Premiering in Berlin on May 3, 1925, Der absolute Film (The absolute film) was a program of nonnarrative, nonrepresentational films, the first public screening of its kind. A Sunday matinee in a 900-seat theater on the Kurfurstendamm, Berlin's main shopping street, it sold out almost instantly and had to be repeated a week later. The program included Hans Richter's Rhythm 21 and 23, Viking Eggeling's Symphonie diagonale, and Walter Ruttmann’s Opus II, III, and IV. Instead of using the movie camera to capture the world around them, these artists created sequences of abstract forms that change over time, working by photographing one film frame at a time to create animations.
The term "absolute film" has come to encompass a genre of film devoted to experimenting with and revealing the elemental components of cinema: light, the film frame, and time. As Richter explained in 1926, "The absolute film signifies the foundation of cinematic art. . . . The absolute film opens your eyes for the first time to what the camera is, can be, and wants!"
Gallery label from Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925, December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013.