Self-reflexivity is a significant characteristic of Austro-German cinema during the early sound film period, particular in films that revolve around musical topics. Many examples of self-reflexive cinematic instances are connected to music in one way or another. The various ways in which music is integrated in films can produce instances of intertextuality, inter- and transmediality, and self-referentiality. However, instead of relying solely on the analysis of the films in order to interrogate the conception of such scenes, this article examines several screenplays. They include musical instructions and motivations for diegetic musical performances. However, not only music itself, but also music as a subject matter can be found in these screenplays, as part of the dialogue or instructions for the mis-en-scène. The work of Austrian screenwriter and director Walter Reisch (1903–1983) will serve as a case study to discuss various forms of self-reflexivity in the context of genre studies, screenwriting studies and the early sound film. Different forms and categories of self-referential uses of music in Reisch’s work will be examined and contextualized within early sound cinema in Austria and Germany in the 1930s. The results of this investigation suggest that Reisch’s early screenplays demonstrate that the amount of self-reflexivity in early Austro-German music films is closely connected to music. Self-referential devices were closely connected to generic conventions during the formative years and particularly highlight characteristics of Reisch’s writing style. The relatively early emergence of self-reflexive and “self-conscious” moments of music in film already during the silent period provides a perfect starting point to advance discussions about the musical discourse in film, as well as the role and functions of screenplays and screenwriters in this context.
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