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People On Sunday [1929] [DVD]

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Product details

  • Actors: Erwin Splettstößer, Brigitte Borchert, Wolfgang von Waltershausen, Christl Ehlers, Annie Schreyer
  • Directors: Robert Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Bfi
  • DVD Release Date: 25 April 2005
  • Run Time: 73 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007XMLZ2
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 46,365 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

History of the Avant-Garde

a Film by Robert Siodmak and Edgar G Ulmer

History of the Avant-Garde:A series of video releases featuring the best of radical and innovative filmmaking from the first hundred years of cinema.

A tale of five young Berliners - a taxi driver, a travelling wine dealer, a record-shop sales girl, a film extra and a model - spending a typical Sunday. In this vivid snapshot of Berlin life, a trip to the countryside reveals the flirtations, rivalries, jealousies, and petty irritations common to any group outing. All too soon it is the end of the day, and the prospect of Monday looms, and the return of weekday routine.

Considered one of the most important works of the German film Avant-Garde of the 1920s, and a huge influence on the French New Wave and Italian Neorealist movements, People on Sunday also marked the start of the film careers of six cinéastes who would go on to great international success: Billy Wilder, Robert and Curt Siodmak, Edgar G Ulmer, Eugen Schüfftan and Fred Zinnemann.

The original negative of the film is lost and no complete copy exists, but this restored version has been reconstructed by the Netherlands Film Museum and contains important scenes previously missing. This version also features a vibrant new score by Elena Kats-Chemin.

DVD Extras

  • This Year London (UK, 1951), a 25-minute film which follows the adventures of a Leicester-based shoe factory staff on their annual holiday outing
  • Filmmakers biography
  • 12-page booklet providing background information on the film

Germany | 1929 | black & white | 73 minutes | silent with music soundtrack | Ratio 1.33:1 | Region 2 DVD


People on Sunday (1929) was the collaborative work of a formidable team of young German/Austrian film-makers, all of whom would end up making their careers in Hollywood. It was co-directed by Robert Siodmak, who went on to make several noir masterpieces of the 1940s, and Edgar Ulmer, king of the Poverty Row Z-movies. Siodmak and his brother Curt, who became a prolific Hollywood screenwriter, wrote the script in collaboration with Billy Wilder. Fred Zinnemann (High Noon, etc) was production assistant and the film was photographed by Eugen Schüfftan, special-effects wizard extraordinaire. For all the team except Schüfftan it was their first film--yet People on Sunday is like nothing any of them would ever make again.

The film is a beguiling blend of feature and documentary--a celebration of the everyday street life of late-1920s Berlin with, grafted on to it, a fictional story. As a story it's nothing startling--a commonplace affair of casual flirtations on a Sunday trip into the countryside--but it's handled with an honesty and sense of quietly ironic observation that's kept it fresh and engrossing for more than 70 years. All the five principal players were amateurs who had never acted before, and who actually worked at the jobs their characters do in the film--taxi driver, music shop assistant, wine seller and so on. They all give natural and remarkably unselfconscious performances. People on Sunday was made at the very end of the silent era, the period that had seen the greatest flowering of German cinema. Yet there's nothing nostalgic about it. Light-hearted and clear-eyed, it's full of youthful vitality.

The negative of the film has long been lost. The present print, reconstructed by the Netherlands Film Museum, restores several passages missing from previous releases and is over 95 percent complete. The orchestral score, specially composed for this release by Elena Katz-Chernin, deftly evokes the style of the period. --Philip Kemp --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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This is a movie well worth investigating and makes an ideal companion piece to Walter Ruttman's 1927 classic "Berlin, Symphony of a Great City".

Both came towards the end of the silent era, amid the explosion of creativity and experimentation which marked the tumultuous Weimar years and offer a visual feast of candid images, of life in Berlin immediately before the dawning of the Third Reich.

Whereas Ruttman's film is a montage depicting the city as a living, breathing organism, through the juxtaposition of industrial machinery, light, traffic and the movement of people as they go about their daily routine, Robert Siodmak's "Menschen am Sonntag" (which is also credited to Billy Wilder among other notables) follows four young Berliners who escape the tedium of their working week by spending a day together at the Nikolassee on the edge of the city.

"People on Sunday announces itself as a 'film without actors': the five principals are all amateurs, who actually worked in the jobs described in the film: taxi driver, music shop assistant, wine salesman, film extra, mannequin. Yet their performances are strikingly natural and unselfconscious. Since they all had weekday jobs, the film was shot over a number of Sundays during the summer of 1929, and the sense of unforced credibility must derive from the fact that these were exactly what the title says - ordinary Berliners on their day off, doing pretty much what they would have been doing in any case." (Philip Kemp, DVD liner notes).

