1971-1974

OLDER WORK


1974 LINA BRAAKE
1974 GEORGINA'S RASONS
1974 DIE VERROHUNG DES FRANZ BLUM
1974 LENAU
1972 STROHFEUER
1971 TRIBUNAL 1982

1974

LINA BRAAKE

DIRECTED BY:
Bernhard Sinkel
LINA BRAAKE poster

"Lina" was Bernd's first film. He was one of the group of six that founded U.L.M.*, as was Kluge, also a lawyer who also gave up a brilliant career to make movies. My work on "Lina" was to find an old mansion or hotel and transform it into the main location, which was a nursing home for relatively wealthy old people on a Bavarian lake with a view of the Alps. I remember that I had a lot of work because the building we found was in bad condition, but what I remember most are the antics of the old folks from nearby institutions, who were brought in every morning on a tourist bus. What was going on incidentally behind the camera was a lot more exciting than the touching story of Lina Braake, who is arbitrarily evicted by a bank that has sold the lot holding her apartment block: quarrels, love affairs, jealousies, conspiracies and escapes. There I began to understand what I can expect if I reach this age... except that they can confiscate my apartment. More information, posters, scenes and photos have been provided by Bernhard on his comprehensive website.

I will post only what I found from our many collaborations: from this film, nothing.

* U.L.M. Acronym for Unabhängige Lichtspiel Manufaktur, namely Independent Motion Picture Manufactury. Where Lichtspiel, a word of national socialist creation, was used only because Kluge and Reitz had taught and Ula Stöckl had studied film at the school for industrial design at Ulm.

1974

GEORGINA'S REASONS

DIRECTED BY:
Volker Schlöndorff
SCRIPT:
based on the novella by Henry James

If I remember well the movie was produced for the "Novellas of Henry James" as a French-German co-production with Claude Chabrol as producer for the ORTF and the ARD by BAVARIA in Munich and maybe this was why the time remaining for pre-production was so short. So I dealt only with the costumes and Hans Gailling, friend and colleague from my student years – when we were working as assistants in record subzero temperatures – did the sets. In this movie too, the axiom stands that there is never enough money, nor was there enough time for me to have the costumes sewn at BAVARIA or other contracted workshops. I was up one whole night drawing costumes just to convince the producer that the only solution was Bermans and Nathans.

The production would send the leading actors to London for fittings as soon they signed on and when casting was finished sent photos of the other actors with their measurements. For psychological reasons I did not tell them that I hate unworn costumes sewn with modern fabrics for period clothes of 1885. Monty Berman had collected in houses and lofts on Camden Street thousands of costumes, from animal skins for Neanderthals to tights for "Superman", but also warehouses with rolls of belle époque lace and felt for World War I uniforms. The most important thing was that he had collaborators who knew their period perfectly and even dug out authentic pieces and experienced tailors to alter them.

Before leaving for London I found an auction catalog with 19th century American naïve painters and tried in vain to imitate them in my sketches, which not even Volker noticed since he had pre-raphaelite images in mind. However the British costumiers understood exactly what I was looking for and made even some new dresses for Edith Clever, two of them draped with prewar silk taffeta.

Georgina is another production from which I could not find any work photos and my dear colleague Hans, who was more tidy, passed away in 2012. On the film’s web page there are some black and white press photographs and those shot by the couturiers of Berman's during the fittings.

