Genie bin ich selbst!

Genius is me!

Hanns Eisler's time in Berlin from 1925 to 1933

Camera: Hermann Dernbecher Sound: Burkhard Zahn Editing: Hannelore Höfer
BetaSP - 4/3 - 45min. - stereo

Berlin 1926. Arnold Schönberg moves to Berlin to take over a master class in composition at the Academy. He lives in a hotel on Steinplatz. Already in 1925, his student Hanns Eisler had also moved to Berlin. He lives in a boarding house at Grolmannstrasse 58, only a few hundred meters from Schönberg.

However, no sooner had the admired, highly revered teacher arrived in Berlin than there was an éclat between the two, documented in an exchange of letters. The two no longer speak to each other, but write each other scathing letters despite the physical proximity. "Modern music bores me," Eisler writes. "I want nothing to do with modernism." And, "Nor do I understand anything about twelve-tone technique and music." Schoenberg speaks of betrayal. Contact between teacher and student breaks off over several years. What had happened?

Hanns Eisler began to turn away from the circles of New Music, which he described as an "airless glass bell", and sought another, more popular form of music, one more significant in the social field. There was great unemployment in Berlin, fascism was beginning to spread. At the same time, Berlin was the stronghold of the "Golden Twenties". Amusement on all sides was supposed to make people forget the oppressive problems. Eisler tried to make contact with social groups and tried to write music that could be understood by a bigger audience, but not silly pop music, which he considered music of commerce and capitalism.

Our film about Hanns Eisler, on the occasion of his 100th birthday, focuses on these years. A phase that can only be understood against the background of the historical events of the time. We visit the places where Eisler (and also Schönberg to some extent) frequented, interview contemporary witnesses, use documentary footage, and, as far as possible, revive the Berlin of the years 1925-1933 (but especially the March of 1926), in which Eisler was able to form the style of music for which he is still famous today (even the pop singer STING has interpreted Eisler songs).

Other aspects of his life and work, Eisler's time in exile, his film music, his return and impact in the GDR, his importance for later generations of composers will be considered as outlooks of the film, but are not its central concern.

The musical part of the film is provided by students of the Hochschule für Musik "Hanns Eisler" in Berlin-Mitte, especially with excerpts from the Second Piano Sonata, the Palmströmdrama, the song cycle "Zeitungsausschnitte" up to the "Lied der Arbeitslosen" and the "Reisesonate" as a conclusion.

Cast & Crew

Hanne Kaisik
Uli Aumüller
Director of photography
Herbert Dernbecher
Editor (Cut)
Hannelore Höfer
Burkhart Zahn