The new Babylon

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German title The new Babylon
Original title Новый Вавилон (Nowy Wawilon)
Country of production Soviet Union
original language Russian
Publishing year 1929
length At 20 fps : German export version: 2900 meters, 125 minutes; Gosfilmofond version: 2170 meters, 93 minutes, European export version: 1900 meters, 84 minutes
Director Grigori Kosinzew , Leonid Trauberg
script Grigori Kosinzew, Leonid Trauberg, after P. Bliakin
production Sowkino Moscow
music Dmitri Shostakovich
camera Andrei Moskvin , Yevgeny Mikhailov

The new Babylon ( Russian Новый Вавилон ) is a silent film drama, which the Russian directors Grigori Kosinzew and Leonid Trauberg realized in 1929 for the state production company Sowkino . The script was written by Kosinzew and Trauberg based on an idea from P. Bliakin. Yevgeny Jenei built the film buildings . Andrei Moskwin and Yevgeny Michailow were responsible for the photography .

The Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich wrote original music for Das neue Babylon ; it was his first composition work for the film. At the beginning of his musical career in 1923 he accompanied films on the piano in Russian cinemas.


The action takes place at the time of the Paris Commune in the spring of 1871 during the post-war turmoil of the Franco-Prussian War . “The new Babylon” is the name of the department store in Paris in which Louise is employed as a saleswoman. She is involved in the Commune , which Jean, an apolitical young man from the country, has to fight as a soldier in the army controlled by the French government. Both are in love with each other, even though they are on different sides. But their love finds no place in times of political turmoil. At the end of the film, Jean is given the job of digging a grave for Louise, who was sentenced to death by a court martial.


The new Babylon was staged with members of the "Factory of the Eccentric Actor" (FEKS), an avant-garde artists' association founded in 1922, which sought new paths in the performing arts. FEKS started out as a theater company, but in the following years many of its members shaped Russian-Soviet film history as actors, outfitters and cameramen. They wanted to get away from the naturalism and empathetic aesthetics of bourgeois art and replace it with a “Dadaist constructivism”. They orientated themselves on street art, their cinematic preference was Griffith and Chaplin, not the German expressionism in the film of the early 1920s.

“Yesterday: salons, bows, barons. Today: newspaper vendors yelling, scandals, police batons, noise, screaming, scratching, rhythm of time ”, is the programmatic motto in the modern-obsessed“ Manifesto of the eccentric actor ”by Grigori Kosinzew and Leonid Trauberg.

Dmitri Shostakovich, then 22 years old, was like Kosintsev and Trauberg a member of the film group “FEKS”, which was committed to breaking the boundaries between theater, film, circus, music hall and opera.

In his music montage to illustrate the film, he used various musical forms: dance and operetta melodies as well as French folk music and revolutionary songs : Ça ira , La Carmagnole and the Marseillaise; it served him as a leitmotif for the reactionary bourgeoisie and was processed in the most varied of forms, as can -can , waltz or gallop .

The score, which bears the opus number 18, was lost soon after the premiere and was not rediscovered until 1975, shortly after Shostakovich's death.

The Russian premiere of Novij Vavilon took place on March 18, 1929 in Leningrad.

In Germany, the new Babylon was on July 5, 1929 of the Berlin film testing agency under test no. 22835 before and was banned for young people; also at the supervisory authority, to which the film was then submitted on July 12, 1929, it was banned from young people under the number O. 22 835 (8 files, 2345 meters). On August 14, 1929, the Bildstelle refused the strip the rating "artistic" or "popular education". Under the German title Kampf um Paris , it premiered on August 13, 1929 in Berlin in the Capitol large cinema; Werner Schmidt-Boelcke wrote and conducted the music for it . The German-Russian Film Alliance Derussa (Berlin) took over the distribution in Germany .


The premiere of film and music ended in a fiasco in 1929: the orchestra and audience were overwhelmed by the experimental character of the film. The audience thought the conductor was drunk.

