In the German competition at Oberhausen, documentary-style filming was mixed with fantasy whilst complete "mini-features" lay side-by-side with others that depicted a single event. Not only were audiences overwhelmed by this variety, but also the programmers, and little effort was made in the German section to try and categorise films. Only a half-hearted talk after each screening tried to draw some strands or themes out of the showings. This was just as true of the second screening of the competition
In Ein Wunder (A Miracle, 1999), by Stanislaw Mucha, people are filmed looking at and discussing what they perceive to be Mary, the Mother of God. The camera exclusively films them as they discuss what they are seeing. Some see nothing. A child is "guided" by her father to what she should be seeing. An old woman sees Mary as wearing a head scarf - she too is wearing one. The conversations these pilgrims and villagers have with each other reveal much about themselves, rather than about what they are seeing. The suspense is maintained throughout the 10 minutes of this documentary, and although we as a cinema audience are never shown what the pilgrims see, we do not feel cheated. Mucha obviously has an eye for the quirky and humorous.
New York Is Disappearing (1999), by Heiko Kalmbach, resembles a New York stream-of-consciousness conversation. It takes place in a cluttered, shambolic flat. The subjects are an extremely neurotic couple, who might be brother and sister. Neither of them appear ever to get out and they do not answer the phone. They seem to be in a sixties New York/Warhol-type time-warp. We are left with a feeling of that we have glimpsed a world that has long disappeared.
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Hobart (1999) by Caspar Stracke is - probably - an interesting exercise in film-making. However, it leaves you with the impression that for Stracke if a film is based on a surrealist novel - which this is - it is perfectly acceptable for it not to make any sense at all. The film evokes the world of 1920s surrealist cinema, using only music as with silent films. The absense of explantory intertitles though meant that the action's only function is to precipitate a series of questions, without supplying any answers: Why does the woman fall on the bed when she is already dead? Why is she then alive again? Why are there lots of men lying in a concrete tube? Why are they then all dressed in white, in a white room? Why do they try to get up with sticks tied to them?
Real-life porno star Jeff Stryker, in his first non-porn movie, is a real crowd pleaser, and all the other cast, whatever their sexual orientation, think so too. All the actors, however small a cameo part they play, are great in this 30-minute short, and the plot twists are by turns hilarious and revolting. Von Praunheim at his best!
On the whole, the technical standards involved in making these films were all high. At their best - such as with von Praunheim - the results are masterful. However, with several of them there simply is the feeling that the film-maker is mechanically executing a brief they had been given.
Elke de Wit, 5 June 2000
Also of interest:
- Revolutionary Spaces
- More Oberhausen films reviewed
- Rosa von Praunheims's Der Einstein des Sex
- The Kinoeye Archive German film page