Viking Eggeling's Symphony Diagonale

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Rohit Singh
Viking Eggeling’s film, Symphonie Diagonale, was created just out of paper cut-outs and tin foil, by photographing patterns made out of them, one frame at a time. Axel Olson, a young Swedish painter, wrote to his parents in 1922 that Eggeling was working to "evolve a musical-cubistic style of film – completely divorced from the naturalistic style." Symphonie Diagonale being a silent movie, it is quite evident from the literature and the name itself that music is an important aspect of the work. Some might even say that the film is incomplete in the sense that it is silent. A deeper contemplation reveals that it is not meant to be shown with music, it is music. Eggeling wanted each and every part of the film to have a musical aspect in it. He places, quite crucially, all the forms at the centre of the frame, as if; the frame was a concert hall. Composite master-shapes, consisting of various interwoven designs (curves, parallel lines, solid shapes) fill the entire frame. Different forms derived from the master-shape and varying in intensity, when shown in unison create an impression of an orchestral ensemble. The timbre of the music implied is characterised by the kind of form shown, while the pitch, by varying the intensities of various elements. The contrast between the elements of the form applies an objectively analysed movement such as that between verticals and horizontals, straight and curved, light and dark, strong and weak, disappearing and emerging. Various 'expressions' of line are presented at a controlled, mechanical tempo, revealing the film's acute observation on the organization of time intervals. All this was achieved as a result of some painstaking efforts and now it seems fascinating that he actually drew some hundred basic variations on the master shape (mostly on scrolls of ten to twenty images), which were traced onto tin foil, delicately cut out from the foil, then animated under the camera by carefully slicing away minute...
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