Perceptual Gymnastics

How to Capture Life: Examining Gazes

Perceptual Gymnastics

The NSDAP's Reich Propaganda Headquarters (Reichspropagandaleitung) in Berlin published the N.S. Ton-Bild-Bericht Nr. 2 ("N.S. Sound Image Report No. 2") in summer 1933, which has been preserved in the Film Archive of the German Federal Archives. 

The fourth and final piece in the 530-meter-long sound film, which when played at a speed of twenty-four frames per second corresponds to about twenty minutes, has the title "Austria!" (Österreich!) and begins with a panel of text about the "campaign of destruction" being conducted "against National Socialism" by Austrian Federal Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss.

This is followed by images of headlines in the German Nazi newspapers Der Angriff and Völkischer Beobachter about a "growing fermentation" and "Christian Social conspiracy" in Austria.  The visuals are accompanied by a male voice-over commenting: "In Austria the reaction is fighting its last-ditch battle against National Socialism, the only guarantor of the Greater German idea. On the occasion of a celebration in memory of Vienna's liberation from the Turks, Federal Chancellor Dr. Dollfuss speaks to the assembled Home Guard [Heimwehr] members." The next sequence comes from a piece in the  newsreel about the "" (Türkenbefreiungsfeier) hosted by the Austrian Homeland Protection (Heimatschutz) on Sunday, May 14, 1933, in the

In it Dollfuss says that "foreign spirit and foreign ideas" had "infected" the people and wreaked "evil havoc."

While the Home Guard leader is visible on the garden terrace of Schönbrunn Palace, the commentator claims: "At the same time, this Austrian people received the German ministers Kerrl and Frank in Vienna." In reality, Bavarian Justice Minister Hans Frank and his Prussian counterpart Hanns Kerrl had landed at in Vienna the previous day, at shortly after 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, 1933, and then driven in a convoy to the in the city center. The subsequent recordings of cheering National Socialists were presumably made when the German politicians arrived at the NSDAP's Viennese headquarters at Hirschengasse 25. There, in the foyer of the Adolf Hitler House, Frank thanks the gau administrator (Gauleiter) in charge, Alfred Eduard Frauenfeld, "for the kind reception" in Vienna: it was a "tremendous joy" to be able to emphasize in the "most German part of the East," where Hitler's "life struggle as a simple manual laborer" had begun, that the führer was proud of his homeland, which stood "by him and his movement, by the idea of peace among peoples, by the idea of national prosperity, by the idea of the freedom and purity of national life." 

Nazi supporters can then be seen and heard singing the near the Technical Museum in Vienna. They are violently pushed to the edge of the Mariahilfe Strasse by mounted police and with batons and bayonets to clear the way for the , which ran from Schönbrunn Palace all the way to These scenes took place after the "Turks Deliverance Celebration" on Sunday, May 14, and were also captured in the piece in the Fox Tönende Wochenschau. Then, while the Home Guard members are marching down the upper Mariahilfer Strasse in lockstep, the male voice-over comments: "The path of suppression and prohibition is dangerous when one has the majority of the people against one and as an opponent a movement whose inner strength overruns everything that stands in its way." The image changes in the middle of the sentence to show Storm Troopers with swastika flags entering the frame from the right-hand side, marching in a strict and orderly fashion past Hitler who reviews the parade by clicking together the heels of his boots and raising his arm. 

The final sequence of the sound film shows a Nazi rally in the in Vienna. Even though it is not stated explicitly, the context implies that it was the National Socialist "Turks Deliverance Celebration" on the evening of Saturday, May 13, 1933. In fact, however, these recordings were made almost two weeks earlier, on May 1, when the NSDAP was celebrating the "Day of National Work" there. 

A band is playing the military march Preussens Gloria, which was composed in 1871 by Johann Gottfried Piefke. Afterward the Viennese gau administrator Frauenfeld speaks: "But we, my German national comrades, we who have fought this battle with pleasure and devotion, we will have crowned this battle with success, with victory! We Germans here of the Eastern March [Ostmark], we will have found our way home to the Holy Third German Reich!" Accompanied by the band, the crowd then starts singing the NSDAP's party anthem, the Horst-Wessel-Lied, with which the N.S. Ton-Bild-Bericht Nr. 2 fades out. 

On several levels this propaganda film depicts falsehoods. On the one hand in terms of its content, which juxtaposes the Christian Social "suppression" in Austria with a National Socialist "freedom." Even though the "Turks Deliverance Celebration" in Vienna on May 14, 1933, clearly showed that the Austrian federal government was on its way to an authoritarian "corporative state" (Ständestaat, Dollfuss) or to "Austrofascism" (Starhemberg), the Nazi regime in Germany reacted far more brutally to its political opponents. 

