directors lounge monthly screenings
vom rande her
Thursday, 26 February 2015
Vom Rande her
In his films, Jan Soldat portraits people whose private life defer from the social norm. The practice of sadomasochism, or love to animals does not find understanding by many, and thus these persons have been confronted with social marginalization. Watching the films of Jan Soldat may be even more disturbing, because he does not work with theater-like enactments as it is known from many trendy productions about the SM scene. Jan Soldat meets his leading characters in their private life. Instead of creating the illusion of sexual phantasies or fulfilled desires, the filmmaker is interested in the ordinary routines of daily life. And here, he creates exceptional captivating pictures, as he meets these men at eye level and gives them space to express themselves, making them true protagonists. And, the ways he frames and later on edits the scenes with much love to those details, he creates the attention that is needed to listen to the stories told and depicted in front of the camera.
This year was the third time, Jan Soldat was invited to show at Berlinale Forum, but otherwise his work is more often shown in art-related venues and festivals instead of documentary film festivals. When he started to make his first films, he was actually interested in narrative films with a touch of B-movie or Zmovies. He then went to film school in Babelsberg, where he discovered, even though he was successful with his first feature, that making documentary films fits much better with his ideas and his way of working with the camera than story-telling. At Filmuniversität Babelsberg Konrad Wolf, the students do not get exposed to any of the experimental filmmaking tradition though, thus it may be surprising that Jan Soldat's films bear many qualities connected with the that tradition.
First of all, it is the feeling of being close to his subject. The people Jan is working with seem to open up as if the filmmaker would know these people for a long time. They become real protagonists. Even though he rarely uses a hand-held camera, there is this feeling that the camera is always present. This feeling of familiarity with the leading characters, is even more surprising, as Soldat carefully frames the picture to create balanced, harmonic compositions. The men move, talk and act with such confidence, as if they would have been accompanied by a recording camera for days. With all the controversial themes Jan Soldat is dealing with, this may be his biggest talent, he seems to be able to create an atmosphere of veritable trust. Something, that is important to him, as he says. He is looking for people who want to show themselves, who have an interest in being heard. These people have been marginalized in such ways, that they do not fear to be exposed any more, instead, they are glad to meet people who at least try to understand the way they are. On the other hand, the filmmaker does not want to promote, or be used to be promoting anything. Instead, he watches with love for those human beings, a kind of "disinterested" love, and he tries to find beauty. The men in "The Incomplete" and "Law and Order" are aged and far from presenting the young and attractive men of "the scene", but their elder body is well shaped and shows confidence in being naked. The picture always gives them dignity and respect. Sometimes the photographs of Gundula Schulze-Eldowy come into mind, her way of looking for beauty and dignity in the aged body.
Going back to why his films follow certain traditions of avant-garde film, not just the presence of the camera gives the viewer a surplus of information, but the editing and the treatment gives space both to the protagonists to show how they are, and how they think. And it provides to the viewer the room to digest the information in their own way. You don't need to be interested in BDSM in order to reflect on the strange and interesting ways the human mind mingles and struggles commonly with the conflicting spaces of phantasies, desire, sexuality, daily routine, love and frustration. "The Incomplete" and "Geliebt/ Be Loved" also talk about injuries and the lack of tenderness in life, without trying to draw psychological conclusions, whereas "Law and Order" also gives glances of tenderness.
In Zucht und Ordnung/ Law and Order we watch an elder gay couple in their apartment presenting some toys and equipment of their BDSM routine. It is rather a light relaxed conversation than a sex enactment, and the scenes rather show and talk about the casual ways their live style is interwoven with their everyday homely pattern.
The way of being able to listen and watch without being given judgements by the director is what creates the atmosphere of respect and trust for both the viewer and the people being portrayed. It helps that the dramaturgical treatment is rather flat, not leading to a traditional climax in the story. In "The Incomplete" we watch Klaus, the slave, talking while he is sitting in shackles on his day bed. This leading shot continues through the film and is intersected by scenes from his kitchen, from a meeting with a master and from a visit to a prison camp. Short stories about his past, his father and his mother give pieces of information. Even here, there is no attempt to forcefully create a totality, a coherent story, especially as Klaus has a special way of talking in tropes, a rhetorical way common in the South of Germany. The interview has been edited using short fades to black, instead of trying to find a traditional intermediate picture and thus creating larger rhythm of internal images and memories versus current documentary film images. All these precisely and carefully refined tools that Jan Soldat has been developing over time and during the making of his films has lead him away from the mainstream and closer to his goal to give a true account of the unsecured discussion about the human mind that he his seeking.
The artist will be available for Q&A. German with English subtitles. Curated by Klaus W. Eisenlohr
Zucht und Ordnung | Law and Order 2012 D 8:42 min
Geliebt | Be Loved 2010 D 15:45 min**
Der Unfertige | The Incomplete 2013 D 47:53 min
**GELIEBT ist eine Produktion der Filmuniversität Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF
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