The Vertigo Years
Change and Culture in the West, 1900-1914
A documentary series in three parts of 45 minutes each by Philipp Blom
The Vertigo Years is a TV documentary series that tells the story of the period between 1900 and 1914 in Europe and the USA not as a gold-tinted prelude to catastrophe, but as a time of phenomenal energy and rapid transformation, a social, creative and scientific explosion that would define the horizons of life in the West up to our day.
Rather than nostalgically evoking Merchant-Ivory costumes, The Vertigo Years shows how industrialization and urbanization created new realities and transformed societies with its burgeoning urban centers and mass media and mass sports events, its feminism, nuclear physics, the theory of relativity, abstract art, consumer culture, mass travel and economic globalization. Within less than a generation the world had been changed for good.
The Vertigo Years tells this story using the unique wealth of archive footage which exists from this period. Taken from archives across Europe, but also from Russia, newsreels, private films, early movies, photographs (some in original colour) and sound recordings are combined with the personal voices of letters, diaries, articles and memoirs combine to create a vivid image of the period. Lively and captivating interviews with experts (historians, economists, musicians, biographers) help to contextualize this information and to explore individual aspects of this story. Intercutting archive footage and modern scenes strengthen the impression that life in the 1900s is still remarkably close to us.
Throughout the series, particular attention will be paid (not always explicitly but also by narrative cutting) to similarities, parallels and differences between the period ca. 1914 and our present (i.e. 2014). The questions in the background are: In how far have globalization, mass culture, democratization, and the feeling of living through a period of huge acceleration of history changed the people of 1910? And in now far are we ourselves still in the grip of this feeling? If our situations are similar, can we be more intelligent now than our great-grandparents were?