History of Avant-garde Film

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Code Completion Credits Range Language Instruction Semester
311HAF ZK 4 4h/W English summer

Subject guarantor

Name of lecturer(s)

Learning outcomes of the course unit

Students acquire knowledge about the evolution of avante-garde film over the course of the 20th century.

Mode of study


Prerequisites and co-requisites

This course is suitable for anyone able to open her or his eyes and mind.

Course contents

This course will examine the evolution of avante-garde film over the course of the 20th century. Students will become acquainted with nearly all strains of avante-garde film (i.e. cinéma pur, non-objective film, surrealist´ film, formal film, structural/material film, found-footage film, assemblage and collage film etc.) with the objective of demonstrating the vast possibilities of film language (filmic devices, film technique, methods of montage or animation, etc) in non-narrative cinema. Each lesson is accompanied by various examples screened on DVD or VHS.

The whole course is divided in two parts:

Part A – A Historical overview of Film Avat-garde during the 20th century

1.Avant-garde of the 20s–30s (1st Avantgarde, der Absolute Film - Hans Richter, Walther Ruttmann, Oskar Fischinger, cinéma pur: Man Ray, René Clair, Fernand Léger, the others: Joris Ivens, Alexandre Alexeieff, hand-made film: Len Lye etc.)

2.Avant-garde of the 40s–50s ( 2nd Avantgarde, forunderground film, Trance film and The San Francisco Renaissance etc.)

3.Avant-garde of the 60s (3rd Avantgarde, Underground film, New American Cinema, Jonas Mekas – leading person of an American avant-garde; German experimental film)

4.Avant-garde of the 70s–90s (Recycling and recycled Avantgarde, expanded cinema, Schmelzdahin, Alte Kinder, Mathias Müller, Stan Brakhage, Peter Tscherkassky, Martin Arnold, Marcus Bergner, ARF ARF, etc.)

Part B – The Seven faces of the Avant-garde - detailed analysis of diverse strains of Avant-garde film.

1.Absolute Film (Der Absolute Film, Walther Ruttmann: Painting in the medium of time, Hans Richter, Viking Eggeling, Oskar Fischinger, Harry Smith, James & John Whitney, Jordan Belson, Stan Brakhage etc.)

2.Pure Film (cinema pur, Man Ray, Henri Chomette, René Clair, Fernand Léger, Alexandre Alexeieff, Stan Brakhage, Thomas Mank, Hans Richter etc)

3.Avant-garde Film in the narrower sense (René Clair, Trance film and The San Francisco Renaissance, Maya Deren & Alex Hammid: Meshes of the Afternoon, Maya Deren At Land; Kenneth Anger: Fireworks, Rabbit´s Moon, Scorpio Rising,; Sidney Peterson: The Cage, The Lead Shoes, Robert Frank Pull My Daisy, Shirley Clarke; Mythopoetical films – Stan Brakhage: Dog Star Man)

4.Assemblage Film (Collage Films, Stan Vanderbeek, Robert Breer, Larry Jordan, Stan Brakhage: Dog Star Man)

5.Found- footage Film (Bruce Conner, Malcolm Le Grice, Martin Arnold, Matthias Muller, Boris Kazakov etc.)

6.Structural Film (The Viennese Formal Film: Peter Kubelka, Kurt Kren, etc. The American Structural Film: Paul Sharits, Michael Snow, Tony Conrad, etc.)

7.Spontaneous Film (instant structuring of the reality, flash and freeze, film as a diary, Marie Menken, Jonas Mekas, Kurt Kren, etc.)

Recommended or required reading

P. A. Sitney: Visionary Film; New York 1974, new edition 2000

Malcolm LeGrice: Abstract Film and Beyond; London 1977

James Peterson: Dreams of Chaos, Visions of Order: Understanding the American Avant-Garde Cinema; Wayne State University Press, Detroit 1994

Assessment methods and criteria

1.Class Attendance and participation: mandatory in order to pass the course.

2.Written Exam: a test, which will examine students’ basic knowledge of the material covered in class.



Further information

No schedule has been prepared for this course

The subject is a part of the following study plans