A certain degree of sexual tension inhabits this movie, as one might expect given the initial scenario: Taxi driver Erwin lives in an apparently tumultuous relationship with model Annie who can't quite make it out of bed to enjoy the promise of an adventure by the lake.
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If you enjoy classic silent cinema then you won't want to miss this. At times the odd scene is reminiscent of King Vidor's The Crowd, made just the year before (most especially in those moments set indoors, during which one of the couples gently bicker or the scene during which the principals first meet up for their group date); while at others the open air, carefree mood is suggestive of Renoir's masterpiece Partie de Campagne, made a decade later. But People on Sunday is a distinct work in its own right, an evocative film made by some stellar talent as already noted by other reviewers here: the Siodmak brothers, Edgar Ulmer, Billy Wilder and Fred Zimmerman - all of whom would go on to varying degrees of success in the States after fleeing the Nazis. Their film is thus both a record of a time lost, a beautifully shot piece showing a Berlin that was soon to vanish for ever, as well as demonstrating the collaborative talents of some major figures in their early years. There is no hint of the dark years to come seen here, or the debilitating effects of run away inflation which marked the end of the Weimar Republic and led to the inexorable rise of extreme politics. People on Sunday is above social comment, unless it is political by the fact of focusing on ordinary people. It simply tells the tale of a group (played by non professional actors we are informed, but it hard to tell) enjoying themselves while out on one sunny weekend day, picnicking, boating, kissing, promising more to each other and so on, interspersed with more general shots of the German people similarly at play. The skill and pleasure for the viewer is in the way this is done, completely without ostentation, shot marvelously, everything still feeling fresh, spontaneous and genuine today, and done with a real feeling for place.Read more ›
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Great move I'm a silent movie fan
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8547b8c4) out of 5 stars 8 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x85542e94) out of 5 stars When they were young 14 Sept. 2011
By roverton - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This film, made on the borderline between silence & sound, shows the promise of Wilder, both Siodmaks, Zinnemann et al--
before they became some of Hollywood's best & brightest, "thanks" to the awful conditions in Europe that, in part, account
for the classic era of Hollywood movies. (It's interesting, finally, how different their contributions were.)
But apart from this being a fascinating and essential historical footnote to the later careers of these men,
the movie is also great fun in itself, perhaps because of the sense that there was nothing to lose, no compromises necessary--of, hey,
let's try doing it this way...or what about this? It's like a brilliant home movie, made quickly and independently--very smart about both the lives of people & cities--that eventually became a primer for many cinematic impulses to follow, including Italian neo-realism and the French New Wave.
And it's full of the sense of what it feels like to be young, the energy and possibilities--both within the casual narrative itself and implicit in the making of the film.
One technical observation. I love all the good that BFI does for us, but in this case I think the recently released Criterion Blu-ray is a much cleaner
transfer, with a choice of two soundtracks. (For a comparison, go to
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x858100c0) out of 5 stars nuance and complexity... silent. 16 Mar. 2012
By vs - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"People on Sunday" is an amazing achievement in every respect, but i was especially impressed by so much nuance and complexity in a silent movie. I used to expect silent films to be simplistic and melodramatic, Hollywood style, which was recently confirmed by The Artist (2011), a silent movie imitation by French director Michel Hazanavicius, which suffers from all the ills of the real McCoy.

For a film produced in 1930, "People on Sunday" is refreshingly serious, realistic and frank. Even comparing with the movies produced much later, European and Japanese realistic and neorealistic films of the late 40's and even 50's, Siodmak's film doesn't come across as less sophisticated. All the movies, produced by Siodmak, Ulmer and other creators of "People on Sunday" in Hollywood are more predictable and mechanical, conforming to the requirement of maximizing the box office numbers.

Even in comparison with Murnau's The Last Laugh one can easily see brute force of Siodmak's expressive power. Non-professional actors in most of the roles, lots of street scenes beautifully shot by Fred Zinnemann, real people, real relationships, real life - instead of Hollywood fakes and sheer entertainment movies of the same period. Surely not everyone would like that, as, again one can see from the frenzied reception of Hazanavicius' The Artist...

Miraculously, this film doesn't look dated at all. To my opinion "People on Sunday" is one of the top achievements of cinematography.