1974

DIE VERROHUNG DES FRANZ BLUM

THE BRUTALIZATION OF FRANZ BLUM

DIRECTED BY:
Reinhard Hauff
DIE VERROHUNG DES FRANZ BLUM poster

The screenplay was based on the autobiographical novel by Burkhard Driest, with whom Hauff wrote the script. Hauff had found for me in the bohemian district of Munich an apartment over his own and only 100 meters away from our U.L.M office, but this was not reason enough to renovate for him the shacks of a dilapidated rural prison and the abandoned wing of the state prison and former GESTAPO concentration camp at Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel, called Santa Fu in the slang of the detainees. And all this because Burkhard, shortly before graduating in law, had robbed a bank and spent three years in Germany's oldest jail at Celle. We filmed in Hamburg because we were given permission to go into an operating prison and do the renovation work with prisoners. Since then I have felt an attraction for adventurous productions and much later I learned that producers had got wind of this and offered me jobs that no sane colleague would consider. Thus I found myself in a bog in Lower Saxony cutting peat with Turkish immigrants, a job that no convicts serving long sentences in rural prisons would do anymore, or painting the prison wing with inmates and teaching them to oil their beds and stuff mattresses, jobs that I had learned in the Corps of Engineers... And because every morning when we entered and every evening when we left Santa Fu, we were subjected to full body searches, and we had a very limited number of actors and extras, sometimes I also played a convict with komboloi beads.

1974

LENAU

DIRECTED BY:
Roland Gall
SCRIPT:
Jürgen Breest, Roland Gall

Nikolaus Lenau was the nom de plume of Austrian Franz Niembsch Edler von Strehlenau, who must have been the unhappiest poet of the 19th century, a victim of the German Romantic movement, the nostalgia that became Welt-schmerz (deep melancholy and world-weariness), and Wan-derlust, the powerful urge to travel. Lenau, in Herburger's rather autobiographical story, was a wanted man, a terrorist-in-training, and in 1972 had fled and was hiding in the apartment of a "sympathizer" intellectual, whose life became unbearable, not only because of the violent ideological confrontation but also the constant threat of a raid by the counter-terrorism squad, which kept dossiers on all the sympathizers.

Director Roland Gall, a longtime friend who had helped me with my first film, asked me to set up on a RADIO BREMEN sound stage the interior and exterior of the leftist's little attic, because every time the bell rang Lenau went out the window and climbed onto the roof tiles. The only, and not uncommon, problem was the walls of the narrow apartment, which had be easily movable in order to make room for the camera. Besides the apartment there was a scene at the opening of a painting exhibition in a Bremen gallery, where Lenau suddenly appears. But since an activist wouldn’t go to just any exhibition, I thought to ask for some pictures from Yiannis Psychopedis, who was still in Munich. Yiannis sent us his most "militant" works, but he couldn’t come himself and Roland asked me to play the artist, who would collect in his beret money "for our Greek fellow fighters" against the junta. I knew the job because I had done it a few years ago for Akis in a Munich brewery, while Andreas Papandreou was speaking to Greek Gastarbeiter (guest-workers) and students. We went around collecting money in big trays shouting "for machine guns and grenades!" This was the first and last time I ever shouted for a political party or organization. But my greatest feat in this film was a mock-up (scale 1:500) of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Brücke, then the highest railway bridge in Germany, which Lenau built with matchsticks in order to find the spots where he would place explosives to blow it up. I had enough know-how from engineer corps training and making theatre models, but my inspiration was the handicraft that I had seen a year earlier in the cells of my collaborators, the inmates in the Santa Fu prison. From there I also got the courage to write into the script for "LOUFA" a cinema camera built by Papadopoulos out of matchsticks. The simulation of the explosion was done with phosphorus from the match heads and the actual bridge is still standing.

1972

STROHFEUER

A FREE WOMAN

DIRECTED BY:
Volker Schlöndorff
STROHFEUER poster

The film was probably never released in Greece because I didn’t find any evidence of distribution, nor a Greek title: The metaphoric title of the film translated into Greek would not make much sense because in our country even little spark in the straw could burn half of Attica.

The English title A FREE WOMAN reflects, at least, the effort of the housewife-protagonist to get free of her ex-husband, emancipate herself and discover her talents.

The script demanded very little in the way of sets and costumes since it was hopelessly realistic and the only dream sequence was set in an existing location: a huge fur store. However I took the job, first to meet Volker who was then competing with Fassbinder in productivity, and also to have a little holiday since the shooting seemed light and would finish in beautiful Tuscany.

