Erinnerungen eines Anderen: München – Berlin Wanderung von Oskar Fischinger

Manche Filme wirken, als wären sie aus ihrer Zeit gefallen. München – Berlin Wanderung von Oskar Fischinger aus dem Jahr 1927 scheint einen anderen Filmemacher schon vorwegzunehmen. Man kann sich beim Sehen des Filmes kaum davon abhalten, an die Filme von Jonas Mekas zu denken. 

Der Film dokumentiert eine dreieinhalbwöchige Wanderung von München nach Berlin, die Oskar Fischinger unternahm. Er könnte als eine Art travelogue, also als Reisefilm bezeichnet werden. Doch der Film arbeitet nicht mit den üblichen Methoden dieses Genres. Die meisten Reisedokumentationen sind länger als dieser Film, der nur dreieinhalb Minuten dauert. Viele dieser Filme haben eine erklärende Stimme, dieser Film erklärt sich nicht. München – Berlin Wanderung wirkt dabei weniger, wie eine genaue Dokumentation, sondern eher, wie die Erinnerung an diese Reise. Die Bilder flackern nur kurz auf, bevor sie wieder verschwinden. Sie brennen sich direkt in unser Unterbewusstsein. Der Film überfällt und überrumpelt. Man will sich jedes Bild einprägen, doch die schiere Flut überwältigt. Es bleibt nur ein Gefühl. Man weiß, dass ein Mensch etwas gesehen hat. Fischinger hat auf seiner Wanderung Dinge gesehen und er hat Zeugnis davon abgelegt. Wir jedoch können nur noch erahnen, was das Gesehene wirklich war, nur noch einen Eindruck davon bekommen. Es existiert nur noch als eine Folge von Erinnerungsbildern, die vor uns aufblitzen und wieder verschwinden. 

Oskar Fischinger ist eigentlich als ein Filmemacher der Bewegung des absoluten Filmes bekannt. Er wird oft  zusammen mit Walter Ruttmann und Hans Richter genannt. Dieser Film ist ein untypischer Einzelfall. Erst Jahrzehnte später wurde fortgesetzt was er angefangen hat. Diese schnelle Abfolge von Porträts und Landschaften findet man in den Filmen von Jonas Mekas wieder, den dieser Film angeblich inspiriert haben soll. Wer München – Berlin Wanderung gesehen hat, wird nicht überrascht sein. Er wirkt wie eine Blaupause.

Einige Motive und Bilder bleiben hängen oder wiederholen sich: Das erste Bild zeigt Zugschienen, die sich in die Ferne ziehen. Schienen, die für diese Reise nicht verwendet wurden, welche zur Gänze zu Fuß stattfand. Dann sehen wir immer wieder: Dörfer, Kirchen, Häuser, Blumen und weite Wiesen. Fischingers Kamera trifft auch auf verschiedene Tiere: Schafe und Ochsen, Hunde und Katzen. Doch am stärksten prägen sich die Menschen ein, die wir im Film sehen. Sie posieren für Porträts, die kurz aufleuchten, bevor auch sie, wie alle anderen Bilder, wieder verschwinden: alte Bauern grinsen, junge Mütter stehen mit ihren Kindern vor ihren Häusern , ein kleines Mädchen hält eine Katze in ihren Armen und scheint sich vor der Kamera zu fürchten. Eine Frau wird aus mehreren Blickwinkeln gefilmt. Die Bilder erscheinen in schneller Abfolge. Wir sehen diese Menschen auch bei der Arbeit. Zwischen den Menschen sehen wir immer wieder die schon besagten Dörfer und Gebäude, die Tiere und Landschaften. Das letzte Bild zeigt Wolken im Himmel. In nur dreieinhalb Minuten sehen wir all diese Dinge. 

Die Form hinterlässt den Eindruck, dass man gerade die Erinnerung eines Anderen sehen würde. Man stellt sich vor, dass so der Film aussehen muss, den man sieht, wenn man stirbt und das Leben vor einem vorbeizieht. 


