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    Metropolis, 1927 (Ufa)


    Ufa

    Eventually becoming the most vertically and horizontally integrated German film conglomerate. Ufa was created in 1917 as a result of a government-sponsored merger of Nordisk's, Messter's and Union's German branches. While Ufa took the leading position among German film companies, it did not hold a monopoly. Unlike the American majors, Ufa had to face competition - in 1922 there were 380 distributors and 360 production firms in Germany. In contrast to the American film industry, where distribution policies usually determined production plans, at Ufa the production team was in charge of output. The result was a permanent overproduction of films and often poor exploitation in the cinemas.

    Between February 1923 and January 1926, Erich Pommer acted as central producer, introducing a novel policy: directors were encouraged to work as creative teams, paying less attention to budgets or shooting schedules. Free to experiment, directors created films informed by established art forms (expressionism, romanticism, lighting styles inspired by Rembrandt and Max Reinhardt) as well as stylistic-technical innovations such as the 'Schufftan process' - for example in Die Nibelungen (1924) and Metropolis (1927), and Karl Freund's 'unchained camera' in Der lezte Mann/The Last Laugh (1924).

    In 1924, Ufa experienced an economic crisis because of its organisational structure and, under the managerial iron fist of Ludwig Klitzsch, the restructuring of the company proceeded apace. Independant production and distribution firms were integrated into Ufa to neutralise competition, while finances and production were strictly seperated. Changing Ufa's structure according to principles of market economy also affected film style. Experimentation was relegated to the margins (documentary, animation), and innovations such as sound no longer belonged to the artists' domain but were implemented according to industry standards and demands.

    The Nazi Party took over Ufa's shares on 18 March 1937, and in January 1942 Ufa was subsumed under the conglomerate into which the entire industry had been organised.

    At the end of World War II, Ufa expired as a legal entity, but its various businesses were to keep both the government and the courts busy for decades. DEFA, the GDR's nationalised film company, took over the Ufa studios in Babelsberg.


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