Guido Seeber

Die geheimnisvolle Streichholzdose
R: Guido Seeber. K: Guido Seeber. P: Deutsche Bioscop GmbH. D 1910
Print: Deutsches Filminstitut – DIF

A Match Box Mystery is a charming if rather unremarkable trick film and early, although hardly the first, example of stop-motion animation. I saw it as part of the Edition Filmmuseum’s ‘Screening the Poor’ series, for which I suppose it was included because the film begins with live-action footage of a legless man selling matches in the street. Most of the picture, however, is consumed by the matchsticks dancing about and making figures via stop-motion animation, including beating Frankenstein (1931) to the punch by burning a windmill.
Guido Seeber, who made the film, is an important figure in the history of German cinema. A sort of Billy Bitzer of Deutschland with an emphasis on special visual effects, he was behind the multiple-exposure work of the first Student of Prague (1913) film and went on to pioneer the ‘unchained camera ‘in Sylvester (1923). He was arguably the first great cinematographer in a country that became renowned for genius handling of the camera – the likes of Sepp Allgeier, Karl Freund, Carl Hoffmann, Günther Krampf, Eugen Schüfftan, Theodor Sparkuhl, and Fritz Arno Wagner.”

„Trickfilme gehören einmal zum Programm des guten Kino-Theaters, denn sie umgeben den Kinematographen mit jenem Schleier des Geheimnisvollen, Unerklärlichen, dessen anziehender Wirkung sich so leicht niemand entziehen kann. Voraussetzung ist natürlich, dass die Tricks gut sind und nicht ermüden. Beides trifft in hohem Maße auf den kleinen, aber außerordentlich gefälligen Film Die geheimnisvolle Streichholzdose zu.“
Der Kinematograph, Nr. 167, 9.3.1910

“Guido Seeber (22 June 1879 in Chemnitz – 2 July 1940 in Berlin) was a German cinematographer and pioneer of early cinema.
Seeber’s father, Clemens, was a photographer and therefore Seeber had experience with photography from an early age. In the summer of 1896, he saw the first films of the Lumière Brothers and became fascinated by this new technology. He bought a film camera and devoted himself to the development of cinematography and of sound films.
In 1908 he became technical manager of the film company Deutsche Bioscop and in 1909 directed his first film. His pioneering work as a cinematographer from this time on laid the foundations which other cameramen of German silent film such as Karl Freund (…) were able to build.
In addition to his technical talents with the camera (he developed several special effects techniques), his use of perspective and skillful contrasts between light and dark are noteworthy. His main collaborators were the directors Urban Gad, Lupu Pick, Georg Wilhelm Pabst and Paul Wegener and among his most important accomplishments are (…) the moving camera shots in the films of Lupu Pick, particularly Sylvester (1923), which can be seen as anticipating the so-called “unchained camera” of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau‘s The Last Laugh (1924).
Seeber created several animated works, including an advertisement entitle Kipho or Du musst zur Kipho (You Must Go to Kino-Photo) for a film and photography exhibition in Berlin in 1925.
Seeber continued to work into the sound era, but his work from this period is less significant. He had suffered a stroke in 1932 and after this he largely retired from active camera operation. However, he continued to be involved in the film industry, taking over the management of UFA’s animation department in 1935 and publishing several books for amateur filmmakers.”

TRAUM UND EXZESS, p. 145-149


Photo: Deutsche Kinemathek Berlin