weimar Republic to the site of Nazi propaganda films, it's isolation during the GDR and the studio's re-entry into the international film world, post reunification.

Taken together, the exhibitions "On the Set" and "Berlin-Babelsberg, Today" document the book ends of the studio's 100 year existence.

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