October 2019, arsenal cinema

Films by Wolfgang Höpfner and Peter Goedel

HINTER DEN ELBBRÜCKEN, 1986

They met in Cologne in 1974. Both had studied German; Peter Goedel had arrived at television via theatre. Wolfgang Höpfner and Thomas Lichte had brought a script with them from Hanover and GRUSELKRIMIS IN DER HAUPTSCHULE was made thanks to Peter Goedel’s technical know-how. Two years later, the trio made the feature WAS ELTERN FORDERN UND KINDER LEISTEN before going their separate ways. As a film and TV director, Peter Goedel became an essayist and poetic researcher of the highest order; Wolfgang Höpfner started studying at the DFFB. The German Autumn was already in the air; the trial against Roland Otto and Karl Heinz Roth led film student Höpfner to Cologne, where he shot material for his two films about the political underground together with Norbert Weyer: ZWEI PROTOKOLLE and VOR 4 JAHREN – VOR 2 JAHREN (1977–79). In 1983, he made his graduation film DER EWIGE TAG. With it, to use the words of Godard, Wolfgang Höpfner entered “the central regions”: he discovered the “Passarelle”, an architectural space which becomes a cinematic one from which musical and literary worlds open out. Peter Goedel’s films have the same great affinity for music and literature. In his far-reaching oeuvre, which shifts between essay film, documentary and fiction, we find the particular way of thinking and feeling of the former West Germany of the time, at the moment it is being lived: the astrophysicist in RÜCKKEHR ZU DEN STERNEN doesn’t just communicate his knowledge, he also creates something new via the idiosyncrasy of his concentrated speech; and in the silent rooms of Rudi’s new dwelling (HINTER DEN ELBBRÜCKEN), the great expanse of the open sea can be felt.

GRUSELKRIMIS IN DER HAUPTSCHULE (Peter Goedel, Wolfgang Höpfner, Thomas Lichte, West Germany 1974, 1.10., screening attended by Peter Goedel und Wolfgang Höpfner) A new housing development on the edge of Hanover. At school, a teacher is trying in vain to get her students interested in literature; but the likes of Wolfgang Borchert, Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Günter Wallraff only provoke weary smiles. “What do you like to read then?”, asks the teacher. “Bravo magazine”, says a girl; “horror thrillers”, says a boy. A remarkable German lesson thus begins, in which every gesture and action becomes a signal for the teacher that indicates the world these adolescents inhabit.

WAS ELTERN FORDERN UND KINDER LEISTEN (Peter Goedel, Wolfgang Höpfner, Thomas Lichte, West Germany 1976, 1.10., screening attended by Peter Goedel und Wolfgang Höpfner) What do parents demand? Above all, more homework for their children, at least according to the ones attending a meeting at a Cologne primary school, who are all well-off and have set off here from their upmarket detached homes. Their whipping boy is a young teacher who now must head to a high-rise development on the edge of the city to knock on the doors of the resigned parents of his more slow-learning pupils, like an engineer trying to turn a lever.

HINTER DEN ELBBRÜCKEN (Peter Goedel, West Germany 1986, 2.10.) As soon as the former truck driver has crossed the various bridges over the Elbe, he would preferably turn around immediately and return home, to the Steinburg district in Schleswig-Holstein. There he’s been converting an old farmhouse for himself and his small family for ten years now. In the end, he sees himself rewarded by the beauty of the living space. Yet he is not just content, but also discontent. With friends, he undertakes a boat ride on board the “Kehrwieder” into the rough Danish waters.

DER EWIGE TAG (Wolfgang Höpfner, West Germany 1983, 4.10.) From dawn until dusk, there are always people around in the Passerelle, Hanover’s mile-long underground walkway that is lined with cheap stores and connects the main station with the city’s business district. This is where a flaneur, Wolfgang Höpfner, gives his impressions, incorporating material from outside – a piece of music, a piece of literature – into this place of transit. He himself recites passages from books, although the protocol-like nature of his speech creates the impression of a “procession of words”, which pass alongside him like the passers-by in the frame.

ZWEI PROTOKOLLE (Wolfgang Höpfner, Norbert Weyer, West Germany 1978, 5.10.) A prison located in the landscape far from the nearest town. In the area where it stands, there are neither railway nor bus connections. Although it’s surrounded by forest, no sound from there reaches the thick concrete bars between which an otherwise invisible figure sticks out his arms from time to time. Surveillance is conducted electronically, Karl Heinz Roth, doctor and writer, who was involved in the events of VOR 4 JAHREN – VOR 2 JAHREN, gives a protocol of his own experiences in jail to accompany the silent images.

DER EINSAME WANDERER (Philip Sauber, West Germany 1968, 5.10.) “A lonely wanderer comes to a grand house and asks for accommodation for the night…”: an homage to Carl Theodor Dreyer (1889–1968), from whose light-dark the film takes its bearings. Images which are permeable for the spirits. As a ferryman, the wanderer becomes a harbinger of death.

VOR 4 JAHREN – VOR 2 JAHREN (Wolfgang Höpfner, Norbert Weyer, West Germany 1977–79, 6.10.) Four years ago: the shootout at a Cologne parking lot during which Philip Sauber, who had made the promising film DER EINSAME WANDERERat the DFFB, was shot dead by the police. Two years ago: the trial against Karl Heinz Roth and Roland Otto, who were accused of the murder of one of the police officers involved. Police, gutter press, justice: a problematic framework is illuminated; the spoken commentary, which appears at various points, plays a key role in creating the beauty of the early, dreamlike mastery of this film.

RÜCKKEHR ZU DEN STERNEN. ÜBER SCIENCE UND FICTION (Peter Goedel, West Germany 1983, 8.10.) Impressions from the world of science fiction form a counterpoint to three amazingly staged encounters with astrophysicist Reinhard Breuer, whose way of speaking nails the art of conceiving of the diversity and the vastness of the university as one big whole. As such, after one of the film’s forays into the inhospitable realm of outer space, we meet him at an idyllic beer garden, where Mother Earth offers herself as a beautiful dream, given over to the summer day. (pn)

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