August 2017, arsenal cinema

Robby Müller – Master of Light

PARIS, TEXAS, 1984

Dutchman Robby Müller (*1940) is regarded as one of the most significant European cinematographers of the second half of the 20th century. On the occasion of the "Robby Müller – Master of Light" exhibition at the Filmhaus, the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum for Film and Television is screening a selection of six films from Müller’s oeuvre from August 4-17. The series was originally conceived by the Dutch film museum EYE and places a special focus on Müller's collaborations with directors Hans W. Geißendörfer, Wim Wenders, Jim Jarmusch, and Lars von Trier. Robby Müller has received numerous awards for his camerawork and played a decisive role in the success of a whole generation of German independent auteurs from the 70s onwards, before he mainly started working in the USA towards the end of the century. The most important aspects of Robby Müller's visual compositions are his preference for natural light, his moving camera, and the dramatic color schemes he adapts to the respective subject of the film.

DER AMERIKANISCHE FREUND (The American Friend, Wim Wenders, West Germany/France 1977, 4.8., with an introduction by Nils Warnecke) Wenders’ adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's “Ripley's Game” is set in Hamburg and Paris. As Tom Ripley, Dennis Hopper finds a contract killer at once guileless and overwhelmed in the form of Jonathan Zimmermann, played by Bruno Ganz. Robby Müller's brilliant camerawork and cleverly devised color schemes make a significant contribution to Wenders’ congenial film version of the material.

DEAD MAN (Jim Jarmusch, USA/Japan/Germany 1995, 5.8., with an introduction by Georg Simbeni) Jarmusch’s Western revolves around an accountant named William Blake played by Johnny Depp and was shot by Robby Müller in seductively beautiful black and white compositions. The viewer is drawn in to the Kafkaesque occurrences that emerge from the strange, random events of Blake’s life in hypnotic fashion.

PARIS, TEXAS (Wim Wenders, France/West Germany 1984, 8.8., with an introduction by Maximilian Weinberg) Müller once again understands how to successfully put his own art at the service of the director with whom he’s worked with most frequently. Harry Dean Stanton plays Travis, whose love for Jane (Nastassja Kinski) turns into obsession and ultimately robs him of his voice. The wide shots in striking colors beneath the endless Texas skies speak all the more eloquently as a result.

DIE GLÄSERNE ZELLE (Hans W. Geißendörfer, West Germany 1978, 11.8., with an introduction by Gerlinde Waz) Architect Phillip Braun (Helmut Griem) returns to his family after serving a five-year prison term. He has innocently done time for a crime someone else committed, but his wife and son have grown distant in the meantime nonetheless, pushing him into a spiral of melancholy and dependence. Once again based on a story by Patricia Highsmith, the film is crafted by Geißendörfer and Müller in dense images to form the psychological study of a desperate man that is akin to a chamber drama.

BARFLY (Barbet Schroeder, USA 1987, 15.8., with an introduction by Peter Mänz) With a script by Charles Bukowski, the film stars Mickey Rourke as drunken poet Henry, who enters into a relationship with the equally alcoholic Wanda (Faye Dunaway), leading to a series of ever greater clashes between the two of them. Müller creates a portrait of an America of the failed in fascinating pastel colors of a beautiful range of tones.

BREAKING THE WAVES (Lars von Trier, Denmark/Sweden/France/The Netherlands/Norway/Iceland 1996, 17.8., within an introduction by Kristina Jaspers) Von Trier's monumental work about an oil rig worker (Stellan Skarsgård) paralyzed by an accident who then demands his devout girlfriend (Emily Watson) sleep with other man receives its breathless dynamism by the intense use of a handheld camera. (nw)

August '17