Rhythmus 21

Film Review by Dean Duncan Oct 18, 2014

Rhythmus 21 (I)

“Painting in time,” is how Hans Richter described his film. Definitely! As one of the first of its kind, Rhythmus 21 is very important. It’s also really cool, on its own terms. It is interesting/significant that right from the abstract get-go these shapes—all shapes, really—bring to mind actual objects, or the components thereof. Isn’t that always the way with abstraction, or at least isn’t that always the temptation? It’s hard to say whether this phenomenon comes by artist’s design, by spectator insistence, or by evolutionary inevitability. That would, of course, always depend on the artist, the spectator, and the art object that brings them together. Regardless, it is true that whether the object is naturally occurring or in some way manufactured there is a powerful impulse to find real analogies in abstract figures. With regard to Richter’s film, this probably occurs because you can see the outlines, even some third-dimension in the various shapes that he has fashioned for us. And in a certain sense, since it is true that someone actually did fashion these ones, then they’re not abstract at all.

Rhythmus 21 (II)

Right at the beginnings of film abstraction we find ourselves comparing these innocent shapes to objects and characters, in relationships, and everything. Intentional, even in a playful way? The film’s first image resembles curtains, and of course it was shown in a theatre. Then a square moves precipitously backwards, introducing the various moving objects that will follow. Movement comes of volition, doesn’t it?  As these shapes interact, it’s tempting to think of community, or maybe conflict. Like Freud’s secondary revision, the urge to make similes is powerful, unto irresistible.