On two floors the permanent exhibition presents exciting exhibits, operable models of historical apparatuses and interactive stations. Large film projections invite visitors to explore moving images and experience the fascination of film as a medium.
The first part of the permanent exhibition on the 1st floor of the museum deals with the great variety of visual media of the 18th and 19th centuries and with the invention of film. The question of how cinematic perception works and from which traditions it is fed is explained focusing on the pre- and early history of the medium. The exhibition focuses on the themes of spectacle, movement, recording, projection, moving images and cinema.
This area presents historical apparatuses that play with the audiences’ curiosity and the deception of perception, such as peep-boxes, anamorphoses, and kaleidoscopes. Visitors are invited to use models to understand how the apparatuses work: Mirrors are used to decipher the distorted images of the anamorphoses, a look into the peep-box reveals how transparent images can transform from a day scene into a night scene merely by a change of the direction of light.
Long before film was even invented, the illusion of moving images was created using animation devices such as phenakistiscopes, zoetropes and flip books. In the exhibition, these apparatuses are used to explain why people perceive a continuous movement when they see a sequence of still images. Visitors are invited to interact with models of these apparatuses.
The camera obscura is considered the first device that made it possible to create an image of reality. Visitors can experience the fascination of this process at first hand. With the invention of photography, it finally became possible to fix an image permanently.
This section focuses on the creation of images from light and presents the magic lantern as the most important projection medium of the 18th and 19th centuries. A restored, more than 200-year-old hand-painted lantern and a digital projection of historical lantern images are the highlights in this part of the permanent exhibition. We invite you to become a projectionist yourself.
This part of the exhibition focuses on the last years before film became established and introduce visitors to the various inventors such as Etienne-Jules Marey or the Lumière brothers and their experiments in creating moving images. The original Cinématographe Lumière is presented alongside a replica that will allow visitors to understand the sophistication of this first working film projector.
The highlight and conclusion of the first part of the permanent exhibition is a small cinema that presents the ingenuity and visual diversity of early film in two short programs. Here we show not only well-known classics, such as the films of the Lumière brothers, but also rarities and curiosities from the archives that otherwise can only rarely be seen. The also programme includes the first film shot in Frankfurt am Main.
The second part of the exhibition on the 2nd floor of the museum is dedicated to the principles and means of cinematic storytelling based on the themes: Image, Sound, Montage and Acting. The core message is that the effect of a film depends not only on what it shows, but how it shows it.
The Film Room
The centre piece of the exhibition on the 2nd floor is the film room, a film installation that presents a collage of film clips on four large screens. The installation demonstrates the diversity of cinematic means, makes them tangible to the senses and sets the mood emotionally for the contents of the exhibition.
Here visitors can learn how certain camera perspectives or lighting setups can guide the story and how film architecture or trick techniques make fictional settings appear believable. Among other things, the camera used to film Wolfgang Petersen’s DAS BOOT (DE 1981) and a set design drawing for GONE WITH THE WIND (USA 1939, R: Victor Fleming) are on show. Visitors can try out different moods in our light studio or become part of fictional worlds in front of our green screen.
This section shows how sound guides the viewer’s attention or makes a plot location seem real, and how music comments on the film’s plot and events and creates emotion. In addition to the original Tin Drum from the film of the same name by Volker Schlöndorff (DE 1979), we also have a print of the score to METROPOLIS (DE 1927, directed by Fritz Lang) on display. We invite our visitors to experiment at our interactive media stations: See, for example, how the use of different types of music can change the effect of film scene considerably.
Among other exhibits, we show an original storyboard for the famous shower scene in PSYCHO (USA 1960, R: Alfred Hitchcock). It illustrates how a story can be told by editing together different shots that never explicitly show the actual action. You can also experience the essential role of montage in cinematic storytelling in a practical way, for example by changing the sequence of shots in a scene.
Find out how costumes and makeup as well as facial expressions, gestures and body language are important means in cinematic storytelling. How strongly costumes help shape a character is shown by the juxtaposition of a costume worn by Romy Schneider in LUDWIG II. (IT/FR/DE 1972, directed by Luchino Visconti) with a stunt costume from ALIEN (USA/GB 1979, directed by Ridley Scott). Signed star postcards highlight that the public perception of an actor depends not only on their roles, but also on their image.