The FIlmic Glissando – Out of the Blue by Holly Fisher

At one point in Holly Fisher’s feature film Out of the Blue, an on-screen text appears which reads, „Bring out all glissandi. They are not just ‚ornaments.‘ ” This is an instruction by composer Lois V Vierk regarding the interpretation of her piece Words Fail Me, written in the score’s legend as direction to the musicians preparing for performance of this work. Fisher includes several such instructions in addition to the full 20-minute music composition within her film. To me these words apply not only to this film as a whole, but to many of her other films as well (thinking Ghost Dance; Here Today Gone Tomorrow aka Rushlight; Softshoe for Bartok).

In Western music tradition, glissandi – the sliding towards or into certain notes, thus foregrounding them – are indeed used as ornaments; they are a means by which the performer may add some warmth, charm, or „personality“ to their interpretation. Glissandi in that tradition demonstrate the player’s virtuosity and confidence, making sure listeners deem themselves to be “in good hands”.

Here, however, the glissandi have become emancipated. In the first movement of Words Fail Me, they seem braided into the melodic lines, melodies, into the phrases themselves, and made a fundamental part of their expression – standing next to stable notes, equal to them instead of heightening their importance. In the second movement, slow glissandi are broken up into jagged fragments, shards, relentlessly driving forward, downward, upward, as if in a frenzy. I think that Fisher’s expressive description of Vierk’s music as “uncanny movement through space” stems from, among other things, the composer’s use of glissando. Both music and film build a sort of fictional architecture, opening up rooms which might not be possible in reality, where askew angles, warped walls abound. The glissandi can be regarded as warped walls connecting past, present, and future in a single line, and which is analogous to what is happening with images in the hands of the filmmaker/editor. The glissando is about transitioning or mediating between two stable notes, one in the process of fading away, the other in the process of emerging. The feeling of in-between-ness, as conjured up by the glissando reverberates throughout the film. The question arises, is there a filmic glissando? And if so, what would it look like?

I believe the glissandi in Out of the Blue are to be taken both in a literal and in a broader sense. They are central to they way the film moves forward. Considering the broader sense of this concept, it seems no coincidence that Vierk’s instruction to bring out all glissandi appears over one of the film’s most crucial images.

The sky and snowy landscape as seen from an airplane are superimposed upon a “snowy”, noisy malfunctioning television, while the shadow of a hand seems to touch this mixture, this “fictional architecture” of imaginary and unbuilt structures, as an onscreen text states, of earth and sky, of reality and (lacking) image, of real and fictitious snow, of beauty and noise, of order and disruption. It is an impossible touch, but one that reforms those disparate elements into a unity, a unity which is not just rigidly imposed upon its elements but is alive, moving, shifting, scintillating. All of its elements at other points in the film are linked with their own distinct chains of associations; the lacking image, in particular, is connected to an image lost in the editing room, as well as to 9/11. Other associations include the plane trip crossing the Atlantic during which real life seems to be suspended, the haze between waking and sleeping, doing laundry, or the “need to talk” (hinted at by both on-screen texts and the sound of a calmly ringing phone): in-between spaces, phases of transition, all brought together yet preserved in their autonomy by this touch which works as a glissando: a realm of connection, letting both the eye and the mind wander, indeed glide between its various parts. These elements are connected not to smooth a transition to a new image or a new idea, but invite the viewer/listener to dwell on the connection itself.

A narrower translation of the concept of glissando into film language is perhaps obvious. In Out of the Blue as well as in Fisher’s work in general, one can find many instances where a film shot lingers, and slowly glides into the next one; where the image is abstracted, where movement crystallizes, or where one image-box which makes up only part of the screen interacts with either the full screen or another image-box. The beauty of a “gliding” image lies not in perfect proportions or perceived order, but in this abstraction of well-known sights which leads the viewer to discover uncharted viewpoints; as if one would take a step back from one’s personhood, only to become awash with surprising sensations (there is a car wash scene in Blue which illustrates this point perfectly).

The most literal instances of glissando in the film are the many images of gliding, of being afloat. Falling leaves, a swimming goose, a plane hovering over the coast line, recurring shots of continuous pulling back of an island and of moving towards an obscure door, cartoon characters stuck in an air bubble – these moments all recall a glissando.

