Glimpses at DANCING

PATRICK HOLZAPFEL: Only the slow ones oder zumindest so wie Grégoire Colin in US Go Home, das heißt so, dass man sich allein und frei wähnt (sich selbst vergessen). 

Agnès Godard ist die beste Kamerafrau, wenn es ums Tanzen geht, ich weiß es. Ich glaube, dass sie verstanden hat, dass man Tanzende so filmen muss, als wäre man an zwei Orten zugleich. Die eine Hälfte ist in einem Schlafzimmer, alles ist in Zärtlichkeitsfarben getüncht, man sieht durch die Haut und wie sich Finger umschlingen. Die andere Hälfte ist in einem Raubtierkäfig, auf Zehenspitzen und darum wissend, dass jeder Schritt, ach jeder Mucks ins Verderben führen kann. Wenn Godard im Schlafzimmer ist, tanzt sie mit. Wenn sie im Käfig filmt, verharrt sie am Rand der Tanzfläche, so wie jene, die sich nicht ganz trauen, aber die trotzdem jeden Abend dastehen und warten, dass was passiert oder sie wer anspricht. 

Ich stelle mir gern vor, dass die, die ins Kino gehen, eigentlich nur kommen, weil sie hoffen, dass sie angesprochen werden. Sie schauen auf die Leinwand und für einige Minuten scheint diese Vorstellung zumindest halbwegs plausibel, ja, warum eigentlich nicht…aber wenn die Lichter angehen (und das ist etwas, was die Lichter immer tun), dann verpufft diese kurz aufkeimende Hoffnung genau so wie die erschöpften Körper nach einem Tanz plötzlich merken, dass sie atmen. Inzwischen gibt es eine ganze Apotheke an Medikamenten, die man sich auf verschiedenste Arten einverleiben kann und die dafür sorgen, dass die Musik weiter durch den Körper fließt, auch wenn sie längst verstummt ist. Hört man die gleichen Rhythmen wie sie, schwingt die ganze Erde wie eine Schaukel und man tanzt, wie es so abgedroschen heißt, durch die Nacht. Hört man den Rhythmus aber nicht, fragt man sich, wer da mit krummen Rücken und ulkigen Sprüngen über den Asphalt torkelt. 

Ich habe festgestellt, dass man eine Tanzszene in einem Film ohne Ton betrachten muss, um zu sehen, ob die Menschen wirklich tanzen oder ob sie nur Bewegungen für die Kamera vollführen. Sie tanzen wirklich, wenn sie verstummt auf mich wirken, wie die durch die Nacht Stolpernden auf den Straßen, also die, die spüren, dass sich die Erde dreht. 

Trotzdem only the slow ones, denn nur dann hilft das Tanzen dabei, die Gefühle zu verlangsamen und ich will wenig so sehr, wie langsamer zu fühlen.

JAMES WATERS: Until recently, I’d assumed a level of irony in Claire Denis’ use of Corona’s Rhythm of the Night in Beau travail; an irony stemming from my belief that there has to be something behind a filmmaker as established resorting to such music. The implication I carried to it was that “Rhythm of the Night” isn’t what I consider “real music” – at least, compared to Tindersticks. Poisoned by a sense of irony, the closest I’d gotten to Galoup’s (Denis Lavant) final, transcendent dance was in my conception of Corona as a “guilty pleasure”, a perspective inevitably eclipsed by Denis’ filmmaking; one deprived of irony and yielding to the perfect club song that mirrors Galoup’s eventual, mortal submission (aided by a lit cigarette, a glaring spotlight and rising tempo of the song’s build-up). 

Dealing with a more recent song that has yet to be “reclaimed” in the same way, Valeska Grisebach’s Sehnsucht also shows – through dance – the untainted bliss that can be elicited from an excerpt of Robbie Williams’ Feel, a piece of music I’d also dismissed up until watching Grisebach’s film. One can read as much as they like into the choice and the film’s general music editing, but its intent can be nailed down to the facts that: 

a) It was popular enough at the time to circulate the airwaves (or, at least, within the 5–10- year release window in which a song like “Feel” existed; remaining a ubiquitous chart- topper/record holder for years without seeming either old or new). 

b) As with most public spaces, an environment like a small, mess hall party for German firefighters would be absent from on-the-pulse music curation. So, the best choice of song should re-create what’d already exist if Grisebach and her crew weren’t there to film it.

The film’s lead, Markus (Andreas Müller), seems timid at first, swaying timidly in front of the camera as the song’s percussive beat kicks in. He shuffles along in what could equally be attributed to his character’s drunkenness or the first-time actor’s reticence at being vulnerable in front of the camera. He sways according to the song’s continual build-up, with two jump-cuts interrupting his flow (yet the song flows through these cuts’ continuity, uninterrupted). After the jump-cuts he seems genuinely into the song’s rhythms, carrying the viewer along with him. He evolves as a listener and dancer, swaying – with eyes closed – to the ecstatic build-up of Williams’ song. It’s an evolution that mimics my own cynicism as a listener: I may hesitate to listen to it because of previous misgivings, but the song will continue playing regardless. It’s only up to the listener to submit to its sway.

IVANA MILOŠ: There are few things I love more than my favorite dance scenes in cinema. Not only do I watch them time and time again, I hear them, I listen to them, I dance to them, together with them, for them, for the characters whose movements are akin to mine, whose ears are akin to mine, and whose musical hearts beat to the same rhythm, even if for just a few brief instances. In truth, what is better than music? This is, undoubtedly, a rhetorical question, and let’s not leave it at that.

1, 2, 3, 4, it’s time to share and more.

Gregoire Colin and The Animals getting down, cigarette-in-mouth, youth in body, what a dance, what a feast of feeling:

Denis Lavant and David Bowie, the epitome of modern love in all its shapes and forms. Let me run like that for once in my life, I might never stop. He hardly does.

Denis Lavant again, now and forever, in a rendition of Corona’s Rhythm of the Night unlike anything else known to humankind:

Melina Mercouri takes up Ta Paidia tou Peiraia, dancing and singing in her bedroom, not to mention those snapping fingers:

Ana Torrent plays a record of Porque te vas in Cría cuervos. It’s music and joy on a whole new level, and childhood at its most moving:

Everyone can dance beautifully in Ermanno Olmi’s I fidanzati. A motion goes through the room and the importance of dance becomes vividly manifest:

Don’t let it end at that. Dance, dance, dance to the music!

ANDREW CHRISTOPHER GREEN: Not long into Angela Schanelec’s Plätze in Städten the main character Mimi dances with her mother at a public swimming pool to Joni Michell’s California. They’re listening to it on a portable speaker at first, and we’re listening to the song with them as it echoes through the room, but then the track gets louder and is synchronized over the ambient audio. There is a curtain of glass windows behind them, and they twirl around in their swimsuits against a cold cityscape. The shot is three and a half minutes long, long enough for Schanelec’s strange composition to take our focus from the dancers moving peripherally through some pillars to the space they’re in and its relation to the barren trees and environs beyond. They stand over the hostile outside like one of Caspar David Friedrich’s Rückenfiguren, only they’re not contemplating their relationship to the distance beyond as Friedrich’s figures would. They dance indifferently to the foreground/background and inside/outside dialectics the framing composes, absorbed in themselves and their movements.

I don’t know how one ought to dance to Joni Mitchell’s folkish songs, but the way they do seems wrong, or at least excessive. The mother is more enthusiastic than Mimi is, but they’re both very present in this scene, experiencing something like joy and togetherness. It’s a presentness which foreshadows Mimi’s constant displacements between cities and sexual partners and her estrangement from her mother. Towards the end of the film she gets pregnant and runs away, probably to Paris (her locations aren’t always made explicit but just appear in the backgrounds), winds up homeless, and is sitting in the cold outside a bar when someone sees her and invites her in to dance. A bass-heavy, electronic song plays first, and she just stands there. The flickering lights show everyones bodies in different positions as they strobe, but Mimi doesn’t hardly move at all. She’s offered a drink, an outrageously nostalgic song by Ben Folds Five comes on (we heard her listening to this same song at home earlier), and she sways around like a zombie. Somebody probably slipped something. Next we hear a song by Portishead, which itself sounds like a bad drug trip. Another composition; there aren’t surroundings anymore, just a black wall behind Mimi. We see outlines of her body in an ominous red with sporadic flashes of blues and greens. She’s not twirling but spiraling, something like the inverse of her mother at the beginning of the film when they were together at the swimming pool. She falls asleep on a chair and we don’t know what happens after. I couldn’t help but think that the lights were perfect in their sobering irregularity, plotting out the spatial coordinates of Mimi’s regression into a womb of darkness. It’s a cruel and ironic twist of fate that the ones who feel the most intensely in our world are the ones most vulnerable to being disarticulated by it. In these final scenes I thought of Friedrich again, this time one of his moonlit compositions, Der Mönch am Meer. They share the motif of an individual surrounded by darkness. One stands looking out into the abyss, the other is being swallowed up by it.

ANNA BABOS: “It’s not the music that gets to you. It’s the marching feet.“

Máté and Mari, the peasant protagonists of Fábri Zoltán’s Körhinta, are in love. Their longing for each other is hindered by political circumstances and the expectations of Mari’s family. Mari has a fiancé, Sándor, and her parents rather support their marriage, because Sándor, like them, opposes the concept of forced collectivization of land. The family and Sándor hope to keep their land and unite them by marriage, in accordance with the tradition. 

Despite the difficulties, Máté does not give up his love for Mari. His fiery and combative desire culminates during the wedding of another girl from the village. To the astonishment of the community, Máté asks Mari to dance. The provocation manifests physically in his virtuoso and intimidating dancing: like the stars of the classical Hollywood musical, Máté uses movement to express dominance. But it is not strictly choreographed, nuanced movement, and Máté is not aware of his virtuosity. Folk dance is his only weapon in the fight for the freedom of their love, which has the undertone of fighting those who are against the new regime and refuse collectivization. When other men from the village ask Mari to dance, Máté seizes her, and, seizes the day. They dance until they light-headed; Mari hallucinates in exhaustion.  

The increasingly rapid spinning recalls an earlier encounter when Máté and Mari were on a rapidly spinning merry-go-round (the title of the film) at a village fair. The combination of dance and flight, set to the liberating rhythm of Hungarian folk music, evokes a romantic image of the burning flame or the free-flying youth. At the same time, the scene conveys something else.

La grand illusion comes to mind. “It’s not the music that gets to you. It’s the marching feet“, says Jean Gabin as lieutenant Maréchal. 

The sounds of Máté’s and Mari’s dance steps slowly take the place of the joyful violin playing, and the music almost gets disoriented by the hard thuds of feet in a dreamlike tangle. Dance becomes a militant gesture through Máté’s wilfulness. He experiences the fight for communism through his fight for love.

