Sirens & Sinners, by Hans Helmut Prinzler

Subtitled: A Visual History of Weimar Film 1918-1933

This book is exactly what the subtitle says. There’s a text introduction, discussing cinematography, photography, and the historical-political-social climate of the time period and location. Then we move on to the movies themselves. Each film has a short description and possibly a quote about it, a list of cast and crew, and beautiful photographs. Some films have more material than others.

I started my year with this book because it was a topic I’ve long been interested in. Growing up, I dismissed older movies as being trite, mostly because the only ones I’d ever seen were of the cheesy family-friendly variety (think: Parent Trap). In college, I took a French classic films class as part of my major. I didn’t get as much out of this class as I would have liked – I was pregnant at the time so my mind was fuzzy – but I discovered the fascinating breadth of early film. I began to watch some classics on my own time, often films tied to the lyrics of my favorite band (who wove literature and film from the late 1800s and early 1900s into all their songs). I’ve never been a huge movie person, but through the last fifteen years, I’ve continued to come back to those classic films. Some of my favorites – Metropolis, M, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – land right in the middle of this particular Weimar era.

Since this is primarily a visual book, there wasn’t a lot of information in it, and thus not a lot to learn. I’m okay with that. This showed me many films that I haven’t seen, many of which I’m now interested in seeing. It will act as a kind of primer for me when I’m seeking out older films to watch. It’s not the book to read if you’re interested in an in-depth look at that time period in German film, but it’s a beautiful introduction to a variety of film styles and stories.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
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4 Responses to Sirens & Sinners, by Hans Helmut Prinzler

  1. Michelle says:

    I had a German teacher in college who LOVED the Weimar period and would have us films as often as possible. I never saw the appeal. Now, I can never not think of him and his excitement whenever someone mentions the period. I can appreciate people’s enthusiasm for something they love, even if it is something I don’t quite get.


    • Amanda says:

      I can understand that. It’s kinda like how I can appreciate the way people love Dickens, Shakespeare, and the Beatles, even though none of them appeal to me in the least. I kinda wish I could go back to that early film class with a clearer frame of mind.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ceri says:

    I love old cinema so this sounds like something I’d love to get my hands on. I love M and Metropolis so I’d definitely like to dive more into Weimar cinema.


    • Amanda says:

      I believe you’re the first person I’ve ever met who knew the film M, beyond people that I met through the same band that introduced me to all these films. I just watched it again the other night! It was the first time Jason and two of my boys had seen it too. (My oldest was at a friend’s house, so he missed it.) They all loved it. Yay! We were really lucky to find this book at Half Price Books this summer. The list price is $75 but we got it for $15 or something ridiculous like that.


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