MENU TOTAL Christoph Schlingensief, D 1986, 81 min
Meat, Your Parents: A morbidly wicked parade of ghosts of the past, packed with black humour!
INDISKRET! talked to Christoph Schlingensief about MENU TOTAL, about film-making in Germany, about plans for the future and personal views
For those who don't know you, please tell us a bit about your career.
Born 1960 in Oberhausen, in the age of 14 founded a film club and shot super 8-films, after highschool I went to Munich and worked for Franz Seitz as second assistant camera on "Doktor Faustus". Later also as an assistant producer and second unit camera. Then I made industrial documentaries. Around the age of 22 I started out things here in the Ruhr area. With the money I had earned in Munich I started to make my first 16mm-films. One short was baught by the Goethe-Institute, and so again I had a bit of money, and at the end of 1983 I could shoot TUNGUSKA, in Rauen stone pit in Mülheim. This again was baught by television, and so I had some money to shoot MENU TOTAL. In the meantime I worked again as an operator or sound assistant every now and then. After MENU TOTAL we already shot another movie, which will only be finished in Juni.
Do you see yourself as a director in the classical sense or as a film-maker?
I don't like the expression 'film-maker' much, because it is always to do with slapping one's own back. I prefer a division of duties. The duties from financing a film up to shooting it are so diverse that I prefer a structure like in American cinema, where usually duties are devided among specialists. I think it's important for German cinema to get back on this track. The last 10 years were about auteur cinema, telling the directors' little aches and pains, big martyr storys, how much they suffered for millions of people and that they walk from the southern part of the country to Paris without shoes. All of this has become boring and superfluent in a way. People tend to fit me in this mould, too, but it's a misunderstanding, because MENU TOTAL is a cynical comedy. Some perceive of the film as being nightmarish, there is some puking and also a raping scene, but strictly speaking, it is so full on, that it can't be serious.
Do you see yourself in the tradition of a certain cinema?
You have to know some about what's important in film history, in my case, I'm still far from knowing everything. Coming close to an idol works out. But I haven't fully managed to attain the level of a certain director. Once I like something on someone, then something else on someone else. For example I like Spielberg, because I find it great, how he manages to push his films, and in the end I'm a part of it, together with 800 people, it's a rollercoaster ride. His timing ist fantastic. But on the other hand, I also like films by Resnais, oder by Buñuel, all things that work in a more difficil way. It is very difficult to find idols in Germany. This is also a problem of the people who start shooting films now, that they have to work from a vacuum.
Will you move towards a more classical story-telling cinema?
I think that I make uncertain movies, because at the moment I don't know a viewpoint which seems convincing. Already my movies are rather different from each other. The only unifying element is a religious one, not in the sense of praying and mumbling, but there is something unseizable that unites the people. The second element is having fun in unimportant things, which take themselves very serious. In Berlin for example my use of Nazi-uniforms was discussed a lot. But there is nothing that holds me back. I think I can freely grab something from the shelves, in order to give an absurd use to absurd symbols and instruments of a miserable time. I'm rather not in a provocative stance here, it is more puppet theatre, what I'm showing, parlour games.
Could you please describe MENU TOTAL from your point of view?
MENU TOTAL is a film which for many viewers has a dreamlike structure. They think that they had some of the things that appear here already in their own heads. I think it will be a lot of fun, when the film is shown in Mülheim. Starting with the amazing music of Helge, Dieter Stein and Peter Eisold, then the actors, Volker, Helge and Reinhard, who are well known here. It wil give a good kick to the film. And as I said, the film has bad taste, but not in a way that makes you suffer. And Alfred Edel, the speech bubble of the New German Cinema of the last years, can finally throw up everything that has seeped down in him.
The film has no psychology, it is still told in an experimenal way, but more feature film than TUNGUSKA. All the characters are constantly busy getting the best light. The only one caught between two stools is Joe (Helge), who ends up killing everyone, but enters a new system that suppresses him. MENU TOTAL ist actually a criminal comedy, which works in a funny way. You don't know who's the killer and the solution is not quite what you expect.
Dietrich Kuhlbrodt, actor, film critic, public prosecutor, on MENU TOTAL
I now know that the past and the generation of our elders would be totally overcome, unacademically, yet head-on. The problem is now chewed to death. I started to become attracted by the cannibalistic solution to coming to terms with the past. Especially in view of the couple Adolf-Joe and Evi The Bearded, who remain clean and survive the gourge-and-digestion massacre as the only ones.
The Kid- and Meatgeneration likes its meat well-seasoned.
I felt there was something very existentialistic about “Menu Total”. It’s the story of a little boy who exterminates this entire family. Of course, when the film came out everyone presumed I’d had a really difficult childhood. That my dad had raped me, on numerous occasions probably, and danced around in front of me dressed in women’s clothing and so on. All I can say to that is that if it happened I can’t remember it. I never saw my dad in lingerie or anything like that. I don’t remember any rapes so if it happened it must have been when I too young to be conscious of it. My grandparents weren’t that sort of people either. But there must be some deep, dark black box inside of me. A place which is hungry to tackle material like this.
- I felt there was something very existentialistic about “Menu Total”. It’s the story of a little boy who exterminates this entire family. Of course, when the film came out everyone presumed I’d had a really difficult childhood. That my dad had raped me, on numerous occasions probably, and danced around in front of me dressed in women’s clothing and so on. All I can say to that is that if it happened I can’t remember it. I never saw my dad in lingerie or anything like that. I don’t remember any rapes so if it happened it must have been when I too young to be conscious of it. My grandparents weren’t that sort of people either. But there must be some deep, dark black box inside of me. A place which is hungry to tackle material like this. (Christoph Schlingensief)
- „My best film!“ (Christoph Schlingensief)
His best film! (EPD Film)
Hang up the old celluloid meat and chew the cinephile's heart out! (Filmfest Journal, "Recipe for a total Menu", 1986, Don Ranvaud) read more...
Awards and Festivals
- Berlinale 1986, Internationales Forum des Jungen Films