The Avant-Garde of the 1920s and 1930s

Until the end of the 1920s, the production and exhibition of films in the Netherlands was primarily based on commercial objectives. The Filmliga, founded in 1927, was among the first to suggest that film could also be an art form.

Absolute film

The leaders of the Filmliga, particularly Menno ter Braak, promoted film as an autonomous art form, one they called 'absolute film', where rhythm, editing, and composition were at the forefront.

With their ideas, the Filmliga supporters were aligned with the international avant-garde that had arisen in the early 1920s, and that had its main representatives among the Soviet, German, and French filmmakers. In the Netherlands, their example was followed by Filmliga-affiliated filmmakers such as Joris Ivens, Mannus Franken, and Willem Bon.

Monthly film nights

The Filmliga built a network of branches that were spread throughout the Netherlands, and these branches presented monthly programmes that showed Dutch films and related avant-garde films from abroad.

These included the scientific films made by J.C. Mol, including Uit het rijk der kristallen  Mol experimented with various film techniques, but according to the Filmliga members, his films also fit within the tradition of the absolute film.

Retreat into the background

In the mid-1930s, the attention paid to avant-garde film began to decrease. Most filmmakers, both national and international, shifted their work to advertising and promotional films, or to political films. In the late 1930s, there was little left of the flourishing from ten years earlier.

Long lasting influence of the Filmliga

But the influence of the Filmliga was long lasting. For decades, Joris Ivens continued to be considered one of main Dutch filmmakers, even though he only made one film ​​ in the Netherlands after the Second World War. Much more important was the fact that the ideas of the Filmliga were taken over by Dutch film journalists, and these ideas dominated the discourse on film and film arts into the 1960s. Films such as De Brug and city symphonies such as Regen and Hoogstraat were seen as a yardstick of what cinema was supposed to be.




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