Shortly after the premiere of Das neue Babylon, Pavel Betrow-Bytov complained in an essay about Soviet filmmakers in 1929: “The people who make Soviet cinema are 95% esthete without principles, alienated from social reality. In short, none of them have a clue about real life. ”Addressing Shostakovich and Eisenstein, he continues:“ I'm sorry, but you can't lead a crowd with these films - October and The New Babylon - you can just not because nobody wants to see them. "

The directors "Kosinzew and Trauberg at that time most purely represented the 'poetic' direction of Soviet film, which considered the narrative principle to be unimportant in order to instead present situations and feelings in a compressed, fundamentally reduced form." (Ulrich Gregor / Enno Patalas)

The silent film musician Stephan von Bothmer wrote in 2008:
The new Babylon is not so fascinating because of its episodic plot, but because of the grotesque atmosphere in Paris shortly before its fall. Rapid pace, high-contrast montage, impressionistic settings in rain and fog, a soft-focus optics: the choreography repeatedly finds new, experimental ways to bind the viewer to what is happening on the screen. "

“With the silent film Das neue Babylon (1929), the directing duo Grigori Kosinzew and Leonid Trauberg succeeded in creating a timeless, gripping masterpiece that leaves nothing to be desired musically: the soundtrack of 22-year-old Dmitri Shostakovich is bursting with youthful exuberance, quoted humor , Sarcasm and originality. "(Basel Sinfonietta 2011)


The culture channel Arte broadcast the film on Friday, October 27, 2006 at 1:15 am on German television; the silent film conductor Frank Strobel reconstructed the original music based on the premiere version authorized by Leonid Trauberg on March 18, 1929 in collaboration with the Hamburg Sikorski music publishers, arranged it for the film and directed the recordings. The arte edition of the film was released on DVD by absolut Medien , Berlin, in July 2007 (b / w, 93 min. + Extras), ISBN 978-3-89848-869-3 .

The New Babylon was performed on Monday, April 11, 2011 in Basel in the “Kaserne” with live accompaniment by the basel sinfonietta under the direction of Mark Fitz-Gerald ; British film historian and critic David Robinson gave an introduction to the concert before the performance . A prompt recording of the music by the basel sinfonietta under Mark Fitz-Gerald's direction (recording: Volkshaus, Basel, May 1-3, 2011) has been released as a double CD on the Naxos label . The accompanying booklet contains texts by Nina Goslar (Arte / ZDF) and by Mark Fitz-Gerald on the original music. The film was also shown at the Le Giornate del Cinema Muto silent film festival . October 2011 in Pordenone, Italy.

The New Babylon was performed on November 21, 2013 in the Munich Prinzregententheater with live accompaniment by the Munich Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Olari Elts . On July 3, 2014, the film was shown in the Great Hall of the historic town hall in Wuppertal with live accompaniment by the Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Mark-Andreas Schlingensiepen .

On May 20, 2015 Das Neue Babylon was shown in the Stuttgart Liederhalle with live accompaniment by the Stuttgart Philharmonic under the direction of Daniel Raiskin.


