(Streetscapes [Dialogue] )
Heinz Emigholz ,
Streetscapes – Chapter III / Photography and beyond – Part 26
German theatrical release date: October 12th, 2017 - English or German with English subtitles
About the film
There are streets, paths, motorways, alleys, boulevards and promenades. And there are life paths, intersections and dead ends. Two men sit on the shady raised platform of a brick building somewhere in Montevideo. They are submerged in a conversational marathon that never ceases throughout the entire film. The younger of the two is an analyst; the older man his analysand. Their nationalities are unclear; they speak a simple, internationally understandable English. They talk about a childhood among the ruins and the traumatised people of Germany shortly after the Second World War, about fleeing, about an obsessive interest in architecture and about manic writing. And they speak about work with the film camera, which is a technical instrument for the young analyst, but a lifeline for the old film director. The starting point of the six-day marathon is the psychological and physical block that prevents the director from starting a last great film, the Streetscapes saga. The conversation, which in a slow process dissolves the director’s block, takes place in changing places in extreme architectures. The camera, which portrays them both and sets them in relation to the architecture, becomes a third partner. The camera repeatedly disengages from where they are and explores the surrounding streets and neighbourhoods before returning to the two protagonists. The shell constructions of the Uruguayan builder Eliado Dieste where they sojourn resemble gigantic braincases and thus provide a framework for the site and the theme of the project that emerges in the course of their talk: trauma and architecture.
From the exposé to the project Streetscapes
In my films on the oeuvres of certain architects or on individual buildings, the landscapes we found them in and the streets, intersections, and cities in which they were built increasingly played a dominant role. We filmed on famous streets in well-known cities, on Route 66 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, on the Graben in Vienna, on Monroe Drive in Chicago, on the Via Appia south of Rome, on the Boulevard de l’ALN in Algiers, on the Place d’Iéna in Paris, on Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi and on many other streets without naming them. And we filmed on the side streets and dead ends of deserted backwaters like Boise City, Oklahoma and in megacities like Mexico City, without naming the streets. The buildings were important to us as condensations of reality, but our gazes always wandered to the ends of the streets or continued to intersections, ensembles of plants or landscapes that weren’t directly relevant to the theme.
Sprawling and perforce anonymous design ensembles increasingly became my theme. I can no longer describe or depict the whole of our reality through reduction to an authorial architecture. Instead, it is becoming ever more necessary to describe an anonymous situation, all of whose details are furnished with the insignia of an authorship, but whose multipartite will to shape can be called almost tragic, considering the whole and its contexts. Amid this ensemble, the individual designer begins to feel like Sisyphus in the myth.
For our eyes, at any given time and in any given weather, the texture of the real appears as a continuum. The camera can shape this continuum in the individual shot with the intent to illuminate or to cloud over; it cannot subdivide it. The ‘off-screen’ of intentions and meanings will find its way into the field of vision, again and again. Not until editing does the time machine – film – leap into the next possible continuum, which keeps its surfaces just as closed as the previous picture. But the omissions that every editing or postproduction technical intervention produces mislead us into projecting a narration. Every edit between two shots and every picture-internal, animation-technical intervention is the core of a story that either continues plausibly or moves into improbability. But the connection that this pictorial language enters into with the language spoken in the film is a balance that must be found anew, an experiment, in each film.
The efforts of various companies to make all street views ‘democratically’ accessible by repeated filming and streaming of the earth’s street networks – optionally mixed with historical photos, i.e., adding a certain ‘deep time’ – suffer, like many pictorial worlds in the Internet, from the fact that they are not designed. There is no shaping selection of a consciousness behind the camera (and there can be none in this ‘encyclopaedic’ project). Instead, the task of registering everything is delegated to a machine that records everything dispassionately and senselessly. And it carries out its task summarily in a rigid production framework: long shot, dolly shot, 360º pan and zoom options that lose themselves in pixels. Our filming trips are at the other end of the spectrum of filmic possibilities: their result should be thoroughly designed, deliberate pictures that reflect a consciousness and the presence of a human brain behind the camera. The justification for our project lies in this poetically concentrated looking, and not in any kind of ‘encyclopaedic’ ambition.
Streetscapes [Dialogue] is a film manifestation of a project held in Germany and mainly in Israel for three intensive long marathons of dialogues between the two of the film writers, Heinz Emigholz and I. We met to talk, attempting to remove an obstruction of silence of the former, muting his artistic journey and darkening his life (then) into a downfallen alley. We meet to work. Not in a therapeutic encounter though the latter is a psychologist and an expert in trauma, but as two persons willing to undergo a hard journey for the designated end.
Streetscapes [Dialogue] is about giving and receiving a testimony of trauma. In fact, it all started when I invited Emigholz to my lecture I gave at the conference held at the Freie Universität Berlin on testimony. My topic was about the silence of the traumatic witnesses which is their testimony. We talked after that and Emigholz shared with me his situation. I thought we should meet for a marathon and talk about the block and his origins. I felt then that Heinz needed to give a testimony and I should be his witness of it. His silence must be heard first to turn his mutism into a path. He willingly accepted the idea. We started few months later.
My role there and then was not as psychotherapist but as a person who becomes a living witness for a testimony well buried beneath the memories. I insisted it will not have resembled a therapy. The long and intensive dialogues turned into a long continuous dialogue of a Buberian nature. It was a person to person talk as Buber conceived it, where the "space in between" ("das Zwischenmenschliche") becomes the medium throu