Kafka Goes to the Movies

Kafka Goes to the Movies

Edition Filmmuseum 95

The 4-disc DVD presents for the first time the surviving films Kafka saw in his lifetime and mentioned in his writings: documentaries, early feature films, newsreels. All the films were restored by archives in the U.S., Germany, Czechia, France, Italy, Denmark, and Russia and presented in new versions with new scores performed by Günter A. Buchwald and Richard Siedhoff.

About Franz Kafka and the Cinema

A great many of Kafka's scattered notes on cinema(going) represent a deep imprint, an echo of things he had seen or experienced. They are comparable to residual fragments of dreams in their elliptical brevity. The only more extensive and contextual contemplation a word that formed the title of his first volume of prose was dedicated primarily to the 'Kaiserpanorama' rather than to cinema itself. Kafka was fond of stereoscopic photography, which had by then already gone out of fashion, because the images seemed to him "more vivid than in the cinematograph", whereas the latter was defined by the "restlessness of motion". He ultimately dreamed much like Peter Rosegger before him, and, for purely commercial reasons, the inventor of theKaiserpanorama himself of a "union of cinema and the stereoscope" as an intensified immersionin noctambulous adventures.

Kafka was acutely aware of the paradoxical power of cinema. Notwithstanding its undeniable trivial realism and the obvious transparency of its production process Kafka once spoke of "old film inventions" cinema manages, by means of larger-than-life projection in an artificially darkened room, a hitherto unimaginable sensory onslaught; indeed so strong is this onslaught that, as Kafka writes, it transfixes the spectator. This similarity to dream visions seems self-evident, yet it is at the same time misleading: self-evident because the oneiric moment, the daydream, is similarly difficult to summarize and 'apprehend' as the film, but misleading because the daydream is an extremely individualized inner experience which, in contrast to film, can never be shared with others. Like a suddenly occurring natural event, cinema has the power to move us, to confuse us and to overwhelm us. One of the first demonstrations of this power to overwhelm took place in Prague, when Rabbi Löw sent Emperor Rudolf II and his court into a state of fear and awe with a projection using the laterna magica.

To counter these fleeting images which, like daily newspapers, were short-lived goods, Kafkaemployed the style of the telegram, a form of rhetoric that was familiar to the consummate letter-writers of the last century and which had indeed become something of a second language tothem. With stenographic economy and with an unerring sense for the punchline Streets full ofwater. Please advise, wrote Robert Benchley in a telegram on his first visit to Venice the fleeting,fleeing image and its direct emotional effect is "captured": Went to the cinema. Cried.Lolotte. The good pastor. The little bicycle. The parents' reconciliation. Boundless entertainment.The rollercoaster of emotions continues immediately: First a sad film, Accident at the Docks, afterwards, a funny one, Alone at last.

Hanns Zischler

The films

Jízda Prahou otevřenou tramvají (A Tram Ride through Prague) - Czech 1908 - Directed, written, photographed and produced by: Jan Kříenecký - Restored by: Národní Filmový Archiv, Prague

Peschiera / Lago Maggiore e lago di Como / Liguria / Il corse de Mirafiori (Italian travelogues) - Italy 1907-1913 - Produced by: Società Anonima Ambrosio, Torino / Società italiana Cines, Rome - Restored by: La cineteca del Friuli, Gemona

Primo Circuito Aereo Internazionale di Aeroplane in Brescia (First International Competition for Airplanes in Brescia) - Italy 1909 - Produced by: Manifatture Cinematografiche Adolfo Croce, Milano - Restored by: Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna

Den hvide slavehandels sidste offer (The White Slave Girl) - Denmark 1911 - Directed by: August Blom Written by: Peter Christensen - Cinematography by: Axel Graatkjær - Cast: Clara Wieth, Lauritz Olsen, Thora Meincke, Otto Lagoni, Frederik Jacobsen, Peter Nielsen - Produced by: Nordisk Film, Kopenhagen - Restored by: Det Danske Filminstut, Kopenhagen / Filmmuseum München

