Hard to believe it's been 100 years since Walter Gropius and a handful of others founded the Bauhaus movement, an aesthetic philosophy that saw no distinction between form and function, eschewing ornamentation. It certainly seems like those founders didn't even know it would go on to inspire countless artists, dancers, architects and creatives around the world in the way it has. German filmmakers Niels Bolbrinker and Thomas Tielsch understand, though, and their new film Bauhaus Spirit teaches us everything we need to know, even if it veers into the unfocused now and then.
Those who aren't intimately familiar with Bauhaus may be surprised to learn that it was a utopian physical school in Weimar, Germany, in addition to a then-radical new wave of artistic expression. Students (like Kandinsky, Schlemmer and Albers, just to name a few) and teachers affected nearly every aspect of creation to this day, even making their way into the building's design itself—and it still stands, a monument to the so-called weirdos of the day who freaked out the townsfolk of Weimar while expanding their horizons and experimenting and who would end up influencing our culture and design incalculably for the rest of all time.
We travel from Weimar to the favelas of South America, hear from those who continue to live and work with the Bauhaus ethos and see its application in everything from a progressive Swedish school without classrooms, the way in which dance and math feed and influence each other and other such delights. At its heart, Bauhaus Spirit proves without question that fun was a core component of the goings-on, and we long to have played a part in its birth, existence and influence—or to even contribute now.
The film does, however, flail in terms of accessibility. This is not an intro to art doc for those looking to dabble or pick up the basics, nor will it probably spark curiosity for those unfamiliar with the lingering affects of Bauhaus. It can feel dense and, like the early days of the movement itself, you just kind of have to be onboard to reap its benefits.
Of course, we do, whether we're aware of that or not; for those looking to learn more or reignite an already-there appreciation, Bauhaus Spirit is a wonderful celebration of the history from which it came and the product of all it wrought.
+Quite fun; worth knowing about
-Confusing transitions; inaccessible academic speak
Directed by Bolbrinker and Tielsch
Center for Contemporary Arts, NR, 95 min.