DAVID PERRIN: „Im Pariser Jeu de Paume hängt ein Bild von Cezanne, vor dem ich dann zu verstehen glaubte, worum es geht, nicht nur ihm, dem Maler, und nicht nur jetzt mir, einem Schriftsteller…

Schwer zu sagen, was ich da verstand. Damals hatte ich vor allem das Gefühl ‚Nähe‘. Im Bedürfnis, das Erlebte doch weiterzugeben, kommt mir jetzt, nach langem ‚Bedenken des Geschehen‘ (eher ein Denksturm), ein Filmbild in den Sinn: Henry Fonda, wie er in John Fords The Grapes of Wrath mit der eigenen Mutter tanzt.

In jener Szene tanzen alle Anwesenden miteinander, zur Abwehr einer lebensgefährlichen Bedrohung: so verteidigen sie, vor der Landnot Umgetriebene, das Stücken Erde, auf dem sie endlich Bleibe gefunden haben, gegen die sie umzingelnden Feinde. Obwohl das Tanzen demnach pure List ist (Mutter und Sohn, sich rundum drehend, werfen einander, wie auch den übrigen, schlaue wachsame Blicke zu) ist es doch ein Tanz wie nur je einer (und wie noch keiner) der überspringt als ein herzlicher Zusammenhalt.“ – Peter Handke, Die Lehre von Saint-Victoire, S. 60-61.

RONNY GÜNL: Alltäglichen Bewegungen gleicht selten etwas Tänzerischem angesichts ihre Unbeholfenheit. Routinemäßig lässt sich das Geschirr durch die eigenen Hände abspülen, ohne dabei nur einen Gedanken daran zu verschwenden. Fast scheint es so, als bestimme das Geschirr den Vorgang selbst. Im Film ist dem offenbar nicht so; es ist möglich jede noch so erdenkliche Schwerfälligkeit tänzelnd in Schwebe aufzuheben. Der Unterschied ist zwar ein geringer, aber umso entscheidender. Nicht der Ort der Bewegung beziehungsweise dessen Gravitation hat sich verändert, sondern die Zeit.

Die Filme von Maya Deren erkunden diese Verschiebung. In Rituals in Transfigured Time erlangen die tanzenden Bewegungen nicht jene absoluten Form, worin die Person ganz in der Choreografie transzendiere. Vielmehr beschreibt der Film – ohne Musik – nur mit seinen Bildern einen balancierenden Zustand, der um seinen Schwerpunkt kreist: Für kleine Momente deuten sich rhythmisierende Fragmente an, die sogleich verschwinden, als wären sie nie geschehen. Immer wieder wird der Fluss der Bewegung unterbrochen und zeitlich versetzt weitergeführt.

Es ist eine Tanzfläche in einem Lokal zu sehen. Menschen sind willkürlich im Raum aufgestellt. Sie gestikulieren und reden aneinander vorbei. Sie treffen aufeinander und trennen sich. Weder Orientierung noch Sinn fängt das Bild der Kamera dabei ein. Während die Protagonistin (Rita Christiani) Hals über Kopf im wellenartigen Treiben genau danach zu suchen scheint, sehen wir Anbahnungen, von etwas, das beginnen könnte, sich jedoch unmittelbar – zugleich zyklisch – in der Luft verflüchtigt.

SIMON WIENER: Often I think of experimental film as a dance. I think it is no coincidence that both can give me joy like little else can, maybe because both are expressions of a peculiar movement through space, one not usually explored in our day-to-day-life. They both estrange us from our usual movements, which can be seen as the most efficient means of connecting the dots that make up a space. One leaps through space in order to reap it, thereby distilling space into movement. A hierarchy is created: space serves us, feeds our desires, adorns us. If our usual movement affirms the self, Dance-Film-movement, instead, proposes an opening for the abandonment of the self, it proposes a spring-board for dissolving into the Other… dis-selving. The joy of this dissolution is best denoted by the German word aufgehoben; we are lifted, nullified by the object of our devotion, namely space. Maybe the hierarchy is inverted; space cracks us open, finds a means of expression through us, a revenge of sorts; or maybe the hierarchy is preserved but given a twist, wherein the desire fed by space is directed towards space itself. An urge to move, in order to reveal and preserve space – a negative expression where the self is defined by its surroundings.

SEBASTIAN BOBIK: Like many other things in life that bring us joy, dancing is something that always seems to have been a part of cinema. One of the earliest films to show us a dance is the beautiful Danse serpentine by the Lumiere Brothers. Since then dances have been everywhere in films, and every film has at least one or two dancing scenes, which are especially important and touching. Dancing also seems to be something that shows up in the oeuvres of even the most different filmmakers. They can be found in images as different as those of Agnès and Jean-Luc Godard, Donen and Donschen, Deren and Leisen, Chaplin and Tashlin and many, many more.

When I am asked to think about a scene of people dancing in a film my mind will often go back to one of the early instances of a dance being captured on celluloid. The Dickson Experimental Sound Film was an early attempt to create a film with synchronized sound to accompany the images. The attempt failed at its time. The film is only about 30 seconds long. We see several things in one image: On the left side we see a man playing the violin into a device, which is supposed to have recorded the sound. On the right hand two men are sharing a small dance with each other. Are they waltzing? As they dance one of the men can be seen visibly smiling. Another man walks into the image from the left, then the film ends.There are versions of this film that are silent, though I have also seen some versions with the sound of a violin. It is a small film, but it sparks of joy and delight. Somehow it always touches me, whenever I see it.

SIMON PETRI: Dance scenes in cinema are often described as liberating although the characters in motion in the image are already liberated; they have either overcome the constraints of self-consciousness or never suffered it to begin with, unlike those sitting around them, squirming on the margins of the frame. They go well together, those who enjoy the attention (or at least don’t mind it) and those who attract attention by existing in the shadow of the spectacle just to performatively deny it.

Trees, leaves and flowers dance involuntarily, without an audience for the most part: algae in the unexplored depth of oceans, miniature branches of lichen in the Scandinavian frost, odorous linden towering over entire counties give themselves up to forces without a predictable trajectory.

For the fortunate the wind blows a metronomic rhythm to the fertile pollution. More violent movements happen in and because of human presence: mimosa leaves close and open with the discipline of Busby Berkeley’s objectified legs, grass and pine fall and whirl as dictated by the scythe and the jigsaw. 

The most heavenly of dance genres is heliotropism. It’s free of contact and violence: there’s unparalleled distance between choreographer and dancer, yet each movement follows a perfect curve. 


Glimpses at THE SKY

DAVID PERRIN: Die Erinnerung an einem späten Abend vor mehr als zehn Jahren, als ich Der Himmel über Berlin in einem Kino zum ersten Mal sah. Wie die Kamera durch den Himmel über die geteilte Stadt streift, schwenkt und fliegt und danach, als ich zwei Stunden später wieder auf den nächtlichen, leeren Straßen von Downtown Manhattan trete, schien sich der Himmel über New York zu einer Kuppel zu wölben. Und da fiel mir dieses Zitat von Peter Handkes Das Gewicht der Welt ein, das ich gerade im Film wiederhörte, als Teil von Marions innerem Monolog, während sie in einem Nachtklub sanft mit sich selbst tanzt:

„Manchmal ergreift mich ein Wohlgefühl – wie wenn sich im Innern meines Körpers sanft eine Hand schließt.“

Und dann vor wenigen Monaten las ich eine kurze Erzählung von Filmkritiker Peter Nau über Brieselang. Eine kleine, unspektakuläre Ortschaft westlich von Berlin-Spandau, wo jedoch der Himmel darüber auch die Fähigkeit besitzt, die Augen für die Weite zu öffnen:

„Wenn man in Brieslang aus dem Zug steigt, erblickt man, ähnlich wie in den Momenten, da sich vor einem ein weiter Platz auftut, einen ausgedehnten Himmel, wo die Flugzeuge und die Vögel lange sichtbar bleiben.“ – Peter Nau, Brieselang, Lesen und Sehen: Miniaturen zu Büchern und Filmen.

Drei willkürliche Einträge aus dem eigenen Tagebuch:

07.07.21. Als ich das Funken eines vorbeifliegenden Flugzeuges im Nachthimmel über den Bahngleisen des Westbahnhofs erblickte, wurde der bis sonst bilderlosen Tag endlich Tag – und das trotz der späten Stunde. (Rustensteg Brücke, 1150 Wien)

3.10.21. Der fliegende Vogelschwarm im grauen Himmel und unten auf der Straße schreit ein betrunkener Rollstuhlfahrer. (Reithofferplatz, 1150 Wien)

26.11.12 Der Laubblätterwirbel und dahinter die weiße Taube gegen einen graublauen Frühwinterhimmel, von dem man hofft, dass die ersten Schneeflocken des Jahres bald fallen werden. (Markgraf Rüdigerstraße, Wien, 1150)

…wenige Stunden später: und jetzt schneit es tatsächlich! Kleine, winzige Flocken, die so langsam vom nebeldichten Himmel schweben, wie man es nur in einem Traum erlebt hat. (Zuhause aus dem Fenster schauend)

IVANA MILOŠ: Here’s a pretty basic riddle. Skies are omnipresent in cinema: peeking around corners, swerving along dangerous mountain roads, stretching into the distance behind an impressive landscape (John Ford’s beloved Monument Valley). Then there are sunsets depicting endings, sunrises starring as beginnings, any old sky shot playing a stalemate and, of course, the blue beyond depicting time (Ten Skies, indeed). “Look up, something is coming!” cinema screams at us. Or: “Look up, remember you are small,” a carefully written note reads. Or, in the words of yet another classic: “Never look up, just go on about your business, stare straight ahead, the sky be damned—never deign it a single look.” All in all, a very mixed crowd, and yet none of these are what pops straight into my head the moment I think of the sky in cinema. See, there is something about the sky being the sky that doesn’t fit into a frame. No long shot, close-up, or any angle or duration can alter that. Still, we feel for cinema’s ingrained frame because our natural vision is (slightly less, but nonetheless) limited. So, since it is impossible to express the vastness of the sky while keeping it framed, what could be more logical than an already pre-framed sky in a film shot? I can’t claim this is why I think of Frank Borzage’s Man’s Castle when I think of the sky. Nor can I pinpoint why exactly the idea of seeing birds fly past or the stars shine in the night through the roof without any boundaries separating our body from the sky is so appealing and instantly warming to the soul. Maybe it’s something akin to a comet. Something that catches at the inner workings of human nature. Something stuck, but gorgeous, like a match striking fire in the right place at the right moment in time. Nothing about this is necessarily simple, as the film goes to show. But, at the same time, everything about it is, from the look directed upwards to the lack of reply. The sky doesn’t need us, nor do the skies. However, we might find ourselves hard pressed without anything to look at that stretches so ceaselessly into invisibility and against framing. Maybe this is why every shot of a sky is a small meeting with the unseen, and, even if for a single frame, cinema seems to catch the sky looking back.

