The Steinach Film
Discussion topic: Exploring sex and hormones in the early 20th Century
The Steinach-Film is an innovative 1922 silent documentary about the discovery and significance of the sex hormones by endocrinologist Professor Eugen Steinach’s team in 1910s Vienna. This German-Austrian co-production was also produced in an international version, and only a few copies exist around the world today, including the one to be screened from the NFSA collection. It begins by exploring themes of sexual difference in animals and humans, before delving into scientific experiments on laboratory rats undertaken by Steinach’s team, seeking to “feminize” and “masculinize” animals via castration, testicle and ovary implantations, and hormone manipulation. The film then explores possible applications in humans, showing how scientists at the start of the twentieth century were starting to explore intersex, trans, and same-sex bodies and identities, as well as the potential for hormone research to “rejuvenate” the ageing and ill.
Please note that the film includes graphic depictions of surgical procedures. It also shows naked human bodies as scientific objects in ways that today would no longer be considered appropriate. The involvement of these individuals, however, was voluntary and conducted in the interest of increasing scientific knowledge about sexual and gender diversity.These themes and the film’s historical context will be explored in the accompanying panel discussion.