April 2012, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour: Shadows, ghosts and doppelgängers


The ephemeral, eerie and uncanny nature of film finds its coherent but equally unstable shape in the fleeting form of shadows, ghosts and doppelgängers. Ghosts of history, cultures and myths, shadows – from those that are cut out of paper to those created by moonlight – the protagonists’ dark sides that are often brought to light by the figure of the doppelgänger, all foretell the uncanny, the strange, and indeed the shudder, as the original principle of cinema. This month’s Magical History Tour invites viewers to 11 different encounters in the dark cinema with restless ghosts, illusionary shadows and doppelgängers unleashed.

THE HALFMOON FILES(Philip Scheffner, D 2007, 1. & 8.4.) "When a person dies, he constantly roams about and becomes a ghost;" we hear Bhawan Singh say in a crackling voice that has survived on a gramophone record that was kept in a sound archive. His voice and that of hundreds of other colonial soldiers, which were recorded when they prisoners of war during First World War in the city of Wünsdorf in Brandenburg, serve as the point of departure, the central component and the leitmotif of a complex audiovisual piece of research about the connections between politics, colonialism, science and the media. The meticulous search for traces of the former prisoners develops a particularly narrative freedom in which the boundaries between the real and unreal seem to blur with the entanglement of different time levels.

DER STUDENT VON PRAG(A Bargain with Satan, Stellan Rye, D 1913, 4. & 11.4., on piano Eunice Martins) "People shouted in the stalls and didn't dare look at the screen because they saw two incarnations of the same figure. In this film, what was actually impossible had become a photographic reality." (W. Noa) The reaction of the audience at the premiere of the A BARGAIN WITH SATAN not only graphically illustrates the potential of cinema at the time but also pays tribute to Guido Seeber's double exposure techniques, which allow the actor Paul Wegener to appear in two different places of the screen at the same time – as the student Balduin and as his unleashed reflection, which he has sold to a shady profiteer.

KAGEMUSHA(The Shadow Warrior, Akira Kurosawa, Japan 1980, 5. & 10.4.) is set in Japan, around the end of the 16th century. Following the death of the powerful warlord Singen, his shadow warrior, a doppelganger/bodyguard and former thief, is forced to impersonate him to preserve the peace. After some initial hesitation, he grows into his role and steps out of the shadow of his late boss, heralding the fall of the clan. Kurosawa's reflection about power and its representations is a complicated structure of shadows, shades, phantoms and illusions.

WESELE (The Wedding, Andrzej Wajda, PL 1972, 6. & 13.4.) Wajda's faithful adaptation of Stanisław Wyspiański's renowned drama is about lost identity and the myth of Poland. Transposed to the turn of the century, the plot unfolds on two levels, which come together in a surreal phantasmagoria at the bacchanal wedding of a poet and a peasant girl. The dialogue between the wedding guests and ghosts from Polish history and legend gradually spirals into a frenzy.

THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (Woody Allen, USA 1984, 7. & 15.4.) In his declaration of love to the cinema and his take on the doppelgänger leitmotif, Woody Allen turns the standard view of the cinema-goer on its head. Cecilia (Mia Farrow) is at the movies watching a film for the fifth time, so enraptured is she by the archaeologist Tom Baxter, played by Gil Shepard, when the actor unexpectedly returns her gaze and climbs out of the movie to her. The boundaries between cinema and reality are casually blurred, with not only Cecilia's life but the whole of Hollywood being turned upside down. Shepard has to find his double and bring him back into the movie.

SCHATTEN (Warning Shadows, Arthur Robison, D 1923, 12. & 14.4., Eunice Martins on piano) In this Kammerspiel inspired by Freud, Robison depicts shadows as deceptive proofs of unfaithfulness and as an effective method of "therapy". A pathologically jealous man begins doubting his wife’s faithfulness when he sees twitching shadows on a curtain. Before it all comes to a head, a showman who is passing through stages a shadow play about the desires and fears of those present.

DIE INNERE SICHERHEIT  (The State I Am In, Christian Petzold, D 2000, 18. & 29.4.) The first part of Petzold's "Ghost Trilogy" depicts the members of a family who lead a shadow existence underground. After taking part in the armed struggle against the West German state in the 1970s, Clara and Hans are on the run with their adolescent daughter. Events escalate when they have to return to Germany. Petzold's "ghosts" live in an endless state of flight with no chance of returning, disconnected from our world and present.

LOONG BOONMEE RALEUK CHAT (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand/GB/France/Germany/Spain/the Netherlands 2010, 19. & 21.4.) "Ghosts are not bound to places but to people, to the living." Uncle Boonmee only has a short time to live and has returned to his home village to die. The ghost of his deceased wife appears to him, as does his son who had long disappeared in the jungle, as a monkey-man. Family and friends take their leave and accompany him from one form of existence to another. With impressive intensity and translucent images of the apparitions that are free of all mysticism, and making use of the impenetrable jungle and the pitch-black night, Weerasethakul tells a story of life and death, reincarnation and metempsychosis.

REBECCA(Alfred Hitchcock, USA 1940, 20. & 24.4.) A large country estate which seems to be cursed, its deceased mistress whose morbid presence continues to haunt the property years after her death, and a housekeeper who is "a governor of the dead in the realm of the living" (K. Kreimeier) form the poles of this spine-chilling Bermuda triangle, in which a young woman with a modest background risks losing it because of her romantic streak, her naïveté and inexperience.

THE INNOCENTS(Jack Clayton, GB 1961, 25. & 27.4.) The young governess Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) is employed on an English country estate to look after two children. She soon starts to think that the affability of her protégés conceals a world of paranormal powers, ghosts and madness. This is a horror classic, whose frightening and eerie atmosphere does not draw on shock value, blood, gore or physical violence. Instead, the suspense arises from psychological differentiation and the ambiguity of the events.

DYBUK(The Dibbyk, Michał Waszyński, Polen 1938, 26. & 28.4.) An early adaptation of S. Ansky's stage version of the Jewish legend: A young Talmudic scholar dies of a broken heart when Leah'le, whom he considers his predestined bride, is told she has to marry another suitor. On the day of her wedding, Leah'le is possessed by the spirit of her lover, by Dibbuk. This combination of mysticism and Expressionism brought about one of the great masterpieces of Yiddish cinema.

arsenal cinema: Cinema for children and youths

04:00 pm Cinema 1

The Great Dictator

The Great Dictator Charles Chaplin USA 1940

With Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard 35 mm OV/GeS 126 min

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour: Shadows, ghosts and doppelgängers

07:00 pm Cinema 2

The Halfmoon Files

The Halfmoon Files Philip Scheffner Germany 2007 Beta SP OV/GeS 87 min

arsenal cinema: The Archers: Films by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger

08:00 pm Cinema 1

Black Narcissus

Black Narcissus UK 1947

35 mm OV 100 min

Introduced by Gerhard Midding