SEBASTIAN BOBIK: “Only cinema lets you look straight at the sun, and death”. This sentence opens the film La deuxième nuit by Eric Pauwels. From childhood on we know better than to look directly into the sun. We know, that our eyes are too sensitive and that risking a direct look could possibly damage our eyes. Yet or maybe because of this we find it hard to resist. And so we also point our cameras towards the sky and the sun. By now it is not unusual to see the sun directly in cinema. But this wasn’t always the case. In fact it was a rather well known taboo of cinematography. As legend has it the first film to contain shots directly at the sun is Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon. The film was released in 1950. In one of the most famous sequences of the film, we see a woodcutter walking through the woods. Right as the sequence begins we are immediately looking upwards towards the tree branches and through them we can catch glimpses of the sunlight directly shining into the lens. To make this shot was considered a risk. There was even the fear, that directly filming the sun might cause the film to burn, or the shots to be unusable. This shot proves those fears to have been wrong.

SIMON WIENER: Allan Dwans The Restless Breed ist durchsetzt von Einstellungen des Himmels. Es ist, wie viele andere Western, ein Film des Wartens; die Hauptfigur harrt der Ankunft des Ganoven, um sich an ihm zu rächen. Immer wieder wird der Himmel in dieses Warten hineingeschnitten; „nothing will have taken place except [the] place“, schreibt Bill Krohn über den Film, Mallarmé zitierend. Der Himmel konstruiert den Film-Raum ebenso, wie er ihn auflöst. Gegen Ende wird unerbittlich hin- und hergeschnitten, in absurd kurzen Intervallen, zwischen den verschiedenen Protagnisten, alle wie erstarrt, wie gefangen in ihren Bildern und in den beobachtenden Blicken der andern. Der Himmel fungiert dabei als Binde- und Lösemittel, er vereint in sich all diese voneinander abgetrennten Einheiten genauso, wie er sie zerfallen lässt, als flüchtiger Durchbruch, impressionistischer Einwurf, unkontrollierbar, Gegenbild des Rigiden und Konstruierten, das der Filmhandlung zwangsläufig anhaftet.

JAMES WATERS: Here are my impressions of Howard Hawks’ The Big Sky, relayed in the form of three quotations and some screenshots from the film:

“I go and see films by my colleagues and I don’t see this promise. Even Fincher. Which is a shame as he is the one who is connected to reality. I saw the girl, I saw the motorcycle, I saw the tattoo, it’s all right. It’s a bit too fancy, too chic maybe, but I understand. There’s the iPhone, the sex, the loneliness. It’s three hours because there’s a guy killing girls. Why not just have no-one killing anyone and having a girl with a motorcycle? Can he do this? I think he can. I sent a message to his DP who I know very well. I said, “Avoid the killings. Three hours without the killings. You can have the Bond guy. Let’s set it in Sweden for the yellow light. You can have the editor, the lover, the challenge between young and old, bodies coming together. I understand those fetishes. Let’s avoid every single murder, killing, weapon. That’s the challenge.” I have to deal with this. You can see The Big Sky and analyse it shot by shot. It’s an amazing piece of craft. But you have to do a little bit more. It’s about destiny. It’s about going beyond something. It’s about love. It’s about racism, humiliation, pain. And it’s a long film. It’s big. Big scope! The Big SkyThe Girl With The Dragon Tattoo should be a remake of that film.”

Some Violence is Required: A Conversation with Pedro Costa, Interview conducted by David Jenkins for MUBI, 12/07/13

“The sky was so bright and starry that when you looked at it the first question that came into your mind was whether it was really possible that all sorts of bad-tempered and unstable people could live under such a glorious sky.”

Belye Nochi by Fyodor Dostoevsky

“Big Sky looked down on all the people who think they got problems
They get depressed and they hold their heads in their hands and cry
People lift up their hands and they look up to the Big Sky
But the Big Sky is too big to sympathize
Big Sky’s too occupied
Though he would like to try
And he feels bad inside
Big Sky’s too big to cry”

Big Sky, performed by The Kinks, written by Ray Davies

RONNY GÜNL: Von oben auf die Welt herabzublicken, hat im Kino ein Stück weit Tradition. Die Menschen, deren Gesichter eben noch die Breite der Leinwand ausfüllten, werden zu gleichmäßig verteilten Bildpunkten zwischen anderen. Was chaotisch schien, geht in einer seltsamen Ordnung auf, während zugleich die unmittelbaren Probleme winziger Existenzen immer nichtiger werden. Es gäbe größere, wichtigere Zusammenhänge, denen man sich erst mit dem erhabenen Blick bewusst werden könne, so der bekannte Stehsatz von Weltraumrückkehrern.

Offenbar vogelleicht lässt sich über alles hinweggleiten, seien es Bergpanoramen oder Häuserschluchten. Doch um der Schwerkraft zu entfliehen, muss wie beim Aufsteigen einer Ballon-Fahrt, etwas zurückgelassen werden. Man könnte denken, der ohrenbetäubende Kraftakt eines Helikopters oder Flugzeugs löse sich mit den Bildern in Luft auf. Neuerdings sind diese unerreichbaren Perspektiven auch für den kleinen Mann mit ebenso kleinen Gerätschaften in greifbare Nähe geraten. Vom Surren entrückt, schaut man von unten nach oben und fragt sich, wonach sie eigentlich suchen.


One day we thought of painted furniture, of how
It just slightly changes everything in the room
And in the yard outside, and how, if we were going
To be able to write the history of our time, starting with today,
It would be necessary to model all these unimportant details
So as to be able to include them; otherwise the narrative
Would have that flat, sandpapered look the sky gets
Out in the middle west toward the end of summer,
The look of wanting to back out before the argument
Has been resolved, and at the same time to save appearances
So that tomorrow will be pure. Therefore, since we have to do our business
In spite of things, why not make it in spite of everything?
Pyrography by John Ashbery, fragment


nur Gefieder im leeren Stall,
nur Sterne anstelle des Himmels.


Bis du ankommst von Pilinszky János, Übersetzung von Eva & Roman Czjzek

SIMON PETRI: When I look at the sky, I see these little spots in constant motion. They resemble the microscopic view of cells. I would tell my doctor but having been conditioned on my “symptoms”, his conclusion would be that the patient experiences discomfort when he looks up. Or just, don’t look up, then. Apparently, the phenomenon can indicate serious neurological syndromes or irreversible physical damage in the retina. I’ll ask for an online consultant if I want to make Christmas decoration out of a rusty peeler. Mhm. I can take a hint. We all have our field of expertise, and each of these can be relevant at different points in life. I should find a subtle way to remind him of possible diagnoses that he might have overlooked. If he didn’t turn me down scornfully, Doctor Heisler would probably order a blood test. In this case, I would have an infinite number of potentially discovered conditions to worry about instead of the spots. Not to mention the possibility of having my sample mixed up with that of an ill person, receiving incorrect treatment in effect and getting something from the unnecessary medicines. Maybe he would also use compressed air to examine my eyes and I couldn’t resist to pull my head away. I would completely embarrass myself, like when I couldn’t stop giggling at the dentist because plaque removal was so ticklish. How old are you? And then, he would ask his assistant to hold me down, and the assistant would feel the eczema and the dandruff on my head, so I would be sent to a dermatologist, or worse, they might figure that the eczema is related to dental focal infection, which means dentist and giggling again. Having said that, I try and not see the little spots when I look at the sky.

Glimpses at CLERGYMEN


“It’s like this. You see I’ve been a minister for a long time. I like it. I’ve been at this church and this church is very good. In fact, the people are very warm to me and they love me very much, which is very good. Because what that pulls out of me, is [also] what gives them something, pulling something out of them also.”

Rev. Luther Williams from Bill Gunn’s Ganja and Hess

The film begins and ends with the Rev. Williams (Sam Waymon, also the film’s composer). He narrates the film’s opening minutes, delineating his vocation as an inner-NYC minister from his profession as Dr. Hess Green’s chauffeur (Dr. Hess played by Duane Jones). Rev. Williams describes his employer as a victim, not a criminal – much in the way he impartially delineates his own employment/vocation dichotomy. Bookending the film, he ordains it with an aura of forgiveness that eludes Hess for the film’s interceding runtime. 

Dr. Hess Green’s vocation is as an anthropologist, specialising in studies of the Myrthians, comprising an ancient African tribe of vampires/cannibals. Having been stabbed and cursed by one of their relics – a dagger at the hand of his academic protégé, George Meda (played by Gunn himself) – Hess drinks the blood of the inner-city underclass, trawling bars for prostitutes and vagrants who live day-to-day, fodder for Hess’ own, eternal bloodlust. Unlike Rev. Williams, Hess experiences no spiritual guidance and transacts from his community to feed a curse, one that plunges him deeper into his immortal self, away from death and – additionally – any kind of spiritual awakening. 

Riddled with guilt, Hess goes to the church where his chauffeur ordains; a church within one of the communities Hess used to scout for warm bodies. This scene at church lasts upwards of 10 minutes and its energy is one of exultance. Rev. Williams’ forgiveness is cast along the entire church. He dances and wails into a microphone, dripping with sweat. One gets the impression that Williams was waiting for his employer to join his parishioners and return to the fold, planting the initial seed with an opening narration that hangs over both Hess and the film. Until this point, Waymon’s score was a non-diegetic ringing of the church’s opening sounds, with manipulated tape loops of choral voices echoing through the mental and physical spaces Hess inhabits throughout. But in this final scene it’s a return to the film’s opening aural diegesis and verité-aesthetic (a form likely dictated by the fact that it was filmed at an actual church with its parishioners, emphasised by the visible tungsten lights, snap zooms and multiple cameras shooting). 

There’s an ecstasy in Hess’ absolution. He’s the only one to step up for forgiveness in the church, shuddering under Williams’ hand and rising up in tears. Returning home, he finds a makeshift cross hanging from a string and shot through with the glow of a lightbulb. Stepping under the cross’ shadow, Hess can finally partake in a death that serves a greater purpose; a life (his own) that he gives, instead of one that he takes.

