The Film the Nazis Tried to Destroy
Europa, a short film made by the Polish artists Franciszka and Stefan Themerson in 1931, was confiscated by the Nazis in 1940 and presumed lost until its unearthing in 2019 at the Berlin Bundesarchiv and finally screened this month.Based on a poem of the same title written by the Futurist poet Anatol Stern and first published in 1925, it gained wider notice in the form of a booklet designed by the Constructivist Mieczysław Szczuka, If there is one question fundamental to Europa, it is certainly that of progress. The film deploys an array of modern photographic techniques and references. Hands appear as photograms of the kind we associate with Lucia Moholy and László Moholy-Nagy. A compass guided by a single hand reminds us of El Lissitzky and Jan Tschichold’s cover for the magazine Foto-Auge. There is a man punching an imaginary opponent, one of Eadweard Muybridge’s boxers stripped of his sparring partner.