As always - thanks to Criterion Collection.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8580efa8) out of 5 stars Review of the film on the DVD transfer ~ 19 Dec. 2011
By Christopher Barrett - Published on
Format: DVD
Criterion continues to serve up amazing cinematic treats. People on Sunday is an amazing silent film that even years later causes arguments between filmmakers and critics alike.

The film was shot in 1930 in and around Berlin. The main actors are all regular people who had never been filmed before. There was very little budget, and according to actor recollections, the film was thought out while at a cafe with notes scribbled on napkins. Though there are many famous names attached to this film, it seems that many of these more famous people might have had very little to do with this actual film and later exaggerated their input and influence due to the positive reviews the film garnered. Much of this is explained in the included booklet.

Despite this, the film was beautifully shot. The transfer, even to DVD is amazing. The film looks pristine with most of the noise, dirt, and static removed. Also of note is that Criterion used a Dutch version of the film for the base (the German original having been lost, presumably destroyed). But there was much of the film missing, so Criterion gathered bits from other recordings in Italy, France, and beyond to restore much of the film. Their efforts were mostly successful, though there is a bit that seems to have been permanently lost. A brief introduction provided by Criterion discusses this.

There are two music tracks, one created for a Czech film festival, the other created for the Criterion release. I watched with the Criterion composition. But you can select either. Also of note, there are very few script stills. Many of the stills were edited or lost, and Criterion made every effort to recover the original lines.

The film takes place mainly on Sunday, though we see the events on Saturday leading up to Sunday. A chance meeting between two people leads to plans to enjoy Sunday together. Each brings a friend and it ends up as a double date of sorts. We watch the character interactions and their courting of each other over the course of the day.

The scenes are amazingly shot. The settings chosen are fantastic. At times it's sad to think about what the city will look like 14 to 15 years after the filming...

Many have said that this movie was a precursor to French New Wave or Italian Neorealism, and I tend to agree. Though the French and Italian films have different themes, the core film style is remarkably similar. I don't know if this film directly influenced him, but I see a lot of this film in Truffaut's movies. It may just be coincidence.

A lovely film for students or fans of classic cinema. A masterpiece of silent film wonderfully restored and brought to life by Criterion. Bravo!
HASH(0x8551f75c) out of 5 stars Fascinating Glimpse of Berlin in the pre-Hitler Era 12 Mar. 2014
By Dr. Laurence Raw - Published on
Format: DVD
Directed by Robert and Curt Siodmak from a screenplay by Billy Wilder, and with the participation of Edgar G. Ulmer, MENSCHEN AM SONNTAG is a drama filmed over four Sundays in 1929, involving a series of young men and women who flirt with one another, spend time at the beach, enjoy the pleasures of the recreational areas in and around Berlin, and resolve to meet the next Sunday. The plot is gossamer-thin, involving a series of sensual encounters between the semiprofessional actors; the camera focuses on their lips, their bodies and their clothing. Even in the most mundane situations there can be some kind of sexual exchange. More interestingly, the film offers fascinating glimpses of Berlin in the pre-Hitler era; the gorgeous eighteenth and nineteenth century architecture; the laid-back lifestyle of a people living their leisure time to the full; the camera pans of the stores, including a surfeit of Jewish businesses; and the teeming beaches and streets full of people blissfully unaware of what was to follow in the next decade. The film is almost prelapsarian in tone, portraying a world upon which - to use a term familiar in another socio-historical context - the sun appeared never to set.
HASH(0x85544c84) out of 5 stars People On Sunday: A Small Film, A Lost Epoch 5 Sept. 2012
By Theo J. - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The Criterion Collection's DVD of PEOPLE ON SUNDAY is an extraordinary survival from pre-WW2 Germany, and a window on the lost world of Berlin in the Weimar Era. It was also the first public success of several brilliant filmmakers. Shot on a shoestring budget with nonprofessional actors, it's a simple story of four young people who chance to spend a leisurely Sunday together in 1929 Berlin. But it's also a collaboration between world-class talents---screenwriter/director Billy Wilder, future cinematographer Fred Zinnemann, film-noir creator Edgar G. Ulmer, and brothers Kurt and Robert Siodmak. All of them would be forced to flee Germany after Hitler's rise to power---and all would find sanctuary and (to varying degrees) success in Hollywood. Their work shines brilliantly on this digital restoration, created with the help of The Netherlands' EYE film Institute. Along with the film itself are included a great special-features package and a well-written booklet. Highly recommended.
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