SIMON WIENER: Wenn ich an Geistliche im Kino denke, kommt mir gleich meine Lieblingsfigur aus Stagecoach in den Sinn: Peacock, gespielt von Donald Meek. Peacock wird von anderen zwar stets als “reverend” bezeichnet, ist aber keineswegs Priester, sondern Whiskeyverkäufer. Tatsächlich kann man den unscheinbaren Peacock in jeder Hinsicht als Gegenteil dessen sehen, was ein Priester verkörpern sollte. Er hat keinerlei natürliche Autorität, keinerlei Einfluss über seine Mitmenschen, kann sich nie Gehör verschaffen. Seinen Namen kann sich niemand merken. Wenn er spricht, muss er sich zuvor räuspern, stottert dann unsicher, verspricht sich; seine Meinung wird aber ohnehin übergangen. Angesichts drohender Gefahr bleibt er nicht etwa ruhig, gibt keine besänftigenden Worte von sich, möchte ihr nicht gegenübertreten, sondern nur wieder zurück nach Hause. Peacock steht in vielen Einstellungen nur im Hintergrund herum. Eine der vielen Vergnügen, die der Film bereiten kann, besteht darin, seine Reaktionen zu beobachten. Das nervöse Klappern seiner Finger; die Aura des sich-Peinlichseins, die ihn beständig umgibt; seine Mimik, die wie ein Seismograph Handlungen der anderen aufzeichnet, vergrößert, kenntlich macht. Alles scheint ihn zu erschüttern; vor lauter Erschütterung ist ihm jegliche eigene Handlungsfähigkeit genommen. Zittriges Lächeln, unangenehme Betroffenheit. Peacock ist selbst fürs Ängstlichsein zu ängstlich. Dennoch versteht man, dass die anderen ihn für einen Priester halten. Sein Gebaren und seine Kleidung geben ihm trotz dem oben Aufgeführtem etwas Feierliches, Würdevolles, Ernstliches, ebenso die Aufmerksamkeit, mit der er zuhört.

SIMON PETRI: The distinctive characteristic of the priests I observe lies in their inseparable reticence and ostentation. They’re blue-eyed, frail and thin, bearing witness to the education that kept them from wind and sunburn and didn’t teach them how to land on their feet. At the same time, they’re theatrical and vain, finding fulfillment in speech acts and performances. They take pride in their sonorous baritone on the distant heights of the pulpit, but they turn quiet when rude practicalities approach them up close and indiscreetly.

Karpo Godina’s Zdravi Ljudi Za Razonodu approaches from up close and is indiscreet. It’s a film of simultaneous dimensions itself: a pictorial, ethnographic snapshot of centuries-long multi-ethnic coexistence in Vojvodina, which makes the inhabitants jubilantly sing about the people of the area. Yet, it’s also a prism that reflects the artificiality of exoticizing ethnographic films with rich irony through the mistrustful half-smile of the performers, who find the paean for the neighboring ethnicity both merited and absurd. There is mischief in the exquisite images: if it’s not the locals‘ prankish spirit, the director tilts the landscape’s pastoral beauty with a modern rock song.

The first priest in the film – out of the five it features – subtly radiates the described ambiguity. He talks about a receipt, chanting words like “pumpkin”, “cottage cheese” or “apple” on a high-pitched, transfigured tone. He constantly looks away from the camera, showing his irritation, questioning why he is asked to do this in the first place. Then he suddenly reappears, posing in two different costumes, wearing the weight of glamorous silk and velvet with the utmost personal honour, preceding the excess of the ecclesiastical fashion show in Federico Fellini’s Roma.

But that look remains, wishing to be left alone by the bothersome crew.

DAVID PERRIN: Es ist schwierig über jemanden zu schreiben – in diesem Fall einen Priester – vor dem man im wirklichen Alltag wenig Achtung empfinden kann. Es fehlt nicht nur die Sprache, sondern die Bilder überhaupt. Da kann das Kino helfen: Eine Figur zu vermenschlichen, ihr einen Glanz zu schenken, den sie in der Wirklichkeit selten hat. (Oder besser gesagt, die ich persönlich nie erlebt habe – darauf kommt es ja immerhin an) Zum Beispiel die Figur des Don Pietro Pelligrini, der Priester in Rosselinis Roma città aperta. Ein Widerstandskämpfer gegen die Nazis, der am Ende des Films von den Faschisten an einem Stuhl unter freiem Himmel gebunden und von einem deutschen Offizier durch einen Kopfschuss von hinten hingerichtet wird. Im Moment vor seinem Tode blickt er mit seinen ermüdeten Augen in dem Himmel, dann kommt der Knall: Der Tod eines Helden.

Oft, um eine für mich unsympathische Person oder Figur in etwas Liebenswürdiges zu verwandeln, habe ich mir immer vorgestellt, wie diese Person einen alltäglichen Vorgang verrichtet, wie zum Beispiel eine Katze füttert, ein Auto fährt, den Abwasch erledigt oder im Schlaf spricht.

„Wie gern der Priester Auto fuhr, und wie schnell, vor allem in dieser weiten, ziemlich leeren Grenzlandebene, wo er damals in seiner Verlobungszeit sogar bei einem Amateurrennen mitgemacht hatte, auf dem Volkswagen großaufgemalt die gleiche Nummer wie dann die für die Wäsche im Spätberufenen-Internat.“ (Peter Handke, Mein Jahr in der Niemandsbucht, S. 375)

Gerne würde ich einen Film sehen, in dem ein Priester während des gesamten Films nur durch eine Landschaft fährt, von frühmorgens bis spätnachts, wie er danach sich in seiner bescheidenen Wohnung, die sich am Rande einer Kleinstadt befindet, zurückzieht, seine Katze füttert, sein Abendessen kocht, danach eigenhändig das Geschirr abspült und schließlich vor dem Fernsehen einschläft, unheimliche Satz-Fragmente in sich hineinmurmelnd. Aber diesen Film gibt es (noch) nicht. Er müsste erst gemacht werden.

ANNA BABOS: A sickly, troubled woman arrives in a pink room for confession. On the wall is a picture of the heart of Christ, the priest is seated next to a cross. Instead of penance, he gives her a needle to prick herself with until she comes closer to the truth. Then, while lying in a hospital bed, the woman keeps the needle with her, under the blanket, pressed tightly to her breast. A visitor arrives and, while patting her kindly, accidentally presses the needle into the woman’s heart.

In Kutya éji dala, the director, Bódy Gábor plays the role of a pseudo-priest, a gesture that is usually understood as a self-confession, referring to his role as an informer in the Hungarian socialist Kádár regime. Although this interpretation seems rather obvious, it would be a pity to simplify his character to a biographical element. It opens up new ways to think about his conscious and narcissistic artistic position, but the pseudo-priest can also be approached as the essence of the Hungarian underground scene of the eighties. Together with other characters, Bódy represents a narrow, unique and outsider stratum, both in thought and humour, which, in addition to its unconcerned criticism of the system and society, looks at people with interest and is open to romantic sentimentalism.

Bódy appears as an eccentric pseudo-priest, who is out of place, doesn’t know the tools, but wants to work for and with the community. In the end, in a truly priest-like combination, there is warmth behind his egomaniac introspection.


I will never forget seeing Strasti po Andreyu for the first time. It was on a small laptop in Russia, where I had been gifted the DVD by a gracious family who knew about my interest in cinema. It was on a cold winter evening that I decided to give the film a try. My friends had gone out to drink, while I had remained at home and sat in complete silence and amazement for three hours. I had never seen anything like it. From the opening, seemingly mythical hot air balloon flight, to the four horses standing in the rain at the end, I was stunned by this overwhelmingly physical and spiritual experience. I remember once recounting this experience and jokingly saying: “Whenever I watch Tarkovsky, I believe in God”. The image is the trinity (in Russian: Троица, pronounced Troitsa) by Andrei Rublev, the Russian icon painter, who was immortalized in cinema by the Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. Andrei makes a film about Andrei. In it, he reckons with the struggles of being an artist and being a man of faith, by showing us a man who is also both. For Tarkovsky this trinity by Rublev represented everything he wanted to tell in this film. It takes place in the 15th century, a time of chaos, violence and murder. The film makes sure to show us these acts of violence on several occasions. At this time, the painter Andrei Rublev was commissioned to create a work of art to honour Saint Sergeius of Radonezh. After leaving the sheltered walls of his monastery, Rublev was confronted with the chaos and frightening state of the world around him. In response to this his Trinity was made, to embody the values of spiritual unity, of love, fraternity and humility. In the film we are thrown for three hours into the uncertainty and suffering of this world. At the end of these dizzying and overwhelming wanderings through this world, the images, which had been black & white, suddenly turn into glorious color. A choir sings as we see finally the works of Andrei Rublev. His paintings are filmed in a combination of zooms and pans by Tarkovsky. And there among these works we also find his most famous work, this trinity, which is often seen as the greatest of all Russian icons.

ANDREW CHRISTOPHER GREEN: Kierkegaard thought that we cannot be true to anything if we don’t experience doubt. Doubt doesn’t signify a lack but a beginning. It’s a curious paradox. “A person laments that he has lost his faith, and when a check is made to see where he is on the scale, curiously enough, he has only reached the point where he is to make the infinite movement of resignation.” If Abraham hadn’t thought he was really going to sacrifice Isaac, if he knew God would provide him with a ram, if he didn’t doubt God, then he wouldn’t have had faith, and he wouldn’t have been a great man. The meek, unassuming pastor in Bresson’s Journal d’un curé de campagne practices his faith humbly in a fallen world. He is very ill and tends to his dwindling congregation despite their lack of devotion. The priest assumes this all to be a test of his faith. He gets sicker and sicker until he faces death with a conviction that borders on delusion. But we don’t question the authenticity of his faith, and he’s not at all a simple-minded person. He sees all the ugliness and cruelty of the world with sober eyes. I’ve been told its very hard to make films now, without any political or moral convictions, without hope. Those commitments have become a thing of the past, and we can’t work in the good old days but have to face the bad new ones. I think this is why Bresson’s Priest has always seemed so heroic to me. He holds fast to his beliefs amidst a social breakdown not as an escape from his suffering but out of a love of the world that could be. “The only philosophy that can be practiced responsibly in the face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption.”

RONNY GÜNL: Männer gedrängt in engen Reihen. Gesenkte Blicke, gehüllt in lange Talare. Die Konturen ihrer Körper verschwinden hinter den faltenlosen Stoffen. Reglos verharren sie an ihren zugewiesenen Plätzen. Ein raunendes Murmeln erschwert die stickige Luft. Kratzende Federn auf leerem Papier. Augen gezeichnet von frommer Demut und unterdrücktem Begehren. Eine winzige Handbewegung tritt aus dem Schatten heraus. Sie dirigiert das Geschehen.

Verschwiegen durchkreuzen Blickachsen den Raum. Perspektiven verschieben sich. Jede Richtung ist ein Bekenntnis, das sein Geheimnis verbirgt. Ein Loch in der Wand erscheint. Die aufgerissenen Augen dahinter kennen keinen Namen. Vor ihnen die Offenbarung, im Dunkeln das Unbekannte. Ein Augenblick erfüllt von Unbehagen und Neugier zugleich. Begrenzt vom Ausschnitt verliert sich das Bild im Taumel der Einbildungskraft.