Besides this distortion of facts, the N.S. Ton-Bild-Bericht Nr. 2 also manipulates actual events in temporal terms. Because in truth, Hans Frank and Hanns Kerrl did not arrive in Vienna while the Austrian Homeland Protection was holding the "Turks Deliverance Celebration" in Schönbrunn, but the day before. Moreover, the final recordings from the Engelmann Arena show the rally for the "Day of National Work" from May 1, 1933, and not, as the context implies, the National Socialist "Turks Deliverance Celebration," which took place there on May 13. In other words, the film portrays the events untruthfully insofar as its audiovisual representation contradicts numerous other documents (newspaper articles, police reports, photographs, and newsreels).

In order to produce this impression of reality, sequences from the Fox Tönende Wochenschau were combined with recordings that had presumably been made by the NSDAP's Austrian Film Office (Landesfilmstelle). The existing soundtracks in variable-density format were replaced in part by commentary by a male narrator on a variable-area track, which—like the introductory text panel—explains what the viewers can see in the images.  This merging technique is known as film editing or montage and resembles a crafting exercise. In this specific case, the film strips from the Fox newsreel and the NSDAP recordings not only had to be cut and stuck back together, but in places they also had to be post-dubbed.  The result was a patchwork of photographic images and optical sound recordings, which only reemerged as an—at least physically—coherent 35 mm film after the copying process. 

However, around 1930, editing was more than merely a stage of film production. Rather, the term "montage" implied the film art by Russian directors of the 1920s. 

In the middle of the chronotope, the time-space, with which the report on Austria in the N.S. Ton-Bild-Bericht Nr. 2 is concerned, two exemplary works of Russian film could be seen: in Vienna's , a movie theater at Klosterneuburger Strasse 33, the films Panzerkreuzer Potemkin (Battleship Potemkin) by Sergei Eisenstein and Turksib by Viktor Turin were screened from 11 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, 1933.  Eisenstein in particular was both a practician and theorist of montage. 
If one follows his development from the theater to the cinema, it becomes clear that he had nothing less than an exact representation of reality in mind. The aim of his montage technique was to have as great an impact as possible on the audience. From a purely technical point of view, the montage ideal is depicted in the sequence from the feature film Hitchcock (2012) by Sacha Gervasi in which the premiere of the thriller Psycho is shown. Played by Anthony Hopkins, the director Alfred Hitchcock is initially in the projection booth as he watches the audience react tensely to the action on screen. Then during the most famous scene of Psycho, in which Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is stabbed to death under the shower, Hitchcock is shown in the movie theater's foyer and, in time with the film's soundtrack, conducts the viewers as they flinch and scream to the same rhythm as his edits. 

The notion of the director being a conductor of the actors and audience alike is not only applicable to Hitchcock, but also to Eisenstein and his teacher Vsevolod Meyerhold, who became a pioneer of Constructivist theater after the Russian Revolution of 1917.  For Meyerhold, the director was the author of a theatrical staging and the audience its active participant. He viewed movement as the central aspect of theater, vehemently advocating stylized and rejecting realistic forms of representation. Around 1920 he developed a system for training actors that he called biomechanics and that was based on principles of Taylorism and reflexology.  Meyerhold adopted methods of "scientific management" from the American engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor in order to increase the efficiency of body movements (e.g., through rhythmization). The Russian school of objective psychology, established by Vladimir Bekhterev and Ivan Pavlov, influenced his biomechanics insofar as emotional states were supposed to be evoked reflexively by physical stimuli. For this purpose, the director commanded his actors to rehearse exercises that he put together from very diverse fields. He adapted combinations of movements from modern gymnastics, boxing training, military drills, circus art, and theatrical traditions like Japanese Kabuki or the Italian Commedia dell'Arte. 

In the promptbooks, Meyerhold noted down precise instructions for the action on stage to accompany every line of text.  Eisenstein, who had worked as a military engineer and set designer for the Communist agitprop theater, was first introduced to biomechanics as a course participant and then as Meyerhold's assistant. 

In 1923 he went on to stage Alexander Ostrovsky's comedy Enough Stupidity in Every Wise Man and called his directorial concept a "montage of attractions":

As a theater engineer, the director mounts attractions in the sense of independent performances, which do not portray a plot realistically but are intended to give the audience an emotional shock and influence them ideologically. Yet while the theater audience can tangibly experience the play, in film, as Eisenstein understood it, psychological associations are provoked and interconnected in the viewers' minds. 

Consequently, although the aforementioned shower scene in Hitchcock's Psycho features close-ups of the murderer's stabbing arm, the victim's writhing body, and the blood flowing down the drain, it does not show the knife puncturing the skin or the blood splattering.
The actual murder is associated in the viewer's psyche from these sensory impressions.

