People on a Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag) is a 1929 German silent film, directed by Curt and Robert Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer and Fred Zinnemann as adapted from a screenplay by Billy Wilder. This film became extremely influential as the first independent film ever made. Despite being made by amateurs it is a pivotal film not only in the development of the German but also of Hollywood cinema style.
In addition to the Siodmak brothers and Wilder, the film features the talents of Edgar G. Ulmer (producer), Fred Zinnemann (cinematography) and Eugen Schüfftan. They wrote the script in their spare time and filmed most of it as they partied over a succession of Sundays. People on a Sunday follows the lives of a group of residents of Berlin on a summer’s day during the interwar period. The movie is subtitled “a film without actors”, meaning that the five main characters weren’t working actors or actresses. They had other jobs and this film was their first appearance on screen.
Ultimately what is so significant for me of this film is not specifically the script or the acting or even the actors themselves; it is just the fact that these amateur filmmakers were so intent on making a ‘montage’ of shots that they found beautiful. This method is valuable for the pure creativity and vigor which it represents. It is amazing to see what is possible when making films with little to no professional equipment.