Ergeben richtet sich der Kopf zum Himmel. Die Begegnung scheint den Widersinn aufzuheben. Es bleibt ein verzweifelter Rest. Robert Bressons Procès de Jeanne d’Arc lässt zwischen den Bildern keinen Platz für spekulative Erhabenheit. Stattdessen der Versuch, sich dem Schatten des Schicksals zu entledigen. Ängstliches Sehen hält entgegen daran fest.


Glimpses at SWIMMING

IVANA MILOŠ: The sea, as it surrounds your ears while you float on your back in the water made buoyant by salt, translates all audible sensations into a faint crackling reminiscent of embers flickering in the fireplace and yet so different, worlds apart, in this unique experience that speaks volumes about the essence of water. Swimming in cinema is strange because this vital element is the very one gone missing: the sensation made up of unnamable hope and reliance that is the state of being physically suspended in water. At the same time, there seems to be an innate correspondence between the state of a swimmer and that of a cinema-goer. There is something about letting go, rediscovering yourself in a position of vulnerability, depending on elements outside oneself for survival. Something about trust and faith, something I miss every day I don’t feel it reaching all the way to my toes. Maybe that is why the first image that comes to mind when I think about swimming in cinema is not that of a human, but a seahorse – the protagonist of Jean Painlevé’s L’Hippocampe ou cheval marin. I can’t imagine what it might feel like to be immersed in water as a seahorse, hence the leap of faith I need to make when watching it isn’t too far-fetched – it is impossible. And, of course, it’s all the more interesting for that. The seahorse sails underwater, it swings and surges. The seahorse is beyond my wildest dreams. I don’t think the way seahorses move underwater can be described as swimming, but it feels right to associate them with cinema nonetheless. Films have placed another image of swimming within easy reach of my mind – that of swimming pools. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these are places whose connotations I derive almost entirely from the history of cinema, drawing on films like Sunset Blvd. to Cat People to Boogie Nights for inspiration. Pools are so different from the sea that I surely needn’t waste any words on ascertaining the fact. And even most Hollywood creations make sure to make films featuring pools more about mystery and murder or luxury and decadent lounging around than about swimming. And that was how swimming pools entered my reality and continue to swim on in me. Although the inclusion of the sensation of swimming in a film may be improbable, or even hopeless, the swimming we ourselves indulge in when at the cinema, though far from the sea, is all of its own making.

ANDREW CHRISTOPHER GREEN: Floridian childhood; time spent in front of enormous glass-window aquariums looking into underwater landscapes where exotic fish, glittering like jewels, drifted around aimlessly. These windows were like portals, cross-cut sections splitting apart a habitat you could see with the same clarity as goggles, only framed and thereby displacing you. The camera does this too. Underwater scenes are like a dream. Our descent into another world gets doubled. Everything becomes even more porous in the opaque and murky abyss. Boundaries slip, time dilates a bit. And the lens holds these movements with a fidelity we lose ourselves in. This linkage and disorientation isn’t purely optical but relates to the movement of memory. I think the recovery of whats been submerged is the aim of film criticism.

In Arthur Penn’s Night Moves Jennifer Warren and Gene Hackman, accompanying Susan Clark on a night swim, discover a drowned plane and see the pilot’s face being eaten by fish through the glass bottom of their boat. The montage cuts in and out of the water as Clark shrieks about, and the audio always corresponds to the camera’s relation to the surface; underwater being a muffled, almost noiseless place. The boats bottom lights flicker. Afterwards, back home trying to process what happened, an attempt at interpretation disperses into series of associations. Warren asks Hackman where he was when Kennedy got shot. “Which Kennedy?” “Any Kennedy.” “Why do you ask?” “It’s one of those questions everybody knows the answer to.” She leaves, only to return a few moments later. “It was that poor bastard in the plane. I remember Bobby when he got shot; the newsreels they made it look like everything was happening underwater. The first time anyone ever touched my breasts was a boy called Billy Handruther. The nipples stayed hard for nearly a half an hour afterward. Don’t you think thats sad?” “No. I think it’s kind of nice.” “I don’t. I think it’s so fucking sad.”

They make love. Hackman wakes up to the sound of Susan Clark screaming and crying. She’d been having a nightmare about the pilot. He goes to calm her down, patting her back. “I like being patted like that. It’s supposed to remind you of before you were born, your mother’s heart beating on your back. Do you think you can remember back that far?

ANNA BABOS: Being in the water is a liberating feeling, swimming to the other side is a challenge, and being submerged is a purgatory. You can let yourself go with the flow, be pushed down by the waves, or learn to ride them. You can play on the surface of the unknown world or going down to explore the infinite depth. All the possible activities in the water are rich in metaphorical meanings, religious undertones, archetypical connotations, and associations. Even though there are plenty of things to do in oceans, seas, lakes or rivers, including swimming, floating is the only thing I have seen in recent festival darlings, student films, or commercial hits. Characters relax, enjoying the surface, gently touching their body, thinking about everything or nothing at all. These scenes depict a moment when they can turn off what’s going on out there and be alone with nature and with their thoughts. Different characters in different stories, in different waters, all of them choosing the same way to ponder. Has floating become the consensual sign of the wandering mind, like fidgeting hands show nervousness or shouting from a mountain into nowhere expresses either anger or the joy of freedom? These characters seem doomed by their writers to reveal their personalities through the simplest and therefore most inauthentic types of schemes. Floating, a pleasant activity in itself, is rendered meaningless in the hands of writers and directors who don’t look for expressive ways of showing emotions and ideas.


Körper im Wasser könnte man stundenlang filmen, man könnte ihnen stundenlang zuschauen. Das Bild bleibt ohne Zutun immer in Bewegung; es spiegelt, verzerrt, fluktuiert; organisch wechselt es seine Formen. Wasser bricht auf.

Ebenso reagiert es auf den Körper, zerstäubt, zerbricht in Einzelteile, ändert seine Erscheinung.

In Gunvor Nelsons Moon’s Pool sehen wir zwei Schwimmende im Wasser. In José Antonio Sistiagas era erera baleibu izik subua aruaren… sind die Schwimmenden nicht mehr im Bild. Wir, die Zuschauer sind es, die im Zelluloid schwimmen.

Der Leinwand, auf der handbemalte Muster irr über uns hinwegrauschen, eignen hier Qualitäten des Wassers. Sie agiert als Wunderspiegel, formt und verzerrt unsere Wahrnehmung, beständig schillernd, sich ins Gegenteil verkehrend.

RONNY GÜNL: Einfach treiben und in den Himmel sehen. Kunstvoll geformte Figuren, auf- und abtauchend. Oder versinken ins tiefe, dunkle Nichts. Jede einzelne Assoziation weckt dabei ihre jeweiligen träumerisch-filmischen Bilder. Erst, wenn die Kamera unter der Wasseroberfläche verschwindet, offenbart sich eine andere Welt. Von oben betrachteten Reflexionen der Wellen erscheinen als Strahlen, die sich sanft-wankend wie Tücher aus Tüll bewegen. Aufsteigende Luftbläschen verzieren die stille Harmonie. Bizarre Formen aus Licht und Schatten bilden dieses Schauspiel auf gefliestem oder sandigem Boden ab.

Ein Film wie Taris, roi de l’eau von Jean Vigo geht darin verloren. Gedreht in Zeitlupen, einerseits fasziniert von der eleganten Bewegung des olympischen Schwimmers, andererseits von der Anmut des Wassers. Nur allzu gern möchte man fühlen, zwischen Wasser und Schwimmen bilde sich eine unzertrennliche Einheit. Doch unterliegen beide Seiten nicht gänzlich entgegengesetzten Prinzipien? Die Ungegenständlichkeit des Wassers in einer filmischen Erfahrung zu beschreiben, ermöglicht sich erst durch die präzisen Schwünge der Gliedmaßen sowie den stetigen Rhythmus des Ein- und Ausatmens.

Scheinbar mühelos wirken die technisch anspruchsvollen Bewegungen Jean Taris’, als wäre das jahrelang zehrende Training der Immerselben nur ein freizeitliches Vergnügen gewesen. Ein trickreicher Sprung zurück an den Beckenrand verwandelt ihn in seine Straßenkleidung. Mithilfe einer Überblendung verschwindet er im nächtlichen Schwarz des Beckens. Geht er über das Wasser oder schwimmt er mit der Menge, gedrängt auf den Boulevards der Stadt?

SIMON PETRI: Swimming is preceded by rituals: the swimmer changes clothes and then waters his own body to get conditioned on the temperature. The degree of effort or fussiness by which these actions are conducted can signal the swimmer’s state of mind: his relation to nudity, to cold, whether he is an impatient intruder or a careful explorer. The boy in Jacques Rozier’s Rentrée des classes doesn’t mind getting his clothes wet, and he doesn’t need to fear the cold  on the sparkling summer day he swims down a creek into the maze of nature. Though he is a brave and curious drifter, he goes into the creek attentively. The boy repairs the holes in his shoe before stepping into the water. He carefully chooses his way and uses his arms to balance as he adjusts to the creek’s rhythm. He wades farther away from the town and the foliage above grows denser: lights and shadows constantly change on his bright dress. He lies on his back, trying to let the creek carry him, but it’s too shallow. He reaches the wilderness and notices a snake: now, it’s the right depth to finally swim.

Rozier, like many French filmmakers, knows how to film people in water. First, he filmed this little friend of snakes, whose searching, responsive gaze reflects the wonders of swimming in nature. Both Rozier and his characters grew older but he continued to allow them to indulge in the locations.

JAMES WATERS: The swimming scene in Joanna Hogg’s Exhibition is 42 seconds long, one among a succession of static takes showing artist-couple H (Liam Gillick) and D (Viv Albertine) performing their last errands – like ritual, almost – as a way of saying goodbye to their house, newly on the market after 18 years of use.

In these 42 seconds, D swims naked in her house’s pool. D and the pool are shown in unnaturally white and blue hues, respectively. The sound of her floating, then spinning, is conveyed via delicate foley-work, uncommon in scenes of swimming. Too often the splashes are deafening, the pool an excuse for the filmmakers to indulge in a luxuriating, ASMR-like set piece.

The muffled, outside noises are more predominant than the sounds of swimming, even. Hogg referred to this scene as a musical sequence without the music, but it’s better than that. All the elements are there: a musician (Albertine, former frontwoman of The Slits) and her 360 motions, floating slowly from right-to-left. But the song is missing (upon first inspection).

The scene’s quiet tenor brought a song’s lilting melody to my mind. The song was Gareth Williams and Mary Currie’s Breast Stroke (Williams was Albertine’s contemporary in the 70’s London music scene). There’s an unobtrusiveness to a song’s melody when the viewer brings it to the film instead of the filmmaker.

So, D swims. Not in silence – but quietude. Aurally, there’s nothing between us and her. The intricacies of her and the swimming pool’s noises toe the line perfectly between the aforementioned noise and deathly silence – the kind of silence common in films but absent in life. These two elements – the woman, her movements and her pool – say more than any literal song or dance could. Whatever song plays is for both D and the viewer to discern. Perhaps it’s no song at all.






