Directors Lounge 2008 • Berlin, february 7-17

Saturday, February 9

Showdown at Stimmann Creek

(JB) Some more on two films from yesterday's Urban Research block. Like André Werner's “Flash” from the opening evening, Berit Hummel's “Ein weites Land” (2007) is a dissection of film clichés, this time of Hollywood's male Western Hero. Unlike Werner's high-speed romp through Horror cinematography, Hummel's take on the genre archetype is rather a precise surgical undertaking, reduced to the performative reconstruction of immediately recognisable token gestures & movements. In a series of – if I recall correctly – fourteen scenes, we witness the encounters of two male figures; even though stripped from the usual iconography and plot progression, each and every interaction seems to be taken straight out of a classic Western. Which it is not, as Berit Hummel told me; but obviously, we do not have to rely on cowboy hats and tumbleweed to know our Hollywood staple heroes, even if they are clad in business suits and filmed solely on the grounds of Berlin's Potsdamer Platz.

Of course, the Potsdamer Platz & the Businessmen and the Cowboys & their homelands collide on several levels. There is the bizarre quality of the Potsdamer Platz itself – raised in no-man's land by former chief urban planner Hans Stimmann and a selection of international star architects – which echoes the fakery of the Spaghetti Western's “american” setting (while being far less entertaining, unfortunately), the slightly frivolous historicism of the post-modernist buildings and the artificial insertion of patches of a “natural” landscape, which allude to the suppressed dream of the untamed – hence natural – male conqueror expressed through the genre narrative. For which we, obviously, can find some parallels in the figure of the carnivorous yuppie businessman; we do all know that Pat Bateman is still out there, somewhere.

(On a side note - in a irritating, though interesting twist, Hummel's Film was shown in half of its original speed due to an technical mishap – which at least I mistook for intentional, as slow motion is another staple effect of the Western genre and thus seemed rather natural)

There was also a very short and very formalist film by Steven Ball – “No-Way Street” from 2007 – depicting police cordons and traffic re-routing in London, which might or might not have been shot with the 2005 London bombings in mind. On his website, he calls this a “strategy of producing public spaces of exception” – I suppose I have ranted enough on politics and public space in the previous posts, but even besides actual interferences into urban transit, there is a rather strange correlation between terror and security issues on one hand and architectural and aesthetic decisions on the other. The formal representation and organisation of dangerous or endangered spaces is something we might want to keep in mind as it affects our environment in a quite subtle but still immediate way.

OK – I'm off to the lounge again, see you later!

Cheers, JB