Karlheinz Borchert on W. German Film Posters

“The artistic film poster can only develop in the hard competition of the free market economy if it restricts itself to the small niches of smaller distributors and their special audience. In post-war West Germany, there existed above all two companies that were able to hold their own, competing with the big US companies. Walter Kirchner founded the Neue Filmkunst in 1952 and Hans Eckelkamp in 1960 established Atlas Film. Both knew very well in advance that they would be unable to reach their cinematic audience with the usual, naturalistically drawn star posters. Consequently, they sought artists who worked differently and who, aside from the posters, also designed the programs and the logos.

Hans Hillmann, who over many years almost single-handedly developed the advertisements of Neue Filmkunst, internationally counts as one of the most famous film poster designers. His sheets for ‘Battleship Potemkin,’ ‘The Caretaker,’ ‘The Seven Samurai,’ and ‘The Trial’ have been considered classics for a long time, which does no harm to Hillmann’s other posters. Despite their stylistic versatility and the different techniques used, each one of them consistently shows a high standard with regard to aesthetics and the respective film theme.

At times, Hillmann is assisted by some of his friends and students – he is meanwhile professor at the Academy in Kassel. Among them, Isolde Baumgart and Wolfgang Schmidt must be mentioned. Atlas Film was also able to stand out with an interesting house of designers. Aside from the married couple Fischer-Nosbisch, who designed the lion share of the posters, a number of other influential names producing impressive works appeared again and again in the course of time. Among them are Jan Lenica and Heinz Edelmann, whose early works for Atlas continue to be inexcusably underestimated today. The designers Karl Oskar Blase and the team Hans Michel / Günther Kieser, mostly known for their theater and concert posters, also conceptualized some designs which are in no way inferior to their later works.

It should be emphasized that the artistic film poster owes its development and complexity not least to the artistic film for which it has been designed primarily. The gap which divides it from the start poster continues to remain insurmountable. In the introduction to the film poster exhibition in Munich in 1965, it reads correctly: ‘In mostly small movie theaters, one can see graphically outstanding posters. There are two worlds – not only of the poster, but of the film as well. Each has its audience, it’s distributors and it’s posters.'”

— Karlheinz Borchert (via Plakat Journal, 1996)