Envisioning the Healthy City: German Urban Planning and Traffic Safety Films of the Silent Era

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After WWI, health was a national obsession in Germany. As part of an effort to recover from the death, disease, and malnutrition of the war, film studios and scientific institutions alike produced educational films on health and safety topics, to communicate their importance to mass audiences. In this talk, Dr. Paul Dobryden, Assistant Professor at the University of Virgina, examines two such films relating specifically to urban contexts: The City of Tomorrow (1930), about urban planning, and In the Vortex of Traffic (1924), about traffic safety. The modern city, with its dense living arrangements, polluted air, dangerous streets, and lack of sunlight and green space, was seen as the source of many potential dangers to health. Films like these imparted practical advice about how to stay healthy and safe, but they also taught audiences to see themselves as part of an urban organism, and, ultimately, a larger social body.

Paul Dobryden is Assistant Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Virginia. His research focuses on German cinema, particularly of the Weimar period. He has published essays in the journals Film & History and Studies in European Cinema, and numerous anthologies. In 2012, he co-edited the volume Hans Richters ‘Rhythmus 21’: Schlüsselfilm der Moderne.


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