Nick Winter et le vol de la joconde (Nick Winter and the Theft of the Mona Lisa) - France 1911 - Directed by: Paul Garbagni - Cast: Georges Vinter - Produced by: Pathé Frères, Paris -Restored by: Gaumont Pathé archives, Paris

Der Andere (The Other) - Germany 1912 - Directed by: Max Mack - Written by: Paul Lind - Kamera: Hermann Böttger - Cast: Albert Bassermann, Emmerich Hanus, Nelly Ridou, Hanni Weisse, Léon Resemann, Otto Collot - Produced by: Vitascope GmbH, Berlin - Restored by: Filmmuseum München

Theodor Körner - Germany 1912 - Directed and written by: Gerhard Dammann, Franz Porten - Photographed by: Werner Brandes - Cast: Friedrich Feher, Hermann Seldeneck, Thea Sandten - Produced by: Deutsche Mutoskop- and Biograph GmbH, Berlin - Restored by: Filmmuseum München

La broyeuse de coeurs (The Heart Breaker) - France 1913 - Directed and written by: Camille de Morlhon - Cast: Léontine Massart, Pierre Magnier, Camille Licenay, Jeanne Brindeau - Produced by: Films Valetta, Paris - Restored by: La Cinémathèque Française, Paris

Prazdnovanie 300-letija Doma Romanovych (Celebrating 300 Years of the Romanov Dynasty) - Russia 1913 - Produced by: Pathé Frères, Moscow - Restored by: Russian States Archives for film and photo documents, Krasnogorsk

Daddy-Long-Legs - USA 1919 - Directed by: Marshall A. Neilan - Written by: Agnes Johnson, based on the novel by Jean Webster - Kamera: Charles Rosher - Cast: Mary Pickford, Milla Davenport, Percy Haswell, Fay Lemport, Mahlon Hamilton, Lillian Langdon, Marshall Neilan - Produced by: Mary Pickford Company, Los Angeles - Restored by: The Library of Congress, Culpepper / Filmmuseum München

Shiwat Zion (Return to Zion) - Palestine 1921 - Directed, written, photographed and produced by: Ya'acov Ben-Dov - Restored by: Národní Filmový Archiv, Prague

Kafka va au cinéma (Kafka geht ins Kino) - France 2002 - Directed and written by: Hanns Zischler - Cinematography by: Hanns Zischler, Ute Adamczewski, Miriam Fassbender - Produced by: Movimento Production, Paris

DVD features (4-disc DVD)


  • A Tram Ride Through Prague 1908, 2'
  • Score by Richard Siedhoff
  • First International Competition for Airplanes in Brescia 1909, 13'
  • Score by Richard Siedhoff
  • Italian travelogues 1907-1913, 20'
  • Score by Günter A. Buchwald
  • Nick Winter and the Theft of the Mona Lisa 1911, 10'
  • Score by Richard Siedhoff
  • The White Slave 1911, 55'
  • Score by Richard Siedhoff
  • Theodor Körner 1912, 41'
  • Score by Günter A. Buchwald


  • Celebrating 300 Years of the Romanov Dynasty 1913, 16'
  • Score by Richard Siedhoff
  • The Other 1913, 77'
  • Score by Richard Siedhoff
  • The Heart Breaker 1913, 47'
  • Score by Richard Siedhoff


  • Daddy-Long-Legs 1919, 99'
  • Score by Günter A. Buchwald
  • Táta Dlouhán 1919, 10' (excerpt)


  • Return to Zion 1921, 78'
  • Score by Günter A. Buchwald
  • Audio commentary by Stewart Tryster
  • Kafka Goes to the Movoes 1913, 55'

28-page trilingual booklet with essays by Hanns Zischler and Stefan Droessler

Edited by: Filmmuseum München and Goethe-Institut
DVD authoring: Tobias Dressel, Gunther Bittmann
DVD supervision: Stefan Droessler, Stewart Tryster

First Edition May 2017


TV Format Original format Audio format Language Subtitles Region code

4:3 (PAL)
Music score
Dolby Digital 2.0
All Regions


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