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HISTORIC MOVIES — A TIME BOMB?

February 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Egbert Koppe (Der Spiegel)

Film preservationists in Germany are locked in a volatile debate over whether historic movies shot and distributed on highly flammable nitrate film and stored in a locker outside Berlin, should be transferred to safety film or stored until they can safely be transferred to digital media, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported over the weekend. Nitrate film, MURDOCH HIT BY NEW SCANDAL a film restoration expert at the Federal Archives, told the magazine, can explode spontaneously and jeopardize other films kept in the storage facility. Koppe is urging that the films be transferred to safety film at once and the originals destroyed in order to avoid a potential disaster. (Under German law, the films are considered explosives and must be eradicated. But Martin Koerber, a curator at the German Film Archive, is appalled by the proposal. “In other countries, the preservation of nitrate film is a given, and the earliest extant version is considered the most precious copy of a film.” Koerber points out that a significant loss in picture quality occurs every time a film is transferred by conventional means. But, he notes, sometime in the future better ways can be found to transfer them to digital media. “Then it would really be a pity if the originals had been destroyed.”