Designer. Nationality: German. Career: 1910s—experimental artist based in Munich, designed sets for Lang and Von Harbou; 1930s—continued working in Germany during the War; 1945–60—remained in Germany. Died: In Berlin, 1960.
Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari ( The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari ) (Wiene); Madame Dubarry (Lubitsch)
Das Indische Grabmal (May); Die Herrin der Welt (May)
Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler ( Dr. Mabuse the Gambler ) (Lang) (co)
Die Nibelungen ( The Nibelungen Saga ) (Lang)
Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney (Pabst)
Frau im Mond ( The Girl in the Moon ) (Lang)
Der blaue Engel ( The Blue Angel ) (von Sternberg)
Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (Lang) (co)
Jud Süss (Harlan)
Die Mörder sind unter uns (Staudte)
Codelli, L., in Griffithiana (Gemona, Italy) , September 1996.
Marsilius, Hans Jörg, in Film-Dienst (Cologne), 22 October 1996.
Journal of Film Preservation (Brussels), November 1996.
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After the monumental Italian spectacles of the early 20th century, and D.W. Griffith's epics, a new film phenomenon appeared which carried cinema to new heights. The striking decors of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Lubitsch's Madame Dubarry , both made in 1919, helped the German cinema to break through the barrier of political prejudice built up against it by the Allied nations after the First World War. The technical and artistic superiority of German studio craftsmanship, as well as Expressionism, then a powerful force in German art, and the considerable influence of Reinhardt's theatre, were ultimately to influence film production worldwide.
Otto Hunte, who began his career as an artist in a Munich experimental group, was certainly an outstanding contributor to the success of the German film industry in the 1920s. However, because the success of the Golden Age of German film relied on close cooperation between directors, designers, and cameramen, it becomes a little difficult to sort out the different functions of separate individuals. Where several artists worked together, as in the case of Hunte, Vollbrecht and others, records do not always reveal who did what. Hunte often shared credits with Jacoby-Boy, Kettelhut, Stahl Urach, and Emil Hasler.
It is clear, however, that Hunte was Lang's major designer, bringing his experience as a painter to the director's architectural background. He created the great landscapes of Die Nibelungen , the futuristic constructions of Metropolis and The Girl in the Moon , and the seedy coulisses of the Mabuse films. Often it was Hunte who interpreted the ideas of Lang and his scriptwriter wife Thea Von Harbou, leaving much of the actual construction to his assistant Vollbrecht, who then made his own personal contributions to the films—for example, in the dragon sequence of Die Nibelungen .
Hunte's studio-based art was very much a characteristic of the German cinema. The forests of Siegfried , the first episode of Die Nibelungen , were studio forests, artificially created, and the set pieces of the cathedral steps and Gunthur's castle were solid studio constructions. What made these films so outstanding was the perfect coordination of many diverse elements, fused together by the tyrannous energy of Lang.
The designer did not work solely for Lang. Von Harbou had associations with Robert Dineson, the Danish director working in Berlin, and Joe May. Hunte worked with them both, designing for the latter Das Indische Grabmal and Die Herrin der Welt . He showed a very different style from his work with Lang in Pabst's Liebe der Jeanne Ney , and in 1930, he worked on Sternberg's Der blaue Engel .
After Lang's escape to exile, Hunte remained in Germany, working with Von Harbou on many of her films and even designing the notoriously anti-semitic Jud Süss . After the war, however, he was equally amenable to working with Wolfgang Staudte on the impressive anti-Nazi film, Die Mörder sind unter uns for the East German DEFA company. He continued working until his death in 1960.