December 2015, arsenal cinema

Around the World


"Weltreise. Forster – Humboldt – Chamisso – Ottinger" is the title of the Ulrike Ottinger exhibition that can be seen at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin from December 2, 2015 until February 27, 2016. But travelling with the world is equally one of the leitmotifs of Ottinger's cinematic work. As an "expediteur to the margins of our world's perception" (Christina Tilmann), someone who crosses boundaries between genres and categories, and a cinematic cartographer of regions both near and far and spaces real and imaginary, for her most recent exhibition project, Ottinger has set out on the trail of Adelbert von Chamisso in the northern Pacific. The visual worlds of this expedition form part of the Weltreise exhibition, as do travelogues, collections of notes, and artifacts from European research trips from the 18th and 19th century. To accompany the exhibition, we are presenting five works by Ulrike Ottinger as well as five journeys of discovery by other directors (from Chantal Akerman to Nikolaus Geyrhalter). The series will continue in January and February.

JOHANNA D'ARC OF MONGOLIA (Ulrike Ottinger, West Germany 1989, 8.12., with guest Ulrike Ottinger) A group of travelers (four women, three men, including Delphine Seyrig, Irm Hermann und Peter Kern) set off towards Inner Mongolia, first with the Trans-Siberian railway and later with the Trans-Mongolian. Shortly after entering Mongolia, the women in the group are kidnapped by a mysterious princess and her riders, and travel with a caravan of nomads across the infinite steppes, while they get to know the stunning landscape, archaic rituals, and centuries-old secrets.

LES SOVIETS PLUS L'ÉLÉCTRICITÉ (Nicolas Rey, France 2001, 15.12.) A cinematic journey in three stages that bisects Russia and reaches all the way to Magadan (Siberia), the legendary far-off city in the former Soviet Union founded in 1941 and served both as a gulag and a gulag administration center from where prisoners were sent to the gold mines of the region. Based on fragments of his acoustic diary, documentary footage, and several autobiographical insights gained along the way, Nicolas Rey attempts to get to the bottom of his imagined origins.

UNTER SCHNEE (Ulrike Ottinger, Germany 2011, 22.12.) In Echigo, Japan, the snow is often meters thick well into May and covers the landscape and villages. For centuries now, the local inhabitants have been getting to grips with this. In order to record their entirely unique everyday life, festivals, and religious rituals, Ulrike Ottinger set off on a journey into the mythical land of snow, taking two Kabuki actors along with her. In the roles of students Takeo and Mako, they follow the trail of Bokushi Suzuki, who wrote his extraordinary book "Snow Country Tales" in the middle of the 19th century. Kabuki, poetry, and the harsh reality of life in this central Japanese region are connected to form a contemplative, semi-fictional portrait of a magic landscape. 

SEITSEMÄN LAULUA TUNDRALTA (Seven Songs from the Tundra, Anastasia Lapsui und Markku Lehmuskallio, Finland 2000, 29.12.). A wintry ballad in seven parts/songs – the first and seventh songs are documentaries, the remaining parts staged – about the life of the Nenets, a nomadic people present in northern Russia during the Soviet period and afterwards. "The Nenets do not have any theaters", as Markku Lehmuskallio put it, "no professional actors, just simple people, nomads, hunters and fisherman. They made their houses, their reindeers, their boats and above all them and their time available; each of them played themselves. They had the impression that the film was telling the story of their families, their own stories. This is the first feature completely shot in the language of the Nenets." (Markku Lehmuskallio) (mg)