The performance of Words Fail Me is at the very center of Blue. The rest of the film revolves around it, appears, in hindsight, to be structured by it, by its two contrasting movements. Until the first notes arise, a cloud, a haze of contrasting images, texts, associations is being built, or set afloat; a fluid framework from which the music is borne, airborne. But it is only much later that one realizes how music and film inform each other, without one even remotely illustrating the other. Both keep their independence, their own, contrasting rhythm, and their own ways of moving uncannily forward as they still mirror each other. At times, the musical glissando becomes a filmic glissando, and vice versa.

The Creation of Things – Alyam, Alyam by Ahmed El Maânouni

In the words of the filmmaker and historian Ahmed Bouanani, it’s impossible to summarize Ahmed El Maânouni’s Alyam, Alyam. It’s a film about how things are done. 

The submission to individual aspirations, the possession of one’s life, and the idea of extracting oneself from shared existence are all alien to the Moroccan family shown in Alyam, Alyam. The film was made in the spirit of bringing up a national audience, of creating images that decolonize perception, from which Moroccan viewers can learn to look at themselves and, consequently, as Bouanani writes, to judge the society in which they live. The form of Alyam, Alyam and Bouanani’s proclamation delineate a functional explanation of cinema, which identifies its meaning in the facilitation of a common, popular self-recognition, and that necessitates attention to one’s own social relationships in order to establish a relationship with the film itself. It’s educational art, but it doesn’t teach solidified preconceptions. Rather, the lessons fall into place in the moment the viewer appropriates them. 

This process was hindered by the lack of distribution. El Maânouni’s had no access to the cinema space, and his lessons didn’t take shape for years. The lessons engaged with matters of urgency – Alyam, Alyam stages the representative generational conflict between a young peasant, Abdelwahed, who sees emigration as the only solution, and his family, who expect him to take responsibility for them after his father’s death. Abdelwahed refers to necessity; for him, emigration is not a desire, and the appeal of Western life isn’t gratification, but the minimum conditions to maintain life: less dust, less wind, less coughs, less xerodermia, less wounds on the palm. For his mother and grandfather, the family is one, it is inseparable; it’s one with its land and animals as well, which are not to be capitalised on for the advancement of individual plans. Abdelwahed’s intention doesn’t so much strike the family on account of its specificities. A more severe disturbance is rooted in his very consideration of independence, his imagination of new routes that replace the self-evident, integral continuity of inheritance, namely the inheritance of land, responsibility, and providence. Abdelwahed’s family understands religion in the most self-dissolving manner, in light of which a solitary effort to improve the conditions of life on the earthly world is irrelevant. They’re only here for a while to take care of God’s land, the prospect they look forward to is elsewhere.

El Maânouni observes a temporally and geographically distinctive phenomenon, but emphasizes the universal pain of this cessation. The motif of an ending culture in Alyam, Alyam doesn’t merely signify the knowledge about agriculture and the pre-industrialized living space, but also the way people think of themselves.

A particular composition depicting a debate between Abdelwahed, his mother, and his grandfather reoccurs in the film. It’s a deep-focus medium shot, recorded in celestial clarity; the mother and the grandfather find shelter in the shadow of the house while Abdelwahed sits under the sun. It’s exemplary to the images showing conversations. The film consists of numerous long talks but they are never separated from other activities or reduced to the dramaturgical use of verbalizing a situation. The conversations mostly take place during work like the spindling of wool, the forming of dough, the picking of potatoes. They are never about work, which is done with pristine routine, but if work requires greater focus the talking pauses. This element of distraction marks out the vitality of these scenes. The “actors” in Alyam, Alyam perform conversations in a living environment: while they’re in a dialogue, events take place, make noises, and leave traces behind. The people in the scene rarely look at each other; they contemplate, they are partially involved in the dialogue, partially in something else, work, fidgeting, the tumult in the backdrop or a sleeping relative in the same room. The long takes of Alyam, Alyam register the incidents that make a conversation imperfect and dynamic.

El Maânouni’s form of decolonization is not that of agitation but of observation and distance. Alyam, Alyam is an occasion to experience duration and the environment of creation, that of an argument and that of bread.