PATRICK HOLZAPFEL: Es geht dich nichts an, woher ich komme, wenn ich da bin, bin ich da. Heute wollen alle wissen, woher man kommt, aber mich interessiert mehr, wohin man geht. Wenn ich im Kino bin, komme ich von Nirgendwo, ich könnte überall herkommen und so soll es auch sein. Nur über das Kino habe ich genug gelogen, vielleicht auch, weil ich dort niemand erklären musste, woher ich komme. Ich war ganz einfach da, ganz so wie der Film, den wir sahen und das war alles, was zählte. So würde ich gern leben: als ob ich ins Kino ginge. Ich würde nicht handeln, nur wachsen. Es macht einen Unterschied, woher man kommt, werden alle sagen und obwohl ich ihnen nicht widerspreche, möchte ich meinen Weg für mich behalten. Du kannst selbst beurteilen, ob es geregnet hat, wo ich herkomme, oder ob die Sonne schien.

ANNA BABOS: After a day spent writing on my laptop, I want to use the walk to the cinema to look around, to see what surrounds me, not on the screen but in the world. Yet, I can’t help the bad habit of looking to the ground, looking at my feet as I put them one after another. It is quite understandable, my eyes got used to looking at a shorter distance, the 50 cm between my eyes and the laptop’s screen. So, I need a little bit of time to get used to the meters and kilometers of distance you can see when looking down the street. I also flirt with the idea that it’s maybe necessary for my brain, that it’s my body’s self-defense mechanism, since looking at the sidewalks and this monotone movement of mine is just a kind of brainwash, which helps me keep a distance from the work and the concerns of the day. It may be good for meditation but it’s sad to miss out on the vividness of one’s environment. In the end, the day’s highlight is coming out of the cinema, setting my eyes free.

ANDREW CHRISTOPHER GREEN: I rarely ever watch films at the cinema, but the past week on account of my being in Berlin I’ve taken a taxi from work to go to the Arsenal. They’ve programmed a series of films written by Yoko Mizuki and Sumie Tanaka and directed by Mikio Naruse. My job entails preparing a set of previews and checklists for upcoming fairs and exhibitions. The days have grown into twelve-hour stints. My boss sits next to me and tells me to shrink this image, move that one, make this one bigger, find a detail of this work… it’s like my spine has fused with the desktop I’m working on and his commands are also controlling the expansion and contraction of my stomach muscles. I don’t have any more thoughts by the time I get into the taxi. My mind is totally blank and I can experience it all without my thinking getting in the way. Thankfully my passivity doesn’t get taken advantage of; Naruse is a generous director. He’s neither manipulative nor calling attention to himself or the techniques he’s employing. Everything about his films and the sad stories they tell is incredibly subdued. And so, in the mornings, when I sit in the garden cafe at the Literaturhaus and journal what happened in the film the night before, it’s like I’m recalling a dream, surprised to discover that what has cast a mood over the day was all a product of the imagination.

DAVID PERRIN: Waren es nicht eher die langsamen hinausgezögerten Heimwege, nach dem Erlebnis eines Films, die mich aufatmen ließen, als die Wege ins Kino? Wenigstens war das fast immer meine Erfahrung und es war nicht so sehr ein Ins-Kino-Gehen, als ein Ins-Kino-Flüchten. Flüchten wovor? Vor allem möglichen: dem Lärm der Stadt; dem stumpfsinnigen Ich-Gefühl, das man überall mit sich herumtragen muss und den täglichen Fehlern, die man begeht; dem formlosen Wirrwarr der Gesten, in denen jeder Griff nach einem Gegenstand (einem Bleistift, einer Kaffeetasse) ins Dunkel geriet, wo jeder Schritt mit einem Stolpern ins Nichts bedroht ist.

Wie schön und selbstverständlich die Welt einem schließlich erscheint, wenn man mit neugeborenen Augen zuschauen kann wie ungeschickt und unbeholfen der James Stewart in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance als Kellner herumhantiert und fummelt und man spürt, wie die im Körper angesammelte Spannung sich endlich auflöst. Man tritt aus dem Kino und ist einverstanden mit seinem Dasein, spürt eine Empfindung des Getragen-Werdens, des Auf- und Anblickens der Welt, während man sich langsam auf dem Heimweg macht.

Doch es gab auch Wege ins Kino, die mich beflügelten und mir mein Lebensgefühl zurückgaben. Zum Beispiel, dieser Septembertag vor drei Jahren auf dem Weg ins Filmmuseum in Wien und mein kurzer Spaziergang davor im Burggarten: das warme Licht des Sonnenuntergangs; die auf den Grasflächen spielenden Kindern und die Erinnerung an die längst aus den Augen verlorenen Freuden der Kindheit; das Rauschen der Bäume und das Zwitschern der unsichtbaren Spatzen in den Ästen; das Flugzeug im Himmel und die dünnen hingehauchten Wolken; der wehende Wind zwischen meinen ausgespreizten Fingern und schließlich das Herbstgefühl, das sich einstellte und das mit jedem neuen Blick bestärkt wurde und wo ich dann dachte: Ja, das ist das wirkliche Kino. 

Und dann auch in einer anderen Stadt, zu einer anderen Jahreszeit, das Aufleuchten der Glühwürmchen im Friedhof gegenüber des Anthology Film Archives. Kleine Lichtpunkte, die in der Dämmerung vom Boden senkrecht in der Luft schwebten und bei diesem Anblick, das Gefühl, das der Tag, trotz der späten Zeit, erst jetzt wirklich anfing. Ein Bild, das ich mit ins Kino hineinbrachte. 

Und dann auch, schon wieder in einer anderen Stadt, das Leuchten des Schnees auf dem Asphalt, die wirbelnden Flocken in der Abendluft, die Kreischen der Vorortzüge in der Bahnsenke da unten und das allein stehende Kind, das auch ich einst war, vor dem Kino, dessen Türen noch geschlossen sind.

RONNY GÜNLGegenüber den architektonisch beeindruckenden Filmpalästen haben mich immer jene abseitigen Kinos angezogen, die sich etwas schüchtern in den schmuddeligen Nebengassen versteckten. Sie erscheinen erst auf den zweiten oder dritten Blick, während man durch eine noch fremde Stadt schlendert. Man durchstreift die Straßen in einem fiebrigen Gemisch aus Überforderung und Gelassenheit und plötzlich funkeln sie unversehens auf. Ihre schweigsame Präsenz erweckt den Anschein, als könnten sie den ganzen Trubel um sich herum aufsaugen.

Kinos anderer Städte zu besuchen, besitzt den anrüchigen Geschmack, ein Geheimnis zu entdecken. Das, mit dem man zu Hause so vertraut zu sein scheint. So sehr, dass sich sein magischer Schleier zu einem Nebel des Alltäglichen verwandelt hat. Zuhause ins Kino zu gehen geschieht selten spontan und noch weniger beiläufig. Zu oft ähnelt der Gang dem belanglosen Charakter einer alltäglichen Besorgung. Er verflüchtigt sich erst in dem Augenblick des Innehaltens, während man, angekommen am Kino, die vorübergehenden Menschen betrachtet.

Der Weg zum Kino ebnet sich, als warte man darauf, dass endlich irgendetwas passiert.

Ich trauere diesen verlorenen Gelegenheiten reumütig hinterher, als ich selbst ein fremdes Kino passiere. „Hätte ich denn etwas Besseres zu tun gehabt als ins Kino zu gehen?“, frage ich mich. Das Kino ist geschlossen, stelle ich mit einem Blick ins dunkle Innere durch die Fenster enttäuscht fest.

SEBASTIAN BOBIK: In the 1980s my mother lived in a small apartment in Santiago de Chile, right above a cinema called “Cine Arte Normandie”. She often tells me about her life then and the neon sign on the building across the street that would illuminate her bedroom at night. She loved to go downstairs at midnight or even 2 in the morning and take a seat in the theatre to watch films. The cinema itself was considered an arthouse theatre and she can recall experiences like seeing the films of Ingmar Bergman or Blue Velvet there for the first time. Whenever she tells me these stories of the small apartment and Cinema Normandy I can’t help but romanticise it and imagine what it would be like if I could live right above that cinema. I envision a warm summer night with an open window and the noise of traffic. My way to the cinema is the shortest I could wish for. I close the window of my bedroom and head through the kitchen and out of the door. I make sure I lock it and leave. Then all it takes is two flights of stairs that I rush down. Sometimes I meet neighbours on my way. They might be returning from a dinner they had in a restaurant or going out to a discotheque. I head past them and to the ground floor. There is a small ticket counter there. The young woman selling tickets already knows me. I come here all the time. I buy a ticket and immediately head into one of the small screening rooms. Except for me there are three or four, sometimes even five more people there, who are also curious spectators of the night. The room is rather small, the chairs have a leather cover that is already worn off in some places. During the summer it occasionally gets too hot, but in the evenings, it cools down again. We take our seats; the lights dim and the screen begins to shine. I dream of this being my personal way to the cinema, but I will probably never live this dream. These days the Cinema Normandy does not exist in the same building in which my mother lived anymore. It has moved to another location in Santiago. They still show films there.

IVANA MILOŠ: Sometimes I wonder what I enjoyed more – the path or the arrival. Racing on my bike through Vienna’s first district or towards Zagreb’s Tuškanac forest, almost falling over myself more often than not, another welcome addition to the gallery of screwball comedy characters I tend to keep close to heart. Always, always, a coil of unique energy unraveling in me, something close to a high, all just because I am about to meet the cinema. Something akin to that rapturous sensation of nurturing an age-long unrequited love in the very last moment of hope that it may be returned. Swift delight suffused with a sense of jubilation because I will meet those who will not talk back, where I myself will be able to remain silent while they enter my bloodstream. What makes up the shimmering embers of anticipation? What turns me into a firefly about to glow in the dark? None of these thoughts are present in the moment, they rear their heads only upon reflection. The moment itself is free, full of unknowing, and perhaps that is its saving grace. It is a gentle kind of craving about to be transformed by whatever emerges from the darkness. It is a secret, and my last footsteps towards the cinema are of the secretive sort. After the race, a moment of calm settles in. I got here early; I have ten minutes to spare. Depending on the fickle nature of my infatuation for what is to come, I will spend them lingering, loitering, and shuffling my feet awkwardly, or staring at objects, clouds, the sun or the rain. What I will never do is seek out attention or company. This is my own journey, and it does not end with the arrival to the cinema. Even if I meet someone I know inside and we end up seeing the film together, I have already set sail for what will live on in me a long time ago. Back when I started hurriedly throwing on clothes and urging my bike on as if it were a mythical horse of inexhaustible energy, back when leaves were flying in my wake as the first autumnal screenings filled up the first film theaters, back when the spring put a spring in my step as I breathed in the blossoms on my route over the Ringstraße, back when I fostered the kind of memories ready to disappear the moment I enter the darkness enveloped.

