View of the City

In 1945 Germany's cities lay in ruins. The destruction was so great that the prewar years became a distant memory. Belief in a better future soon became easy and enjoyable, however. The ruins offered the opportunity for a radically new way of building and Germany became a place of pilgrimage of the world's architectural avant-garde. The stance towards the remaining architecture was clear: old was ugly, it stood for oppression, ridiculous self-aggrandizement, pomp and kitsch.

Ornamentation became an architectural sin. All that changed in the sixties; one visible sign being Elisabeth Niggemeyer und Wolf Jobst Siedler's book Die gemordete Stadt, which presents its argument through pictures. Suddenly the old seemed endearing, imaginatively poetic. The new was the image of dreariness: cubic forms, gridlike façades, between the houses nothing but steppes; an architecture no longer offering a picture for the eye. Until then pictures of past architecture had shown the direction for demolition, the extent of damage, had laid bare our grandfathers' false façades.

Now, pictures of old houses became a challenge to maintain and restore them. Harun Farocki's film brings photographs together, and we hear from architectural and local historians, photographers and a writer. Its topic is our attitude towards old and new architecture and the changes in the relationship over the postwar period, demonstrated through images of Berlin architecture.

(WDR, Leaflet 1981)

Original title Stadtbild Director, scriptwriter Harun Farocki Cinematographer Ingo Kratisch, Ronny Tanner Assistant cinematographer Matthias von Gunten Sound Rolf Müller Editor Johannes Beringer Location manager Rosa Mercedes, Karl-Heinz Wegmann Production Harun Farocki Filmproduktion, Berlin-West, for WDR, Cologne Format 16mm, col., 1:1,37 Length 44 Min. First broadcast 10.09.1981, West 3