Session Fourteen: The Sun Island/Thomas Elsaesser


Film theorist and historian Thomas Elsaesser’s debut film is an essayistic portrait of his grandparents, Martin and Liesel Elsaesser, drawing on home movies, personal correspondence, and contemporary interviews.

Wednesday 28 March 2018, 15:00 

Birkbeck Cinema: FREE event [book here]

The Sun Island, Thomas Elsaesser, Germany, 2017, Digital/Blu-Ray, 72 minutes, English and German – UK premiere.

The screening will be followed by a conversation between Thomas Elsaesser and Erica Carter, King’s College London

With the support of the Goethe Institute, London, and the German Screen Studies Network


In his first film, The Sun Island, Thomas Elsaesser, eminent film theorist and film historian, documents the life and professional career of his grandfather, Martin Elsaesser (1884-1957), who was architect and chief city planner in Frankfurt from 1925 to 1932. The recent and controversial acquisition of the latter’s landmark building, the Frankfurt Central Market, by the European Central Bank as the site of their new headquarters, allows the film to draw attention to the importance of Martin Elsaesser’s place in the city’s architectural history, and to the neglect of his legacy.

But the film also revolves around Martin’s private life, and notably his wife Liesel’s long-standing liaison with landscape architect Leberecht Migge. Home movies and photographs are combined with personal letters and contemporary interviews to create an intimate portrait of these relationships, and of the protagonists’ collective attempt to create a self-sufficient utopia on Sun Island during the crucial years between the Weimar Republic and World War Two.