Retrospective, Berlinale Classics & Homage

Dec 17, 2021
Berlinale Classics 2022 Will Present the World Premiere of the Digitally Restored Version of Werner Hochbaum’s Silent Film Classic Brüder (Brothers)

Brüder (Brothers), D 1929 (digitally restored version) by Werner Hochbaum

On February 13, 2022, the restored silent film classic Brüder (Brothers, dir: Werner Hochbaum, 1929) will celebrate its world premiere at the Friedrichstadt-Palast as part of the Berlinale Classics programme. The digital restoration was done by the Deutsche Kinemathek in cooperation with the Filmarchiv Austria and will be screened for the first time at the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival. Berlin composer Martin Grütter created the new music for the film, which will be played by the Berlin Philharmonic under the baton of Raphael Haeger.

Rainer Rother, artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek and head of the Retrospective section, says “In his first narrative feature, Werner Hochbaum tackles the story of the 1896/97 Hamburg dockworkers strike, using lay actors and documentary like scenes shot on location at the dockyards. The production was initiated by the Deutscher Verkehrsbund (German Transport Association) and the Social Democratic Party and is an impressive portrayal of the daily details of working-class life, using the titular brothers as an example.”

Martin Grütter’s new music is a hybrid electronic-acoustic composition that weaves industrial and instrumental sounds into a dense, complex amalgam – muffled steam whistles that morph into wailing flutes; the metallic clattering of machines impelled by staggering drum grooves. Commissioned by ZDF/ARTE, the music uses dramatic means to conjure up the hopelessness, dreariness, exhaustion, and violence of a class of society who lived amidst a kind of brutality that we can barely imagine today; an environment in which a spark of harmony – the reconciliation of the two brothers – seems to shine even brighter.

The original negative of Brüder (Brothers) has not survived. All surviving prints of the film are the version certified by the censors on April 19, 1929. The complex digitisation and restoration in 2K was done by the Deutsche Kinemathek. A tinted 35mm print held in the German Federal Archives was used as the principal source. Missing or badly damaged scenes were replaced with clips from two additional nitrate prints in the Archives’ collection. The digital restoration was funded by the FFE Film Legacy Subsidy Programme.

Martin Koerber, head of the film section of the Deutsche Kinemathek Audiovisual Heritage Department, says “Brüder (Brothers) is one of the few films with a revolutionary bent that were produced in the Weimar era and have survived. Although the film is set during the 1896 dockworkers strike, when it was made in 1929, it had a contemporary look and drew attention to the fact that the problems it described had by no means been solved. We were determined to once again show an agitprop film of such great artistic heft.”

The world premiere of the digitally restored version in Berlin is a cooperative venture between the Berlin International Film Festival, the Deutsche Kinemathek working with Filmarchiv Austria, and public broadcaster ZDF/Arte. The film will be shown on Arte in June 2022, at the same time as AbsolutMedien releases the Blu-ray disc/DVD.

Brüder (Brothers)
Werner Hochbaum, Germany, 1929
World premiere of the digitally restored version (DCP 2K)

Press Office
December 17, 2021