Symphony of a metropolis - Berlin’s Kino culture

“I think cinemas are new universes made especially for humans to see their dreams,” says Gogo, who is originally from Seoul, Korea, and has lived in Berlin for a year. “Kino International is beautiful, big and peaceful. That is why I love it.”

Berlin-based cinema lovers show us their favourite picture houses.

If you want to know Berlin better, watch Walther Ruttmann’s 1927 silent film Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (Symphony of a Metropolis). Never was the culture of metropolis so pivotal in European history - and checking out  Ruttmann’s masterpiece of montage is like being visited by ghosts, the spirit of which have made Germany and the surrounding continent what it is today. You can see the film each month, in fact, in one of our favourite Kinos (see below). Berlin's hardcore film-lovers eschew mainstream multiplexes for characterful Kinos - artfully rendered cinemas ranging from graffiti-strewn fleapits to modernist classics. In a capital that has always lent itself to alternative takes on pop culture, Berlin’s cinemas are brilliantly, perfectly bohemian.

Kino International

One must-see cine venue in Berlin is the Kino International on Karl-Marx-Allee in former East Berlin. An elegant mix of ’60s East German angularity and art deco flair, the building was designed and built in 1961 by architect Josef Kaiser. The classic socialist style of the exterior is offset by the beautiful mid-century modern interior (below). Head in for an enjoyable movie, then pop across the (very wide) road for the similarly designed Cafe Moskau - the perfect spot for some post-film discussion.

Kino International’s mid-century modern interior puts the place apart
 

Kino Intime majors on cosiness

Kino Intimes

Films have been shown at this small, intimate Kino for over a hundred years. Back in the early 20th century it was a tiny, fifteen seater fleapit with a grocery store inside. Now, it’s one of the funkier, most characterful picture houses in the city - with wood panelling nicely offsetting a whole bunch of tones from tangerine to chocolate. The film-showing policy here is wide-open - but favours the thought-provoking side of cinema. There is always a wide selection of early and late shows to accommodate all sorts of kino-loving characters.
 

“I always search out small cinemas since I moved abroad,” says India Baldwin, who grew up in British Columbia and has lived in Berlin for a year and a half. “The island I grew up on had one super small cinema that showed photographs of the island and people there. As a kid, if your face popped up on screen you felt famous, so small Kinos like Intime feel just like being at home, which is nice when you're in a big city and very far away.”
 

Kino Central

​If, like us, you associate all things Berlin and cinema with moodiness, then Kino Central - with its graffiti-strewn frontage and cut ‘n’ paste feel - will suit you down to the ground. This is one of those little crusty gems you’ll so often stumble across in this atmospheric city. In the summer there’s an open-air cinema here - but for the colder months it is an appropriately arty art-house dive in the not-so-crusty shopping district of Hackescher Markt. It is, however, nice and affordable to watch a movie here - and you’ll always find a nice selection of indie releases, as well as the odd reprise of a classic. Another quirk of this Kino is its monthly performance of Berlin - Symphony of a Metropolis. Walther Ruttmann's classic 1927 silent film is an early and evergreen visual poem to the capital of Germany - made at the height of the Weimar Republic’s much-celebrated cultural richness. At Central, the soundtrack to the film is performed live by local musicians.

“The feeling of entering small cinemas opens up the chance to see more independent films,” says Alexander Norton, an Englishman who has lived in Berlin for seven months. “It's exciting to fall into a cinema like Kino Central - its small, intimate spaces make it feel like a comfy bed that you can head to when you need some time away from your daily routine. It's the perfect form of escapism.”



The cut and paste aesthetic of Kino Central is perfectly punkish

Inspired to book a trip to Berlin?