Muster, Clemens von Wedemeyer, Germany 2012, 79 min., German, English Subtitles world premiere
Clemens von Wedemeyer’s film Muster (Rushes, 2011–12) is an experimental work in three acts set at the former Benedictine monastery of Breitenau, near Kassel—a site that has undergone fundamental institutional and architectural changes over the past one hundred and fifty years: the monastery was first converted into a prison and then into a concentration camp before becoming a girls’ reformatory and, finally, a memorial and an open psychiatric clinic. Rushes exists in two versions: as a film for television and as an installation shown on three screens in a triangular formation, which each give a parallel view of the same place—an attempt to approach and comprehend the complexity of its subject through three different time frames. Wedemeyer achieves this by making his three main characters time-travel through three decades of the twentieth century. The German title’s double meaning refers to cinematic “rushes,” the film’s raw material, but also to different patterns in twentieth-century history that are recognizable at this site.
In the film version, which is screened in dOCUMENTA (13)’s film program, the three time levels form a linear narration, which however enfolds not chronologically, but through flashbacks and leaps in time. In 1994, the friends August and Amelie visit the Breitenau memorial with their schoolteacher, unable to really process the inconceivable events that happened there in the past. A film screening blends into 1945, when American soldiers enter the work camp, arrest the guards, and liberate the inmates, helped by a translator who resembles the schoolteacher. Back in 1994, during the students’ visit of the former reformatory cells, another backflash blends into 1970, where Amelie appears both as a reformatory girl and as the leading actress in the making of a film reminiscent of Ulrike Meinhof’s Bambule. After several more leaps into 1945 and 1994 through cinematic effects, the film ends with the demolishion of a reformatory room in 1970.
The three acts of Muster circle around three motifs—music, the body, and language—while exploring notions of imprisonment and liberation in different times. As in previous works, such as Von Gegenüber (From the Opposite Side, 2007) for Skulptur.Projekte Münster and the multimedia and multiple-screen installation The Fourth Wall(2009–10), Wedemeyer investigates cinematic notions like the subjective gaze, the relation between historical truth and storytelling, and the invisible presence of the “fourth wall” that distances the audience from the events onstage or on-screen to make the illusion possible.
The screening is followed by a conversation with Clemens von Wedemeyer, among others.