AV06 – Ingo Petzke: Northern Lights




AV06 / Region Code 0 / SlimCase

also available: Streaming as VOD

Total DVD running time: 120 mins

If we really strive for emancipation from visual maiming in the cinema, away from institutionalised viewing-schemata on TV, it is not sufficient to keep expanding the boundaries and to start breaking new visual grounds. In addition to the small avant-garde of filmmakers doing so, we need an army of others starting to sow and cultivate the ploughed-up grounds and who will bring in the harvest for the benefit of those still visually undernourished. Werner Nekes, the doyen of German Experimental Film once claimed that the first trains were more important than golden stage coaches. Well, alright then, let’s use these newly-developed means of visual trans-portation to advance into the new grounds into which the tracks have been laid down for years by the Avant-garde.

(Ingo Petzke in a manifesto in 1975)

Particularly in the ’70s and early ’80s, Ingo Petzke was a force to reckon with. This was mostly due to his effervescent, encompassing activities in the arena of experimental film: writing and teaching, starting art house cinemas and even festivals, sitting on juries and boards, running CINE PRO – Germany’s only distribution company specialised in experimental film – and even funding cash prices for budding film makers. Last but not least he was a filmmaker in his own right.

Though the films never broke quite as big, they were released in a steady, reliable stream, collecting some awards and federal funding. A closer look reveals their accurately following the trends of the time. Where Opus RUB was an exuberant mixture of student politics and naked skin much in the vein of the prevailing Underground Film, the Romance d’Amour trilogy was just that – short pieces on first love. Once Upon a Time…? aims at translating Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall into a contemporary German political context. Winterfarbe II and Atlantis are the last films accompanied by a soundtrack of popular music, even if they already breach into the field of more meditative sounds. Still, they take up the topic that would dominate the next years: travels, nature, impressions – more often than not of Northern landscape.

These later works are less meditative than geared to then-dominant Structural Film with clear concepts, repetitive patterns and the use of zoom. Also, they are obviously influenced by Petzke’s close friendship with Bastian Clevé, Werner Nekes and Dore O., the foremost German experimental filmmakers of the time. All these films from ’75 till ’80 greatly benefit from an original soundtrack composed and played by congenial musician Hendrik Schaper. Schaper and Petzke would sit down and have a close look at the ‘script’ which would exist on millimetre paper or would be any other graph. Schaper would then come up with his musical ‘translation’ of the concept, often inroads into Minimal Music.

By the ‘80s, inspiration seems to have fizzled out. This may be because Petzke started a full-time professorial career. But it may well have been because in Germany the experimental movement in general started somewhat disappearing once their dominant figures were appointed professors mostly at arts academies.

In all, the films on this DVD look like a true reflection – those were the days…

Titles included in the DVD are (in running order):

  • Once Upon a Time…?, 1972, 7 mins
    The times they were a-changing
  • Winterfarbe II, 1973, 6 mins
    The cabin in Sweden in winter
  • Atlantis, 1974, 9 mins
    Travels in Sicily, Stromboli and Vulcano
  • aussariq, 1975, 17 mins
    Following the run of the water from well to ocean
  • Rastplatz, 1975, 5 mins
    City lights at night – and maybe dreams
  • Glimtar, 1975, 16 mins
    The cabin in Sweden in summer
  • Asymptote, 1976, 11 mins
    Nights in a tunnel – lights and speed
  • Albedo 0.97, 1977, 12 mins
    Reflections of snow
  • Astragal, 1978, 12 mins
    Light, clouds and fog
  • Jesper, 1980, 13 mins
    Learning to see our surroundings
  • Hong Kong Topography: Näherungen, 1984, 12 mins
    Trying to approach the city – but constant rejection

Running time: 111 mins

Additonally, the DVD contains the full-length version of Hong Kong Topography which was conceptualised and produced as a diptyc – two filmmakers’ view on Hong Kong shortly before the UK sold its former colony to China. Part 2 is:

  • Hong Kong Topography: For Rent, Jim Shum, 1984, 9 mins