SIMON PETRI: There is no time to go home and detach the trailer carrying 20-30 kilograms of posters yet to be distributed or hanged on fences. Moreover, how could I lock the bicycle in a way that also protects the trailer and the posters? Maybe I can push it into the dumpster storage of the Film Museum’s café? The staff will surely be over the moon when I tell them the idea. And would the posters soak up the smell? It would be the 4D revolution of advertisement. On the other hand, imagine that weight behind me and how it accelerates my ride down Mariahilfer Straße. People would have to jump away in fright from the unhinged cyclist, pacing down with a psychotic look on his face, hoping to get to the cinema punctually. After a certain tempo, most of the posters would fly out of the trailer anyway. The kindly pedant citizens of Vienna would pick up the posters and put them on the fences, surrounding the ugly construction sites on Mariahilfer Straße. And everything would be fine in the end.

SIMON WIENERAuf dem Weg ins Kino geht mir durch den Kopf, was im Kino alles schief gehen könnte. Man hört von Menschen, die vom einen Moment auf den anderen ohne Fremdeinwirkung erblinden. Daran denke ich fast immer, wenn ich den Saal betrete, und meine schon leise ein Säuseln in den Augen zu vernehmen, ärgere mich ob der Schlieren, die mein Blickfeld durchziehen und langsam nach unten wandern. Skeptisch begutachte ich sie und warte fingertrommelnd darauf, dass sie sich konzentrisch ausbreiten, das Blickfeld in einen Nebel verwandeln. Auch eine Migräne beginnt mit Sehstörungen. Obwohl ich nur selten daran leide, glaube ich sie oft während des Vorspannes sich ankündigen zu sehen und blinzle abwechselnd mit den Augen, um zu kontrollieren, ob da nicht eine Unschärfe, ein blinder Fleck die Leinwand befallen hat. Was, wenn mich mitten in der Vorstellung ein Schwindel befiele, vom vielen ungewohnten Hochschauen vielleicht, oder von der Konzentriertheit dieser Farben, die mich unsanft überschwemmen; wenn ich das Bewusstsein verlöre, einen Herzanfall bekäme, und matt zur Seite sackte? Ein Zuschauer hinter mir vernähme wohl nichts Ungewöhnliches an meinem Absacken und glaubte viel eher, ich wäre eben zur Seite gerückt, um so angenehmer oder andächtiger die Leinwand beobachten zu können; staunte vielleicht gar anerkennend, dass jemand diesem Schrottfilm eine solche Andächtigkeit entgegenbrachte. Selbst ein stundenlanges Verharren in dieser Schräglage fiele nicht auf, und nach dem Film, nach dem Wiedereinschalten der Lichter, meinte der Zuschauer, ich wolle eben auch den Abspann nicht verpassen, wolle meinen Gedanken zum Film eben nachhängen, nicht gestört werden, die Augen geschlossen, den Mund schräg geöffnet; sei halt dem Film gänzlich verfallen, hätte mich ihm mit Inbrunst gewidmet, und müsse ihn nun, so wie sich das eben gehöre, erst einmal verarbeiten.

JAMES WATERS: 23.05.21 – On this day, I watched the new restoration of Chun gwong cha sit for the expressed purpose of hearing its final needle drop in a cinema setting. I remember driving with my Mum to see it, arriving 10 minutes late and in the wrong cinema.I wasn’t sure, upon arriving home, if the cinema setting benefitted the song in any way. The desire for the big screen when watching it at home was stronger than any feelings from the cinema itself. I only remember the before – rushing up the stairs in a way that makes me shudder when thinking about it – and after. It’s the type of running one does when they’re about to miss a train, its cinematic equivalent an exasperated self-deception that “the ads surely must still be playing”, only to resignedly sink into a cinema seat realising that 15 minutes have already gone by.

Then afterwards, there was the disappointment at not having The Turtles’ eponymous song ringing in my ears. After this point I made three strict rules for myself:

  • When watching a film for the first time, always watch it in the cinema
  • Don’t sit and watch a film whose first 10 minutes you’ve missed, it’s like being dragged from a runaway train
  • When watching something at home on a repeat viewing, don’t get up from the film

28.08.2021 – As of today, I haven’t followed these rules, and even when I have, the dividing line between a “cinematic” and “living” space is non-existent. But were they ever? Here are two photos where – given the time of day – the befores and afters of each film (watched for the first time and not in a cinema) felt unaffected by the same, relatively unchanged daylight. Or is it that the daylight felt unaffected by the film’s end? The screen, in these and many other cases, appeared darker than ever. 

(20.08, watching Das Mädchen und die Spinne by Ramon and Silvan Zürcher)
(26.08, watching One Plus One 2 by C.W. Winter and Anders Edström)



PATRICK HOLZAPFEL: Stelle mir vor, obwohl ich das nicht kann, ich wäre Henri Dutilleux und würde eines Tages das Set von Chantal Akermans Trois strophes sur le nom de Sacher betreten. Sonia Wieder-Atherton, Cellistin und große Kennerin meines Werks hätte mich eingeladen, ich würde hingehen, obwohl ich die Stille lieber habe (im Kino oft zu wenig Platz zwischen den Zeilen, aber nicht bei Akerman, das gebe ich zu). 

Das Kino wäre mir ohnedies nicht fremd gewesen (kann das Kino jemals fremd sein?), ich hatte schließlich bereits die Musik zu L’Amour d’une femme von Jean Gremillon und kürzlich erst zu Maurice Pialats Sous le soleil de Satan komponiert. Ich hatte gehört, dass Akerman meine Musik durch den Bogen Sonias kennenlernte; es macht einen Unterschied, ob man Musik zuerst durch den Bogen hört oder von einer Platte.

Ich hätte Angst, dass der Film die falschen Töne spielen könnte; ein falscher Ton, das ist eine Frage zwischen Leben und Tod. Akerman, habe ich gehört, ist keine besondere Kennerin meiner Musik, irgendeiner Musik. Vielleicht gefällt mir das, ja es gefällt mir. Sonia sagte, dass es in meinen drei Strophen um die Suche nach den Instrumenten für das Leben gehe. Mit welchem Instrument man spielt, entscheidet vielleicht, ob man einen Ton trifft oder nicht. Das alles, sagt sie, entwickle sich in eine Explosion des Lebens. Vielleicht deshalb all die Farben an diesem Set, die Tänzer, die durch die Räume geisternden Sinne, die sich finden und wieder auflösen. Ein Licht, das ist auch ein Ton, würde ich denken.

Was ich an diesem Set vorgefunden hätte, wäre die Intimität meiner Musik. ein Raum am Abend, eine Frau, die sich zurückgezogen hat und mit der Musik geblieben ist. Sie verkörpert die unter allem schlummernde Suche und Verzweiflung. Im Bildhintergrund vollführen Nachbarn Schritte des Alltags, sie bügeln und leben und vergraben all das, was sie fühlen könnten. Das schöne an der Musik (und am Kino vielleicht): nicht alle können sie gleichzeitig hören, aber alle leben gleichzeitig. Die Musik ist immer da, aber wir können sie nicht immer hören.

Ich wäre also an dieses Set gegangen und hätte die Stille gefunden, die ich selbst komponiert habe. Bei Akerman spielt sich viel in der Nacht ab oder besser: in der Zeit nach den Tagen. Womöglich ist dann die Sehnsucht am größten oder die Möglichkeiten oder die Angst oder die Einsamkeit. Vielleicht ist es aber auch die Zeit, in der wir die Musik wirklich hören können (wenn wir nicht zu müde sind vom Tag). 

IVANA MILOŠHere’s a dance without partners, a reclamation of space and place, a redefinition of the fully marked, suggested, stipulated, and confined. It is called Saute ma ville, but it might as well be called break-this-place, chirp-without-measure, destroy-the-reduction or daisies-without-daisies, because you don’t need flowers to blow things up, but a scarf can be useful. On the other hand, flowers are brought into the minuscule kitchen Akerman inhabits in the film – in fact, they are the only object to enter it from the outside. Brought in at the very beginning in a whirlwind run up the stairs, they are also found in the heroine’s hand at the very end, reminiscent of bouquets handed to actresses after a star performance. These flowers, an emblem of the decorative, are another sign among many, a signifier without a body and, as such, something that invites destruction. But what is this passerine incantation that accompanies the blows dealt to the reduced existence of women? Mirthful and frenzied, Akerman’s chant fluctuates between laughter and sing-song, just like her movements, both levels together creating an orchestration of reveling and eruption. It is slapstick and tragicomedy, to be sure, but it is also a declaration: The opposite of functional needn’t be dysfunctional, for there are realms and choices to functionality just like there are to living. After all, the question remains: Is disappearance an explosion?

SIMON WIENER: There is something about D’Est which moves me profoundly, but I can’t pinpoint it. It feels as intimate as a film can possibly be, yet it is about vast landscapes, public spaces, anonymous faces. Maybe it is about being lost and lonely; or about resting strong and unfazed by destiny. Every image seems to weep. Every image is weeping, but without bemoaning itself, rather celebrating. Celebrating the tenaciousness of these trees amidst barren land, or the accidental but graceful interplay of lights during a rainy, sombre night. To weep, here, is to dance: to the wind, the light, the music.

SIMON PETRI: She will have to get up early to record the antagonistic blue that welcomes the underclass in the shivering hours of dawn. The first workers of the city form lines at bus stations to get to the factories, where circumstances of maintenance changed during these last years of historical tumult, but that doesn’t seem to improve a lot for the dawn’s crowd and the worst is yet to come. But that’s still more than a decade of a leap into the future. As for now, she doesn’t have to travel east, fear the frost and the burning eyes of the days’ loveless beginnings. As for now, she can have that juvenile, dreamy look – not a teenager anymore but still closer in spirit to the ingenious young girl who blew up a kitchen in a world too burdensome and uninspiring than a traveller of great discipline, stamina and political drive. As for now, she can forget about manners and self-imposed wakefulness, she can enjoy the caress, the food and the warm comfort of the Parisian living rooms. Dazed by satiety, she can slide into sleep. Maybe the sobering breeze between two apartments blows away the odour of pastry and perfume, so she can arrive neatly. Not that there would be any expectation, not that anything can break the deep kindness of old ladies – not even the recollection of the most harrowing evilness can shatter the adoration with which they look at her. As for now, she just has to listen. More or less. That will be good enough for a mitzvah.



Eindrücke von La Chambre, Hotel Monterey, Là-Bas und Les rendez-vous d’AnnaBeschreibung eines Raumes:

Um was für ein Zimmer handelt es sich? Ein Hotelzimmer? Eine Wohnung? Ein Zugabteil? Wem gehört das Zimmer? Scheint es nicht bewohnt?