Eisenstein systematically implemented this "montage of film attractions" in the 1920s, constantly developing and improving his technique. In an article from 1929, he relates the metric montage that sets the audience in motion by making, for example, "the hands and feet quiver" to the intellectual montage where "this quivering, provoked by an intellectual stimulant combined differently, produces an identical reaction in the tissues of the higher nervous system of the thought apparatus." 

According to Eisenstein's stimulant-reaction-technique, using a montage of visual objects, whether they be human actors or not, the director could affect the audience as a physical "material" and "plough its psyche." 
In the eyes of Walter Benjamin, this "shock effect of film" was consistent with everyday life in the modern metropolises of the twentieth century and "seeks to induce heightened attention." 

Therefore, in contrast to the clumsy editing in the N.S. Ton-Bild-Bericht Nr. 2, artistic montage was not intended to achieve its effects via the content shown, but rather affect the viewers' perceptual apparatus directly. With Battleship Potemkin, which premiered in Moscow in 1925, Eisenstein appears to have accomplished this perfectly.  His contemporaries spoke of this film, dealing with the mutiny on the warship "Potemkin" in the Russian Revolution of 1905, as having both physical and psychological impacts. For the censured German version, which came to cinemas in spring 1926, the Viennese composer Edmund Meisel devised the score.  The management of the film company Prometheus, which produced and distributed the German Panzerkreuzer Potemkin, wrote to Eisenstein about the premiere in Berlin, emphasizing Meisel's achievement: "The music was at times so intense that in combination with the pictures on the screen it had such an impact on the viewers that they had to hold onto their seats in excitement." 

Regarding the ideological impact, the Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels highlighted in March 1933 that Battleship Potemkin had been "marvelously made. […] Those who are not steadfast in their worldview might become bolshevists as a result of this film." 

The German version of Eisenstein's most famous film was censured again in summer 1926 and then rereleased two years later in a slightly altered form by the Prometheus distribution company. This 1,464-meter-long Panzerkreuzer Potemkin from 1928 ultimately served as the basis for a sound version for which not only did Meisel compose new music and sound effects, but dialogues and chants were also post-dubbed.  Whether the screening in Vienna on the night of May 13, 1933, was of a silent version with a musical accompaniment or the sound version of 1930, which had been made using the sound-on-disc technique, is not possible to establish for certain. According to archival documents, combined optical sound and sound-on-disc equipment was installed at the Friedensbrücken Kino in 1931, which was replaced that same year with a model by the German Klangfilm GmbH. 

Although Klangfilm used the optical sound technique, it also offered additional equipment that made it possible to screen synchronous sound-on-disc films, i.e., with phonographs. 
However, the official certificate of the Friedensbrücken Kino from 1933 only refers to an optical sound machine. 

The second work to be screened by the Association of Friends of the Soviet Union (Bund der Freunde der Sowjetunion) on this communist movie night was only ever available in a silent version. In 1929, when Turksib was released, sound film was already starting to prevail in the USA and increasingly in Europe. However, in the Soviet Union work was underway on several sound film systems in order to avoid being dependent on the Western patents. 

The Russian director Viktor Turin had studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood before returning to the Soviet Union and shooting Turksib for the film company Vostok Kino: the film was a documentary about the 898-mile-long railroad line from Turkestan to Siberia, which was constructed from late 1926 to early 1931. 
"In several respects, 'Turksib' is characteristic of the new direction of Russian film art," wrote the film critic Fritz Rosenfeld on the day of the Viennese premiere, April 4, 1930, in the Social Democratic Arbeiter-Zeitung, "it is no longer a feature film; it dispenses with the studio and the actors and nevertheless it is not a documentary film [Kulturfilm] in the usual sense, but rather a dramatically modeled filmic document […]." 

Turin had presented excerpts from the film in Vienna two months previously at the Society of Engineers and Architects (Ingenieur- und Architektenverein) and emphasized in his introduction that the Soviet directors depicted social conflicts rather than individual heroes. In the case of Turksib, however, the film was not about a communist class war, but the "development of our country from complete technological backwardness and barbarism to colossal progress," as Turin explained in his lecture in Vienna. 

This modernization process is embodied by two opposing collectives in the film: while the Russian engineers together with air hammers and mechanical diggers represent the "colossal progress," the "backwardness and barbarism" appear in the form of the Kazakh nomads with their donkeys and camels.  Yet in Turksib the railroad is not shown as a synthesis of modern and natural life.  Instead, the "steel path," the original title of the film, was intended to liberate the rural territories from the forces of nature. In truth, during the Soviet collectivization of 1931 to 1933, the Kazakhs lost not only their nomadism, but some 1.75 million of them also their lives. 

Engelmann Arena
Nazi rally
4 km 958 m from the start
16 h 30 min before the end

How to Use Reason:
Sovereign Signs
How to Capture Life:
Examining Gazes
How to Speak Up:
Governed Transmissions

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