The Querschnittfilm (cross-section film) has long been recognized as a documentary genre appropriate to mass society that uses montage, not the narrative development of individual characters, to compare various people and phenomena. But the term and concept of Querschnitt had both a wider resonance in Weimar culture and a much longer history. This article traces the development of the concept from a type of scientific illustration to a model of sociological inquiry and finally to a mode of montage in print, photography, and film during the 1920s. Focusing in particular on Walter Ruttmann's Melodie der Welt (Melody of the World, 1929), it argues that Weimar culture mobilized Querschnitt montage to come to terms with a new visual “archive”: namely, the thousands of indexical images of the world now circulating in illustrated journals and films.

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