Passages through Christoph Schlingensief’s Cinematic Work

“First and foremost, I’m a filmmaker,” said Christoph Schlingensief in 2006 in a conversation with Alexander Kluge on the occasion of the chickenballs: der hodenpark exhibition in Salzburg’s Museum der Moderne. It was a seemingly anachronistic remark at the time: the former trash filmmaker (DAS DEUTSCHE KETTENSÄGENMASSAKER, TERROR 2000) had long since become a controversial cult figure of Berlin’s Volksbühne, had catapulted Elfriede Jelinek’s Bambiland onto the stage of Vienna’s Burgtheater and caused a furor with his Parsifal production in Bayreuth. His “Last New German Film”, DIE 120 TAGE VON BOTTROP (“The 120 Days of Bottrop”), had been released several years previously, and in the German film funding landscape, which was increasingly turning toward consumer goods, the “self-provocateur” Schlingensief, who oriented himself more toward avant-garde works by Kenneth Anger, Kurt Kren or Werner Nekes and had experimented with Super 8 in his petty bourgeois family milieu, faced walls of rejection.

And yet, double exposure, blackouts, and the “filming location” as a microbiotope in a mediatized society accompanied his theatrical work not only as metaphors, but also quite manifestly in errant projections – all the way to the animatograph, a traveling revolving stage on which the viewer could “finally step into his own (film) image.” With the monumental film shooting of THE AFRICAN TWIN TOWERS in Namibia in 2005, Schlingensief once again stretched the medium and his production resources to the limit. And when he had to deal with the diagnosis of cancer in 2008, everything in his work Eine Kirche der Angst vor dem Fremden in mir (“A Church of Fear for the Stranger in Me”) rushed toward an apocalyptic montage.

Ten years after the death of Christoph Schlingensief, around the time he would have celebrated his 60th birthday (October 24), the Viennale provides the opportunity to take a new look at his work. With the support of the executors of his estate, the festival will present childhood films, romantic Z movies of classic status and, last but not least, sketches and short films that have hardly ever or never been shown in public, culminating in works with eloquent titles such as FREMDVERSTÜMMELUNG (“Foreign Mutilation”) or the melodramatic psycho loop SAY GOODBYE TO THE STORY, which, incidentally, is also a great homage to the German actress Irm Hermann.