The Failure of Tri-Ergon


The Failure of Tri-Ergon
Guido Bagier on the premiere of "Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern" (The Little Match Girl), the first short sound movie by Ufa.s Tri-Ergon department

December 21:It's all over - all the work was for naught. I must write a short note here before I turn in, dead-tired. I arrived at the Mozartsaal just in time. The Kulturfilm was over - our movie had just been placed in the special projector. The introductory music came loud and clear from the loudspeakers. The live orchestra had played with real gusto when accompanying the Kulturfilm, perhaps in the hope of doing us some damage, but the sound was good. The picture appeared on the screen - a girl on a street corner, amidst the hustle and bustle of cars and traffic - the audience applauded loudly when they heard the street sounds, the pedestrians walking to and fro, the cars honking.

Source: DIF
The Tri-Ergon labortary, located in a basement in Babelsbergstraße, Berlin (picture taken around 1920)

The girl's cries ring out clearly through the crowd: "Buy some matches!" The audience once again breaks out in applause. Then Santa Claus, played by the powerful old Diegalmann, guides twelve-year-old Else von Möllendorf around the Christmas market. Blending with the orchestra's background music, the shouts and hand organs produce a strange, beguiling sound. This scene passes too. Then, when the child begins walking over the snowy fields to Maria and the crèche, I suddenly hear a strange hissing sound from the loudspeakers. It quickly grows louder. I run up to the projection room. The first roll is over, and Seeger has just started running the second in the adjacent projector. He calls out to me: "Something's wrong!" The sound grows softer and softer, the audience more and more restless. I shout to Seeger: "Turn up the sound - amplify it!" Seeger takes the potentiometer to its upper range - the statophones are producing a roaring sound instead of music. Seeger shouts, horrified: "The storage batteries are losing power - someone must have tampered with them!" Then he curses loudly! What follows is horrible. Our wonderful final choir is lost in the hissing and cracking of the loudspeakers - the audience joins in, shouting: "Stop!" And amidst laughter and protests, the screening comes to an end! Diary entry by Guido Bagier on December 21, 1925, from: "'Ton mehr aufdrehen – verstärken!' Guido Bagier über die Tri-Ergon-Abteilung der Ufa", Das Ufa-Buch, ed. Hans-Michael Bock and Michael Töteberg, Frankfurt/Main, 1992.