  • In the machinery of film censorship. at October 25, 2006. (online)
  • Hélène Bernatchez: Shostakovich and the Factory of the Eccentric Actor. (= Forum Musicology. Volume 2). Verlag Martin Meidenbauer, M Press, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-89975-589-8 , pp. 73-173.
  • Herbert Birett: Silent film music. Material collection. Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin 1970.
  • Neil Edmunds (Ed.): Soviet Music and Society under Lenin and Stalin: The Baton and Sickle. (= BASEES / Routledge Series on Russian and East European Studies). Routledge Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1-134-41562-1 . (English)
  • Rainer Fabich: Music for the silent film. (= European University Writings, Series 36: Musicology. Volume 94). Verlag Peter Lang, Frankfurt / Berlin / Bern / New York / Paris / Vienna 1993, ISBN 3-631-45391-4 .
  • Markus Fischer: Silent film "Das neue Babylon" (1929) with live orchestra accompaniment. Film music by Dimitri Shostakovich in the Bucharest Athenaeum. In: ADZ General German newspaper for Romania. May 4, 2012. (online at: )
  • Gero Gandert: A cinema orchestra conductor remembers. Interview with Werner Schmidt-Boelcke, In: Silent film music yesterday and today. Deutsche Kinemathek Foundation. Verlag Volker Spiess, Berlin 1979, pp. 35-50.
  • Gero Gandert (Ed.): The film of the Weimar Republic: 1929. (= The film of the Weimar Republic: a manual of contemporary criticism. Volume 1). Verlag Walter de Gruyter, 1997, ISBN 3-11-015805-1 .
  • Ulrich Gregor, Enno Patalas: History of the film. Volume 1. Verlag Rowohlt, 1976, ISBN 3-499-16193-1 .
  • Lokke Heiss: New Babylon Revisited. The 2011 Pordenone Festival of Silent Film. (online) (English)
  • Martin Heller: Contours of the undecided. (= Red Star, Interventions. Volume 6). Verlag Stroemfeld / Roter Stern, 1997, ISBN 3-87877-600-4 , p. 286.
  • Richard Taylor: The Politics of the Soviet Cinema 1917–1929. (= LSE Monographs in International Studies). New edition. Cambridge University Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-521-08855-8 , pp. 97, 149, 212 (English)
  • Richard Taylor: Sovkino. (online at: ) (English)
  • Janina Urussowa: The new Moscow, the city of the Soviets in the film 1917–1941. Böhlau Verlag, Cologne / Weimar 2004, pp. 113, 134, 410 and 440.
  • Friedrich von Zglinicki: The way of the film. History of cinematography and its predecessors. Rembrandt Verlag, Berlin 1956.

Web links


  • Movie poster for Novyj Vavilon [10]
  • Statue from Novyj Vavilon [11]
  • Statue from Novyj Vavilon [12]
  • Statue from Novyj Vavilon [13]

Individual evidence

  1. Bernd Feuchtner at [1]  : “As a student, he earned his living as a silent film pianist and learned how to improvise scenes. He had great parodic talent and was able to imitate a wide variety of styles with ease. He was attracted to the new American popular music, and he was in a good mood composing Shimmies , foxtrots and other versions of what was called jazz in Europe. "
  2. so Taylor p. 148.
  3. ^ "Chaplin's bottom is dearer to us than the hand of Eleonora Duse." (Quoted in Lokke Heiss)
  4. cf. archive link ( memento of the original from September 11, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. cit. according to [2]
  6. Sheet music examples from it in Bernatchez p. 263 ff.: II. Sheet music examples, p. 263 1. Old French song from the 6th part of the film for “The New Babylon” (with text) - Tchaikovsky's Old French song from the album for the young, p. 265 2nd excerpt from Gnessin's gallop 'A Jewish Orchestra at the Mayor's Ball' and excerpt from the 2nd part of the film on “The New Babylon”.
  7. cf. Gandert, 1929, p. 805.
  8. Premier theater with over 1300 seats, opened on December 20, 1925, cf. Zglinicki pp. 448-449.
  9. cf. Birett p. 205, there also a photo of the artist
  10. cf. Archived copy ( memento of the original from September 10, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  11. “When the Russian film The New Babylon hit cinemas in the late 1920s, viewers shouted 'The conductor is drunk'. That was a characteristic reaction to the then revolutionary film music, "writes Jochen Kürten at [3]
  12. at [4]
  13. cf. Nina Goslar at archive link ( memento of the original from September 11, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  14. cf. [5]
  15. cf. [6]
  16. cf. Article by Lokke Heiss: New Babylon Revisited
  17. cf. Message from Maximilian Meier, editing: Susanna Felix, at BR klassik Munich, November 20, 2013 .html ( Memento from September 17, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  18. cf. [7]
  19. cf. Table of contents at [8]
  20. Cf. [9] (contains an analytical description of the music for, among other things, L'assassinat du duc de guise / The murder of the Duke of Guise, The Student of Prague , Rapsodia Satancia , Bronenosez Potjomkin / Panzerkreuzer Potemkin and Nowy Wawilon / The New Babylon)