During pre-production more reasons emerged why I should never have considered refusing this job: joining the team as director of photography was Sven Nykvist, then the closest collaborator of Ingmar Bergman Since that time myths circulated - especially by producers - that he lit scenes with a single large, reflected flood lamp. The other reason was Martin Lüttge whom I wanted for the key role in the little film I was preparing.

I couldn’t find any photos of the romantic location scouting in Tuscany, not even a Polaroid or catalogue of the awesome furs the dancers wore in the fur salon when they stepped down the stairs, which were of Hollywood dimensions.

I have uploaded only some scattered pictures found on the WEB since the film’s page on Volker’s website is not extremely rich.

I also found on YouTube a video with the first three minutes of "STROHFEUER", τaccompanied by an article, in German, about Schlöndorff and the vain emancipation of his protagonist, his then life companion Μargarethe von Trotta, with whom he wrote the screenplay.

1971

TRIBUNAL 1982

Before 1971 I often worked for Bavarian TV as a set designer or his assistant on educational programs, and folk-comedies in local dialect with live audiences. I even did the sets for a youth musical to make a living, but "TRIBUNAL 1982” was the first production I worked on to be filmed entirely on a set of an international tribunal, which would hear the charges in 1982(!), of third world countries against the developed ones that were exploiting them and causing epidemics and even civil wars to achieve their aims. Greece, although ruled by a third-world type junta, was not among the claimants because at that time we were buying telephone switchboards from SIEMENS and negotiating the purchase of LEOPARD 1 tanks. The interesting thing was that, although ZDF was financed by the public, its executive producer was a "production Ltd, whose main shareholder was the Evangelical Churches of the Federation States, who again were proportionally represented on the ZDF Board, according to the law for the Public Companies. A naive person, like me, could easily imagine the perfect interweaving of interests when I learned that the private company that would build the sets in its studios, was owned by the public ZDF.

For budgetary reasons, we agreed with the director and the EIKON and ZDF dramatists that we would not seek to impress with a futuristic James Bond type set design, but would place the court, for safety reasons as well, in the simple basement of a government building with polygonal ground plan and architectural concrete - which was then very fashionable - and would facilitate the lighting and the multiple camera framing. Luckily we had just finished "The Golden Thing" and I asked my partner, the sculptor Peter Tschaikner, to take care of the concrete, so I would have time to organize the difficult technical part which required functioning desk microphones, lights that wouldn't interfere with the sound, film screenings, and computer screens that we had seen only in Stanley Kubrick's "2001”. The biggest problem due to the cramped production schedule, was finding convincing furni-ture for the year 1982. I was forced to order and buy about 60 pricy chairs and armchairs from a large manufacturer, provided that I would manage to sell them at half price after filming. In the end, the absence of interested buyers forced me to provide luxurious furnishings for the offices of our then under constitution U.L.M film production company and for the main shooting location of "COMRADE HOUSEMATE", which I shot the following year, and today I still sit on some twenty of the leftovers.

Apart from a few ground plans and sections, I haven’t found anything in my folders and boxes, although I remember taking lots of pictures with exotic actors who played in the series, coming from Nigeria, I think, East Pakistan, which had just become Bangladesh, and Brazil. The only reference I found on Google is a TV pro-gramme selection from DER SPIEGEL. The series is not mentioned in the inevitably incomplete, inaccurate and even arbitrary filmographies on IMDb.

The translation of the blurb in DER SPIEGEL: "Sunday 1.10.1972 19:15 ZDF. Tribunal 1982 (colour) ZDF wants to show us the nightmare, by no means absurd, of a global catastrophe with this series of seven utopian films by Fritz Puhl (screenplay) and Stephan Rinser (direction), the consequences of which will be aired the coming Sundays at 19:15. In 1982 the third world countries demand the establishment of an international court to condemn colonialism and flawed development assistance from the industrialized countries, and hold them responsible for famine, mass unemployment and civil wars in the third world."