Living Archive – Dying Archive

Acquiring “Loot” Film

The last units of the erstwhile Soviet Army left reunified Germany on 30th September 1994. Some 15,000 military wagons were needed to transport everything back, but there was not enough space for about 60,000 prints of films that had entertained the troops and later been stored in Fürstenwalde / Spree. A group of European film archives bought the prints to prevent them from destruction (to retrieve the silver). The 154 prints that were saved, archived and described by the Friends of the Deutsche Kinemathek have rarely been screened since. Many of these “booty films” are average works, part of the routine production of a massive film industry. They were never selected by a festival or bought by a foreign distributor. Even Russian audiences have forgotten the names of their makers and their entertainment value is not particularly high today. However, films are not only the products of artistic ambition, ideology and / or entertainment. Watched in retrospect, these forgotten films convey pictures of a bygone world, one that was called the Soviet Union until 1991, and they revive its dreams, values and relationship models. Soviet cinema often embodied ideas of history, memory, present, childhood, love, family and the world of work, as society wanted them depicted, but it also offered a school for seeing that revealed the clash between the myth and the real, “backwards” state of society. These films’ images, sounds and colors contrast heavily with the Russians’ new dreams, social roles and fashions today. The slow nature of film narrative has disappeared, bodies have adapted to new ideals of beauty and the aims of protagonists are diametrically opposed to those of their predecessors.

We will watch these films, select certain scenes and create a collage – a trip into time, “the ABC of a bygone world” in which certain situations always reoccur. How do children and adults move? What is life like in a kindergarten, a school, an office, a factory, a university or barracks? How do people behave on the streets, in a bus, in a shop, at the doctor’s, at the hairdresser’s, during a meeting, at a party, or in the bedroom? What kind of relationship models are highlighted or faded out? What roles do the sexes have? What power relationships exist? How do men and women, parents and children, young people and old, superiors and subordinates deal with one another?

Thus we want to examine the signs (and omens) of the latent changes which surfaced so explosively in 1956 and 1989 and led not only to the known cataclysms in Soviet history. These treasures that landed so spectacularly in the archive can provide us with insights into the atmosphere before and after two historical turning points, which left their mark on film in very different ways.

Biography of Oksana Bulgakowa
Biography of Dietmar Hochmuth