Was befindet sich im Raum? Wo ist das Bett? Wie viele Kissen? Gibt es ein Telefon? Gibt es ein Radio? Einen Fernseher? Hängen Bilder an der Wand? Oder Spiegel? Welche Farbe hat die Wand? Trägt sie eine Tapete? Wie gestaltet sich deren Muster? Wie ist der Boden beschaffen? Liegt ein Teppich aus? Säumen Gegenstände den Boden? Bücher? Zeitschriften? Ist es aufgeräumt?

Gibt es ein Bad? Eine Küche? Sind sie gefliest? Gibt es einen Tisch? Steht Essen auf ihm?

Ist es still? Weht der Wind herein? Hängt Rauch in der Luft?

Wo ist die Tür? Ist sie verschlossen? Ist sie geöffnet? Aus Holz? Ist sie alt? Befindet sich ein Schild an der Tür? Wo ist das Fenster? Ist ein Vorhang davor? Eine Gardine? Eine Jalousie? Lässt es sich öffnen? Wo ist der Lichtschalter?

Ist es Nacht? Oder Tag? In welchem Stockwerk befindet sich der Raum? Und in welcher Stadt? Wie klingt die Straße? Gibt es Nachbarn? Was tun sie? Strahlt Licht von außen herein? Die Sonne? Oder die Reklame? Welche Farbe hat es? Wie wirkt die Umgebung? Belebt oder verlassen? Welcher Tag ist heute? Wie is das Wetter? Sind Flugzeuge am Himmel zusehen? Kann man das Meer riechen?

Was ist nicht zu sehen? Gibt es einen Ausgang? Gehen oder bleiben? Wer lebt hier?

DAVID PERRIN: Jene Tage, an denen das Kino noch geholfen hat; als Mittel des Sich-Sammelns, des freien Durchatmens, des Augenaufgehens. Jene Filme, die einem den Appetit für die Welt wiedererweckt haben, nach denen man aus dem Kino trat und einfach nur geradeaus gehen wollte, oder mit der Straßenbahn zu einer Endstation fahren, in einer fremden Gegend der Stadt. Zum Beispiel, nachdem ich zum ersten Mal News from Home von Chantal Akerman sah und nur noch durch die Straßen gehen wollte, mit U-Bahnen und Bussen fahren, auf Bahnhofsgleisen und Haltestellen herumlungern bis spät in der Nacht, so lange bis ich mich in einen Niemand verwandelt hatte. (Was mir natürlich nie richtig gelungen ist.) Die ruhigen, langen Fahrten durch die Stadt New York, die unendlich langen Einstellungen, die auf den U-Bahnen und deren Stationen aufgenommen wurden sowie die im Morgengrauen menschenleeren Straßen in Downtown Manhattan – durch diese Bilder gewann ich eine Art Bewegungsfreiheit, die ich im Kino bisher kaum erlebt hatte. Es war, als ob die Stadt sich endlich zu einem Rhythmus verlangsamt hatte, in dem ich mich selber bewegen konnte, in dem Körper und Gefühl eins wurden. Das hatte sicher auch damit zu tun, dass ich zu der Zeit, als ich den Film sah, auch in New York lebte und in dieser übergroßen Reklame-Stadt nicht so richtig Fuß fassen konnte. Aber nach dem Erlebnis dieses Films, als ich abends aus dem Kino auf der 5th Avenue trat, rückte mir zugleich näher und ferner bis sie sich endlich zu einer tatsächlichen Weltstadt ausdehnte, einen Ort, wo man leben konnte.

Und dann gab es auch diesen anderen atemschöpfenden Film von Akerman, dessen Namen, als ich ihn zum ersten Mal hörte, sofort die Sehnsucht auslöste, am Schauplatz des Films sein zu wollen: Hotel Monterey. Das Porträt eines heruntergekommenen Hotels auf der Upper West Side in Manhattan und den einsamen, zumeist greisenhaften Bewohnern dort, vom Keller bis zum Dachboden, ein Film ohne Worte, Dialog oder Handeln. Oder doch: die Räume und deren Linien und Farben waren das Handeln; die leeren Flure, die Schlaf-, und Badezimmer, die Aufzüge verwandelten sich, unter den Blicken und sanften Schwenkungen der Kamera, in Orte der Kontemplation, zu Innenräumen der Einsamkeit. So sind sie seit den Bildern des Malers Edward Hopper noch nie erschienen. Und am Ende des Films, als die Kamera auf den Dachboden des Hotels die Skyline der Stadt im Morgenlicht aufnimmt, hatte ich das Gefühl, trotz des einen Schauplatzes, auf eine Weltreise gewesen zu sein.

Solche Kinoerlebnisse scheinen jetzt immer seltener zu werden (ob es den anderen auch so geht?), und das nicht nur, weil die Kinos mehr als ein halbes Jahr geschlossen waren. Die Bilder, die heute auf der Leinwand zu finden sind, haben, für mich jedenfalls, nichts Entdeckerisches an sich; sie sind einfach da, im Vorhinein fertig und festgelegt. Die Welt starrt einen einfach blöd an, statt zu erscheinen. Daher sind die Filme Akermans, und nicht nur die zwei, die ich oben erwähnt habe, wie ein zusätzliches Licht oder Luft, die einem durch das Leben wehen und es aufleuchten lassen. So weiterleuchten!

ANDREW CHRISTOPHER GREEN: The first film I saw by Chantal Akerman was, of course, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. I was 23 then, and it was the first ambitious European film I’d ever seen. I was struck by how evasive it was, how excluded I felt from it. It seemed like there were scenes missing, or as if it were a sequel to a film that had established the characters with whom I should have already been familiar, and I remember thinking the subtitles must have been mistranslated by a poet taking way too much license; the few times the characters spoke with one another the dialogue was far too intense, like everything stored up in the silence between came rupturing out with a violent force of repression. I thought there must be something European about this ambiguity and non-disclosure. I knew I’d be moving to Germany in a few months and this excited me, to get a taste of the world I’d become acquainted with.

It took a good four years for the experience of that film to germinate inside me. I was studying contemporary art and slowly growing disillusioned with it, and it’s as though without my knowing it, the little gaps and intensities I saw in Akerman’s film were becoming the antidote to the shortcomings of my field, which had resigned itself from all the little mysteries that make her works shimmer. At first, I thought myself capable of resolving this discrepancy in my work, but the more evenings I spent with her and then Straub-Huillet and Ford and Ozu, the more I felt myself compelled to take them seriously, until the gap had grown so wide that I looked behind and saw I could never go back. Then it was as though one day a door between my apartment and the world outside silently clasped behind me and I resolved to myself: “Now I’ll just watch films, now I will finally do nothing but just watch films.” And I haven’t stopped since. Every night I spend my time behind a digital projector looking for the little gaps Akerman showed and hid from me for the first time in that film I saw now more than seven years ago, which, though once confusing, now illuminate the entry-points to the truth-content of the medium itself. And my appreciation of her work has grown exponentially as I witnessed her recreate such feats in not just so-called artistic films but, as if summoning the spirits of the Hawks’ and Langs’ and Walshes’ of bygone times, through a spectrum of romantic comedies, musicals, tragedies, documentaries, melodramas, and others forms I’d never have taken seriously on account of their beauty lying so dormant and opaque beneath a flashy surface we tend to only ever see ourselves reflected in.

JAMES WATERS: I’ve kept a document containing all the retrospectives of Chantal Akerman’s work held since her death. The number is approximately 257, including the repeats at the Cinémathèque française in Paris, CINEMATEK in Brussels, ICA in London and the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. Each is more definitive than the last, with a new kind of selling point. For the Cinémathèque française, in 2018, it was that Hangin Out Yonkers – long thought to be lost – had been discovered and digitized. A friend told me that this wasn’t the first showing of the film, as the previous retrospective at La Cinémathèque française screened a 35mm print in 2013, with Akerman present.

I have another document of all the Chantal Akerman retrospectives dating from May 1st, 1968 to October 1st, 2015. I don’t have an exact number, but it’s less than 200. There have been more of them in the past 5 ½ years than in the 47 – prior to 2015 – Akerman spent thinking seriously about and, henceforth, practicing filmmaking.

I ask Chantal what she thinks of this. Here’s the response I heard:

“Nous avons suivi Pina Bausch et ses danseurs pendant cinq semaines, de Wuppertal à Milan, de Milan à Venise, de Venise à Avignon. J’étais directement frapper au cœur par ces longues pièces, qui se mélange tous dans la tête. Il est le sentiment que les images que nous avons ramenées en transmettent peu, et la trahit souvent.”

“We have been following Pina Bausch and her dance company for the last five weeks, from Wuppertal to Milan, Milan to Venice and Venice to Avignon. I was deeply touched by her lengthy performances. I have the feeling, however, that the images we’ve brought back don’t convey their essence, and often betray it.”

The programmers of these retrospectives also heard this. One in Buenos Aires wrote to me – after having made my documentation public – of the above sentences and how they came to her in a dream. When she heard them prior to the dream, there was nothing remarkable about them. Even in the dream, there still wasn’t anything overtly remarkable about these words, but she woke up in a cold sweat regardless, as one does from a dream in which one trip’s over and, in waking, opens one’s eyes before this dreamed moment of impact. By the time she had this dream, it was already 2017.

Images and quotation taken from Un Jour Pina à Demandé

SEBASTIAN BOBIK: “Today is Saturday and I’m going to make a film about laziness”. With this sentence Chantal Akerman’s Portrait d’une Paresseuse begins. It’s the first film by Akerman I saw. I suppose that is a rather unusual start into her filmography. It was also the first time I saw her image, since she plays herself in this film. The opening sentence already tells us what the film will be: Akerman will make a film about laziness. She is still in bed. She looks as if she doesn’t want to get up. “In order to make cinema, one must get out of bed“ she says. And yet she stays in bed and the film is made. I understand that she couldn’t have made the entire film in bed: organizing, setting up the shot, editing… I doubt all of these steps were done from bed. Yet I enjoy this idea. A film made in bed. Of course, she doesn’t remain in bed. We see glimpses of a morning routine. She takes vitamins. We see several shots of her partner Sonia Wieder-Atherton practicing on the cello, while Chantal Akerman watches her, or just listens to her in a different room. The final 2 minutes of the film Akerman smokes a cigarette. We watch her in a close-up. The next time I saw Chantal Akerman was also in bed. I watched her film La Chambre, which pans 360 degrees through a room several times. For a brief moment, she is again in bed, looking at us. Years later I saw Je Tu Il Elle, in which suddenly a similar image struck me once again.


As you set out for Ithaka

hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.


Hope your road is a long one.

May there be many summer mornings when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to learn and go on learning from their scholars.


Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.


Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn’t have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.


And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

/C.P. Cavafy: Ithaka, translated by Edmund Keeley/