Flug durch die Nacht / Flight Through the Night
A rediscovery is Ilona Baltrusch’s Flug durch die Nacht (Flight through the Night), produced during her studies at DFFB, at a time when a whole generation was looking up to Godard. The film shows us a highly staged West Berlin, and captures in endless philosophical loops the apocalyptic atmosphere typical of the ‘80s. The cinematic process becomes part of an intellectual game about the death of the living in the city. At the same time, the film’s playful defiance of film and theatre conventions gives it a very contemporary feel.
Stefanie Schulte Strathaus
Flight Through the Night is one of the most impressive examples of the newly oriented young West Berlin cinema of the time. The protagonists, Gretel Kemeny and Martin Peter (…) initially appear as a duet in the Schöneberg café Mitropa, one of the in-spots of the new wave and post-punk scenes of the time, but there are no patrons there. The film neither seeks to conceal that it was shot at night, outside of regular hours, nor does it try to fictionalize a typical bar atmosphere. The café, flooded with cold film lighting, seems as laconically alienated as the single line of text that Kemeny sings to Peter’s clanging electric guitar: “For they know what they do!” And even if both actors vary hackneyed fragments of dialogue in later stations in the film–in bed, on the roof, in the kitchen, the balustrade, the porter’s office–in doing so they are not concerned with any kind of goal, not even the epos of an odyssey. Certain individual motifs may be reminiscent of classics from film history (for instance, of the gangster couple “Bonny and Clyde”) and once in a while the film seems like an existential musical. But Flug durch die Nacht is neither an attempt to re-stage a mythos nor to crystallize a portrait of the times. This is particularly striking when the director’s voice gets involved in the scene from off screen. For instance she speaks out loud to make sure that the sound technician is getting the recording, even though Kemeny/Peter are only trying to figure out how to play their parts. Or when Baltrusch expressly insists that the camera keep rolling, even if the two aren’t saying anything at the time and don’t particularly know what to do. “Fuck how expensive the film is!” – It would be easy to see such gestures as an ironic reflection on the affluent society of late West Berlin, so marked by subventions and prosperity, the few fragments of dialogue given in the script– “It’s an enormous threat to the city” ... “Death is so persistently courting me that I can’t hold out much longer.” – as marked by the scenarios of deterrence that formed the city’s contours. Instead Baltrusch alters her presentation of the visitors, here floating spookily between the private and the public, so that the film practically delivers a paradigm for the deconstructed – also by the Cold War – rendezvous and style politics of this period.
This is what Baltrusch’s images are there for, to study this off-space, to differentiate the off, to be in the off, to persevere. The film does the impossible, looking only for the off-space: the off of the empty screen full of scratches, the off between two panels with brush strokes; the off of live music that comes from a guitar amp; the off of the space whose acoustics are louder than the voice in the frame; the off, whose on is the set: the off, whose off is the set; the off when the film has run through the projector; the off when the soundtrack has finished; the off that arises when the camera pans, the off that arises when the camera pans back and there is no back. The off when the camera pans past its target. No hors-champ, since there’s no continuity, no relation, nothing predictable, no relationship to space and time, only deep, black off-space. Brightly glistening off, the unfortunate on as off. “I scheiter with it” (“I fail with it”) says Baltrusch, cursing in the night of the soundtrack. The off that the man is for the woman; the off that the woman is for the man. The off that the man’s gaze is for the woman, the off that the woman’s arm movement is for the man; the off beyond the sentence “I never loved you.” The off that the day is in the night; the off of the night outside in front of the window; the off that eats up the image as backlighting. The off when someone disappears through the door, the off when someone stands behind the glass door of an elevator and you don’t know when it’s going to leave. Going up. The off from which the director prompts the actors to speak; the off from which the camerawoman directs the director in the image; the off of a space that didn’t exist before the filming; the off of a movement that is repeated; the off of a repetition in the acting with a cut, the off of a repetition in the acting without a cut. The off of a kind of acting that suddenly breaks off.
Director, screenplay: Ilona Baltrusch
Production company: Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin
Production manager: Leonid Wawiloff
Assistant director: Valeska Schöttle
Cinematography: Ulrike Pfeifer, Aribert Weiß, Ilona Baltrusch, Charly Rösch, Ulrich Malik
Assistant cinemotography: Bärbel Freund
Editor: Ilona Baltrusch, Raimund Barthelmes
Sound: Ute Aurand, Bärbel Freund, Charly Rösch, Susanne Ebert, Rosa Droll, Bettina Thienhaus, Ulrike Pfeiffer, Georg Stankovski, Aribert Weiß
Sound mix: Fritz Poppenberg, Werner Günther
Visual effect: Irina Hoppe.
Cast: Gretel Kemeny, Martin Peter, Ilona Baltrusch, Erwin Ventsch, Gerhard Laatz.
16mm, color, 90 minutes.
Ilona Baltrusch, born in Celle in 1947. 1969-76 studied art with Josef Beuys and film with Ole John, further studies in art at the State Art Academy Düsseldorf, 1st state examination in visual arts. 1979-1986 studied film direction at the Film and Television Academy Berlin. Selected films and videos: 1980: Filmmusik; 1986: Like a rat in the night; No names; 1992: No return.