Valeska Gert on “The German Burlesque”

Burlesque Film

Valeska Gert on “The German Burlesque”


Valeska Gert, Film-Kurier no. 240, Oct. 12, 1925

Most burlesque films we see come from America. France gave us two burlesques, from Picabia and Léger, which were screened last spring in Berlin in two Ufa matinées. And in Germany, burlesque films are no longer made at all because no one thinks he can achieve the quality of the American films. That is a mistake. We will never be able to make burlesque films like the Americans if we try to copy the Americans. But as soon as Germany finds the courage to seek out its own burlesque style, it will be making first-rate burlesques, just like America.

America no longer has a monopoly on the burlesque. It has become a modern way of viewing the world: not to take anything in life too seriously, because nothing deserves it; or more productively: everything is equally serious and important. Now every country will have to start making burlesque films if it wants to be up-to-date.

Every country will exaggerate those things that are most important to it. For the Americans, it is motion. Hence its burlesque films tinker with grotesque varieties of motion (Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd).

For the French, it is the pleasure of the senses, of things, and of form; the autocracy of human destiny disappears. In the two typical French burlesque films, dishes, glasses, and hats all have a life of their own, as well as sufferings and joys, just like humans; they are moved solely by a seeing that no longer makes any distinction between a shoe-button and the good Lord.

Germans, who have always been somewhat averse to such purely sensual thinking, require the representation of human feelings above all. Hence the German burlesque will consist in the exaggeration of passions.

But not only human lives will be depicted, forced by causes and effects to the extremest of consequences. Mechanical things, too, will be exaggerated to the point of surreality. In this, such films would seem to approximate the American burlesques again. But they are intrinsically different in that their rolling motion is neither absurd nor accidental, but the distending of a fundamental idea that in bursting reveals its essence.

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