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The Skladanowsky Brothers' Wintergarten Programme

Germany, 1895 (MIFF 1996, Retrospecta)

Director: Max Skladanowsky

On November 1, 1895, Max and Emil Sklad­anowsky presented their new invention, the projection of a programme of 'living images'. The performers in this programme were artistes appearing at the Wintergarten variety theatre: the acts of dancers, jugglers, gymnasts and wrestlers captured in a series of short films. At the end of the final reel the inventors bowed to the audience and marked the beginning of German cinema history. One hundred years later a fully restored version of this seminal programme, complete with previously unseen segments-long thought lost to the ravages of war. decay and time-has been assembled.

The Skladanowsky films provided a unique challenge in that conventional techniques could not be used for their restoration. The most up-to-the-minute processes were employed to digitise individual images using a high definition scanner: read and restored by a powerful purpose built computer to enable the best possible focus, image stability, compensation for faulty exposure, digital retouching of damaged frames and, finally, printing onto modern film stock. There is currently no other known example of archival restoration using this technology.

Saved from obscurity, this fascinating relic from the dawn of cinema is not just an antique curio but a pioneering work possessed of its own timeless beauty, a rare document of a formative art.

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