Zeppelin und Autowäsche (LFS 06056 2)

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A Zeppelin flies over Freiburg; two young men are cleaning their cars.


Total shot: Flying Zeppelin / young couple on a balcony looking at the camera with a laugh. / Half shot: two young men are cleaning their cars. The cars carry old number plates for Baden. / View from the car to one of the cleaning men. / Half shot: Three women stand in a semicircle and talk.


Reference / film number :  LFS 06056 2
Date :  Between 1927 and 1930
Coloration :  Black and white
Sound :  Mute
Timecode :  00:00:45
Running time :  00:00:45
Reel format :  35 mm
Genre :  Amateur movie
Thematics :  Industrial and cultural heritage, Industry
Archive :  Haus des Dokumentarfilms

Context and analysis

A Zeppelin, a young couple and a car wash - that shows this little film of about a minute. Much of the space between the few settings, a space that disappears into narrative (documentary) film in the continuity of a story. An association space in a sense, images of a small cinematic 'collage' that leads into the collective fantasies of the Germans.

First there is the (camera) view upwards, a shot from the Freiburg sky around 1927. A zeppelin hovers diagonally in the picture and changes direction after a cut. The appearance of an airship still has experience value, is a small aesthetic event that can be even more powerful in the moving image. And that can become a glimpse into the past, into the mentality story of the Germans, for whom this controllable aircraft had become a symbol of technical progress some years before. Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin - a former general staff officer, who devoted himself entirely to the construction of airships in 1891 - had not only led the German aviation into a new age. , With the Zeppelin he had created a symbol of the conquest of the airspace, an object of national identification. The Zeppelin went down in the history of enthusiasm for technology, which after the accident in 1908 in Echterdingen - the "Z3" exploded - with the Zeppelin donation produced a kind of sacrificial ritual of the Germans. A new aircraft, which incidentally caught up with France's advantage in aviation. As a sublime apparition in the sky, it gained an almost mythical aura that united the nation in a tumult of enthusiasm.

The image of a Zeppelins could evoke the past, the time of a German Reich that had given way to an unstable Weimar Republic in the 1920s, which is entering industrial modernity. After the collapse of the monarchy, the bourgeois classes claim supremacy. And the amateur film also proves to be a medium for presenting the new bourgeois self-confidence: the young couple, who appears transitionless to the Zeppelin and turns hesitantly smiling into the camera on the balcony railing, seems to want to embody something of the bourgeois sense of self, that in the private film can be seen in a new way. For the bourgeoisie since the eighteenth century, free time has been a free space for those who live the difficult balance that asserts a universal claim to bourgeois lifestyle in the ideal of 'education'. To film oneself - this was also a new way to produce an individual 'picture' of oneself and to be in leisure time the 'special' that this lifestyle demanded at the same time.

So it seems almost consistent when the next, half-total shot of the film in the outer space in front of the house jumps to move this picture further into the individual: Two men - one of them is easy to recognize as the one from the balcony - clean their cars, in a sense, represent themselves as car owners, while the camera slides with a pan over the side-by-side cars, which are allowed on the old Baden license plate. Formerly a luxury object of the upper classes, the car should now increasingly mobilize the masses: It becomes a status symbol, in which the sense of progress of the new bourgeois buyer strata manifests itself.

The car care in front of the house turns into a small cinematic stage. The rear side window wienernd the one, slowly behind the front paneling the other, the two men take care of the surfaces of the consumer object automobile: especially its new connection with the world of women - consistently picked up in the car advertising - it in the 1920s become the subject of luxury consumption. Here, too, the claim to an individual world of feelings emerges, the downside of which is the mass production of a dawning consumer society, for which American Fordism, series production on the production line, is a model.

The change of attitude to the interior of the car then brings - a little surprising - a direct cut in the film, as one knows it from feature films. But the view through the windshield also refers to the cinematic medium itself, to the 'screen' of the windshield and to a view that takes possession of the living space through new streets to which cities and landscapes are to be added. The silhouette of the steering wheel evokes this 'male' look of the driver. And the owner of the car, who is now busy at the radiator, appears in the view through the glass, framed 'as in a picture. The setting allows for both to associate, the space that will be adapted in the future the car of freedom of the car, and the image of an I, which should soon connect with the identity of the German man. The small cinematic 'collage' may follow a logic of its own that adds a short shot to the 'masculine' look, barely visible, with three women talking in a semicircle: the 'feminine' look of a refined taste, now also belongs to the collective imagination of the automobile.

Reiner Bader

Places and monuments

Freiburg i.B.


REINICKE, HELMUT, Deutschland hebt ab: der Zeppelinkult. Zur Sozialpathologie der Deutschen, Köln, Papyrossa 1998; SACHS, WOLFGANG, Die Liebe zum Automobil. Ein Rückblick in die Geschichte unserer Wünsche, Reinbek, Rowohlt 1984.

  1. This film analysis is still in progress. It may therefore be incomplete and contain errors.