Three films on recollections and forgotten memories concerning World War 2, with work by Henri Plaat, Karel Doing and Barbara Meter. Absurdism, personal memories and experiment come together in this programme, which examines the many ways in which memories of the Second World War can be visualised.
In between war bombardments, models are showing the latest fashion in ladies’ hats from a manhole in a tarmac road. One of the made-up faces peeping out of the manhole is that of the filmmaker himself.
Henri Plaat (1936) studied at the Amsterdam Arts and Industry School (the current Gerrit Rietveld Academy). He works as a visual artist and has occupied himself with film since 1968. Frequently his films are a precipitate of his journeys through Europe, Asia, America and North Africa. Plaat lives and works in Amsterdam.
Dark Matter – Karel Doing (NL, 2014, 20 min)
The filmmaker follows the trail of his father based on an archive of family portraits and landscape photographs and experiments with film emulsion against the backdrop of the Second World War. Images of industrial buildings, wooded areas and a surreal semi-desert pass by, alternated with abstract, fast-moving shots. Karel Doing made use of chemical, biochemical and mechanical techniques to create these animated images. The outcome is a fascinating tale, told by the film material itself. Dark Matter offers a mix of sensory experience and intellectual challenge; what precisely drove Doing’s father? Why did he travel to the ends of the earth and why did he record thousands of landscapes, but hardly took any photographs of his friends, relatives and colleagues?
“Taking a selection of my father’s vast archive of landscape photographs as a starting point, I embarked on an investigation of the possibilities for creating ‘landscapes’ directly on motion picture film material.
Using yeast, salt, leaves and seaweed as reactive elements I managed to find a new way for creating images on analogue film. The yeast grew; feeding on the gelatin, the caustic power of the salt left marks in the emulsion, the acidity of the leaves attacked the film even stronger, and chlorophyll in the seaweed was absorbed; creating unexpected colours.
Additionally I experimented with organic developers and a range of chemical toning techniques and more destructive techniques such as scraping, applying acid and temporary burial of photographic material.
I used the resulting collection of images to create an experiential cinematic piece, simultaneously being a portrait of my father, an account of the largely unknown part of his life before I was born, and a moving visual painting.”
Karel Doing (1965, Canberra, Australia) makes expanded cinema, multi-screen, performative, cross-media and participatory works. His single screen works and installations are often the result of these processes and collaborations. He has worked together with individuals, groups and organizations in many European countries and in Indonesia, Suriname and the USA. His main interest is to reconnect seemingly implausible links: urban/nature, music/math, passion/ratio, analogue/digital. He lives and works in London.
In 1989 he started Studio één, an artist run lab for Super8 and 16mm filmmaking, now operating as an independent film-production company specialized in artist films.
Interview in Dutch:
Barbara Meter tells the story of her father Leo Meter based on a series of poignant letters. Leo Meter wrote them to his daughter after he had been arrested by the Gestapo and deported to the East Front. Bis an den Himmel… is a magnificently produced and touching portrait of a unique man.
“There was an article in the newspaper that suddenly struck me: someone here in Holland had found gravestones of Russian soldiers from the Second World War. The traces of what was left of the soldiers’ memory brought the remaining relatives to come and visit their gravesites. All of them were very grateful and moved. My father does not have a gravestone, and though that was not something I was after, the article awakened what I had decided long ago and it was made clear that I should do that now.
There are not many testimonies of Germans who resisted fascism – my father was one of them and I could tell it. So I dug up what I found of him – photos, letters, drawings, stories…, and recorded it. During the making of the film I felt that step by step I came closer to who he had been and also closer to the love and protection I experienced from him – even if I was too little to remember his presence clearly.
In Poland I was very close to where he had died. There were only empty fields of grain and old broken houses… such an estranged feeling that there were no signs left of the cruel fighting that had happened there. For myself this gap has been filled and I hope for some others too.”
Barbara Meter finished the Dutch Film Academy in 1963 and got an MA Film and video at the London School of Printing in 1995. Meter was co-founder of Electric Cinema, in the early 70’s a bastion of Dutch experimental cinema. Meter has made many experimental short films, and also some feature films and documentaries. She also worked as a curator of film programs, teacher and free-lance lecturer on film.