Sometimes promising, sometimes threatening, at the same time fascinating and unsettling, always promising spectacular attractions: Fairs resemble an engine room of dreams (nightmares?), appealing to all the senses and producing a wide variety of emotional states. Anything seems possible there. The central element of the magic of the booths, performances, exhibits, and rides is the moment of surprise, excess, and amazement, which often provide comic relief. An encounter with the unbelievable often culminates in an encounter with oneself.
As is well known, fairgrounds are where the first screenings of the moving image took place, and so it is no coincidence that the world of the fair - and its variants from the marketplace to the universal exhibition - is a favorite reference point for cinema. Bringing together some examples of this phenomenon, our new-format Magical History Tour traces an arc from Paul Leni's WACHSFIGURENKABINETT (G 1925) - which featured as part of the first screening by the Friends of the German Cinematheque in 1963 - to PRATER (Ulrike Ottinger, G 2007), one of Arsenal's most recent digital restorations. (Milena Gregor)