Broken records from Berlin: the place of listening in People on Sunday (dir. Curt and Robert Siodmak/Edgar G. Ulmer, 1929)

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Abstract

People on Sunday, a 1929 low-budget production starring amateur actors, depicts the ordinary leisure practices of a group of four young Berliners as they elope to the Nikolassee lake at the weekend. The film's most vibrant and dynamic scenes centre around the act of playing records on a small portable gramophone. Here, I take the suitcase gramophone as my main entry point to explore the sites, issue and representation of listening in the Weimar Republic. Accordingly, this article maps out the ways in which recorded sound is represented and mediated through the paradoxically mute medium of film. It particularly interrogates the function of the gramophone and recorded songs as agents of narration and communication. The song-playing device is posited as that which temporarily plays and speaks on behalf of the actors, in a quasi-prophetic manner. Several gramophone records are broken in the course of the narration; a symbolic – and irremediable – shattering of collective entente and happiness. For the spectators, the broken records symbolise a further degree of silence – or withdrawal from the film. From a historical perspective, People on Sunday can retrospectively be seen as a larger farewell to the fragile security of the Weimar Republic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-48
Number of pages16
JournalSound Studies
Volume3
Issue number1
Early online date1 Sep 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

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