The Film Machine. Mechanical Metaphors in Avant-Garde Film is a series of avant-garde films from the 1920s and 1930s relating to the impact of machines on the modern world and society, from the first European abstract and futurist experiments to Soviet propaganda films and American comedies, passing through pioneering science fiction films. The aim of this combination of narrative and experimental genres is to illustrate how the world of the machine inspired both the industry and avant-garde artists. The fascination first appeared in pioneering films by the Lumière brothers, Georges Méliès (Paris, 1861-1938), Segundo de Chomón (Teruel 1871- Paris 1929) and other anonymous artists, whose work introduces this series.
Grouped into three large blocks, the series begins with the section Mechanical avant-gardes which contains some of the most important films of the avant-garde divided into three thematic programmes: a reflection on the very process of making films featuring La lanterne magique (1903) by Méliès, El sexto sentido (1929) by Nemesio Sobrevila (Bilbao, 1889 - San Sebastian, 1969) and Celovek s Kinoapparatom (1929) by Dziga Vertov (Bialystok, 1896 - Moscow, 1954); experimentation with editing featuring Le ballet mécanique (1924) by Fernand Léger (Argentan, 1881 - Gif-sur-Yvette, 1955) and Lichtspiel: Schwarz, Weiss, Grau (1930) by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (Bácsborsód, 1895 - Chicago, 1946); and the idea of the city as a new habitat of machines.
The section Modern lives includes narrative films that reflect ‘modern life’ from different political, economic and social perspectives, providing an example of how machines seduced all systems, whether capitalist, communist or fascist. With films like L’inhumaine (1924) by Marcel L’Herbier (París, 1888-1979), The Electric House (1922) by Buster Keaton (Piqua, 1895 - Hollywood, 1966), Shangai Soviet (1926) by Dziga Vertov and Deutsche Panzer (1927) by Walter Ruttmann (Frankfurt, 1887 - Berlin, 1941), the selection features works made at the crossroads between avant-garde film and the commercial film industry.
Finally, the section Fictional future(s) is dedicated to pioneering narrative science fiction film and includes films like Aelita (1924) by Jakoov A. Protazanov (Moscow, 1881-1945), Frau im Mond (1929) by Fritz Lang (Vienna, 1890 - Beverly Hills, 1976) and Things to Come (1936) by William Cameron Menzies (New Haven, 1896 - Los Angeles, 1957). In this place, fantasy meets the desires and wishes that machines aroused in contemporary man and provides a reflection of how the new ‘mechanical man’ imagined and projected himself.