The late 1920s saw the first large scale wave of radical political film making in Germany. Deploring ‘how broadly and deeply the cinema influences and confuses proletarian audiences’, Béla Balázs cried out in 1922: ‘We must create our own film companies! This is absolutely necessary!’ (Balázs 2016 , p. 352). The same urge is present in Willi Münzenberg’s manifesto Erobert den Film! (‘Conquering cinema’). Münzenberg conversed words into action by taking over the recently founded production company Prometheus. He turned it into the biggest left wing film company of the Weimar republic, producing alternative newsreels, short documentaries and feature films with proletarian subjects. Comparing two Prometheus films set in Berlin’s northern district Wedding – the feature film Mother Krause’s Journey to Happiness (Mutter Krausens Fahrt ins Glück, Piel [Phil] Jutzi, D 1929) and the short documentary Zeitprobleme: wie der Arbeiter wohnt (Slatan Dudow, D 1929) – Guido Kirsten’s analysis is aimed at showing how the two films scandalize working class poverty by using (in part) similar imagery but different rhetoric strategies. The underlying question is what elements of these strategies are, even today, relevant and vital for political representations of poverty and precarity.
Dr Guido Kirsten is the principal investigator of the Emmy Noether research group “Cinematic Discourses of Deprivation: Analysing the Representation of Precarity and Exclusion in European Fiction Film and Documentary” at the Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF (Potsdam). He is the author of Filmischer Realismus (2013) and co-editor of Christian Metz and the Codes of Cinema: Film Semiology and Beyond (Amsterdam University Press 2018; together with Margrit Tröhler). Since 2007 he has been an editor of the film and television studies journal Montage AV, for which he co-edited issues on film and politics (2014), Roland Barthes’ film related writings (2015) and new ways of film distribution (streaming and BitTorrent; 2017).