To Die For
This programme deals with the struggle between individuals and their environment, themselves, and their subsequent fears. Our open-minded, global society provides the individual with a seemingly endless cosmos of scope for development: The profession, place of residence, culture, spirituality, sexuality, everything seems to be individually determinable. However the price of this increase in freedom is a deep-seated sense of insecurity: If I can be everything, who or what do I want to be? In addition, freedom of identity is an illusory freedom. If we want to break free of the patterns we have acquired and that have been passed on to us, then it is at this point that we realize – perhaps for the first time – that these patterns exist, and feel the impact of what we have learned. These patterns fight against a huge industry of visual images that presents us – usually as a result of the mundane desire for profit – with an immense number of illusory identities worthy of emulation: photoshop-style perfect bodies in simulated make-believe worlds. Some people move through this insane maze of opportunities with seemingly instinctive certainty. However for those who deviate from this path, it is the beginning of an odyssey that can often last a lifetime: the search for an identity as an emotional homeland. In this way the films also create a bridge reaching from youth through to old age.
Thine Inward-Looking Eyes by Thad Povey plays around with the psychological expectations of experienced film viewers: the protagonists’ gazes and the suspense-packed music seem to be a token of something dramatic, but nothing happens.
Muntean & Rosenblum say the following about their work: “One of our main themes is the current notion of the subject and the question of its identity. Does the ego still have a coherent structure today?”1 In To Die For youths stand around in a carpark like cut-outs. The camera moves along the line while they ask themselves key questions concerning life. The static scenery contrasts with the emotional questions posed by the protagonists: a duality that is echoed in the baroque vocals of the video’s audio track. On the one hand the soundtrack appears alienating in the context of the modern protagonists while on the other hand it elevates the banality of the carpark scenery and indicates that there is also a sacred dimension.
Station Martin Brand accompanies a youth clique in Bochum. Its members meet at the railway station, drive to one of their houses, hang out, listen to music, drink and smoke pot. The communication between the young people is hard for outsiders to understand. Friendly emotions and tensions, musical taste and ideologies, all seem to change rapidly; the film does not use commentary or editing to impose any structure. What remains is a sense of a great lack of orientation. Even basic political opinions seem to be merely a matter of taste: “we’re leftist man, and are listenin’ to this fascist music … I’ll put in somethin’ better. No fascist tunes, I can’t handle that right now. Later sure, but not now!”
In Apologies Anne Robertson projects her permanent self-doubts onto the screen. In a manic sequence she apologizes to everyone who has worked on the film – because it was such hard work; to everyone who wasn’t able to work on the film – because she did not need any more assistants; to all the animals that she has ever eaten – because she could have lived as a vegetarian; and finally to the viewers because they have to watch the film. And first and foremost she apologizes for the fact that she keeps apologising. Apologies is probably unique in film history.
Portraits of elderly people were an important tradition in Soviet short film. But in Iliuzijos(Illusions) by Diana & Cornelius Matuzeviciené, it is not the leader of a collective farm who is honoured for his merit, but a chronic outsider. As a Jew and a Lithuanian, the author Jokubas Josade was constantly persecuted. His family was murdered by the Nazis. In view of Stalinist anti-Semitism, he destroyed all evidence of his Jewish identity, including his own writings. “I have been lonely since my youth. It seems that no one understands me, no one shares my views. I obviously speak differently than the others, but I don’t know why. I think that I don’t see everything differently from the others. Everyone is a completely unique world separated from the others. No one can see inside another person.”2 Josade does not deny that his life has been a failure. In a world where only success matters and misfortune is shamefacedly hidden, though, his lament is something completely alien. In this way, he becomes a tragic hero, insisting on recognition of the fact that every individual is essentially alone.
1 “Cerith Wyn Evans in Conversation with Markus Muntean and Adi Rosenblum.” In:MUNTEAN/ROSENBLUM, To Die For. De Appel Foundation, Amsterdam 2002 (exhibition catalogue).
2 Jewsei Zeitlin, Lange Gespräche in Erwartung eines glücklichen Todes (Long Conversations in Expectation of a Happy Death), Berlin 2000 [based on conversations with Jokubas Josade]
- Thine Inward-Looking Eyes, Thad Povey, US 1993, 16mm, col, 2 min
- To Die For, Markus Muntean & Adi Rosenblum, AT 2002, col, 13 min
- Station, Martin Brand, DE 2005, video, col, 15 min
- Apologies, Anne Robertson, US 1990, Super-8, col, 17 min
- Iliuzijos – Illusionen, Diana Matuzevičienė & Kornelijus Matuzevičius, LT 1993, 35mm, b/w, 21 min