Wonder of Creation
Hanns Walter Kornblum’s silent documentary from 1925 delivers a stunning insight into the knowledge and view of the universe at that time. Kornblum seemed to have a keen interest in sciences and making it accessible to wide audiences. This can be seen as the work on this project began shortly after the distribution of his documentary about the theory of relativity in 1922.
Unfortunately, WONDER OF CREATION is his only work to exist predominately complete after its restoration. Kornblum’s film provides us with an intriguing mix of genres and techniques. It combines fictional scenes, animated sequences, intertitles, detailed papier-mâché models and tinted and toned film all which lend themselves to the building of Kornblum’s universe. Using the means available at this time to their fullest, he creates an entertaining environment for which information can be passed while keeping the audience intrigued and engaged for example by the unexpected simulation of the viewer being taken on a trip through the milky way in a spaceship.
Whilst the documentary’s greatest strength is the creative visualisation of facts, it also relies on a good structure, both in presentation and context. One way this is ensured is that the film first gives information in form of intertitles, which are accompanied by self-explanatory visuals. This structure is carried through the seven acts, all dealing with a different sub-topic. Another layer of structure is provided as Kornblum reserves coloured images for the accompanying visuals. It is a way to ensure that the film is not going to strain the eye of the viewer. The intertitles have a high contrast, white letters on a black background, and the visuals are either toned or tinted, giving the eye a chance to relax.
Remarkable in its visual form alone, it can be transformed by a good accompanying score. This was the case in the screening on the Cambridge Film Festival 2016, the live score by Stu Brown and Paul Harrison focusing first on the mystery of the universe and then the adventure of our ride in the spaceship, making it a learning experience.
WONDER OF CREATION is a fascinating watch, a time-capsule of silent documentary, that reveals not only how far we have come in terms of science but has also preserved the bold and intelligent filmmaking of early documentary cinema that truly is a wonder.