Berlin: Palimpsests of a Great City

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Can there be another European city that has undergone so many dramatic transformations over the past hundred years as Berlin? The city has seen so much of history, created, and been the subject of, so many stories, and thus comprises so many versions of itself. The present article explores how Berlin films contain multiple historical and textual palimpsests, focusing on Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927) as the urtext of all subsequent Berlin films. Particular attention will then be paid to Berlin Symphony (2002), Thomas Schadt’s riposte to Ruttmann’s film seventy-five years on, and the more recent Symphony of Now (Schaff, 2018), which, in effect, responds to both. This article argues that these films, in complementary ways, uncover the cultural, historical and architectural palimpsests inscribed within the fabric of the city in their response to Ruttmann’s urtext.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalLandscape Research
Early online date30 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2022


  • Berlin films
  • Walther Ruttmann
  • Berlin: Symphony of a Great City
  • Berlin Symphony
  • Symphony of Now


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