Some of the world's foremost slow cinema pioneers were welcomed to the north-east, too. After arriving in town late afternoon on Thursday March 8, LWLies headed straight to the fabulous Tyneside Cinema for the first film in celebrated German auteur Fred Kelemen's '90s trilogy.
Right from the first frame Fate sets the tone for Kelemen's uncompromising brand of social realism. A pavement-side accordion player is lured to the hotel room of a stranger and forced to playing a soothing tango in exchange for a few crumpled Marks. In an act of sadistic exploitation, the stranger proceeds to lay down another note and challenges the Russian busker to sink a litre of cheap vodka. It's an unsettling, poetic scene that introduces the recurring Kelemen themes of apathy and survival.
Unfolding over a long dark night in Berlin, Fate is made up of a series of carefully interlaced vignettes, following the nocturnal habits of various barflies, reprobates and vultures who occupy the seedier fringes of society. It is ostensibly a film about love, loneliness and self-pity, bathed in cigarette smoke and sweat. It is also, at times, incomprehensible and inaudible, Kelemen's battered 16mm transfer making for arduous viewing. Intoxicating, for sure, but perhaps not one to recommend to those new to Kelemen's body of work.
By comparison Kelemen's next feature, Frost, is a revelation. Shot three years after Fate, yet infinitely more assured, it follows a mother and son on a nomadic journey across a frozen East German hinterland. Taking place in the week between Christmas Day and New Year's, this near-wordless odyssey is an elegant mediation on time over speed.
At 201 minutes Frost is certainly at the more languid end of the dramatic spectrum, yet it is nonetheless filled with incident. One stand out scene, in which the mother loses her son on a fog-blanketed road to nowhere in the dead of night, left us breathless in the suitably grungy environs of Newcastle's Star and Shadow Cinema.
Completing the trilogy the following day, Abendland (Nightfall) is an unavoidably bleak portrait of fractured love. Like Fate, this bittersweet fable of an estranged couple takes place over a long night. It's a long, melancholic ballad, bitter and rageful, but also disquietingly beautiful, owing much to the compositional sophistication of long-term collaborator Béla Tarr. Not quite as affecting as Frost, but a strong end to a remarkable series. - www.littlewhitelies.co.uk/features/articles/av-festival-2012-slow-cinema-weekend-18256
Visions of Doom | CPHPIX | FRED KELEMEN:Monumental visions of doom from an uncompromising outsider.
Born in West Berlin, Fred Kelemen studied art, music, philosophy, religion and drama, before he trained as a director and cinematographer at film school, and subsequently filmed for Béla Tarr on 'The Turin Horse' amongst others. He has directed five films which, aside from the trilogy in this series, count 'Kalyi' (1993) and 'Fallen' (2005).
'Hope is not a concept I work with', Fred Kelemen has said. His vision is dystopian and nihilist right down to the aesthetics of composition, which characterize his unique and exclusive production. One of the reasons why the Hungarian master director, Béla Tarr has used him as cinematographer. Even in his work with the fundamental filmic elements of time and space, Kelemen ties his almost actionless situations around the vulnerable human figure. Kelemen also insists on the cinema theatre as a sacred room in a world without hope, and the only place where ecstatic and romantic enlightenment is still possible. This is why Susan Sontag has paid tribute to him in her famous essay, 'The Decay of Cinema' (1995), where she proclaims the young German rebel, together with visionary masters such as Sokurov and Tarr, as the last stand against the obliteration of film art. The three films in this series, 'Fate', 'Frost' and 'Nightfall', form a loose trilogy on contemporary Europe.
"In Order to Shoot the Characters, You Must Love Them" | by Shmulik Duvdevani| In an eulogy on the art of cinema published by Susan Sontag in 1996, the acclaimed scholar and feminist pointed out three contemporary films that testified, so she argued, that not all was lost. The three films were Mike Leigh's "Naked", Gianni Amelio's "Lamerica" and German director Fred Kelemen's "Fate". This assertion meant a great faith in a young filmmaker, director and cinematographer that has been anointed by the Great Priestess as one of the worldwide hopes for current artistic cinema. Things are made even more flattering if we take into account the fact that "Fate" has been Kelemen's first feature length film. A cinematic work of art directed in a rough realistic style and following the nocturnal journey of a man and a woman into the realms of humiliation and unhappiness.
The Israeli cinematheques conclude this week a retrospective of the filmmaker who is also known to local cinephiles as the cinematographer of Béla Tarr's "The Man from London" and "The Turin Horse". The retrospective includes, in addition to "Fate" made in 1994, "Fallen" (2005), a film shot entirely in Riga, Latvia, and following the story of a man who happens to pass by a young woman who commits suicide by jumping off a bridge, and is obsessed by her identity, as well as "Nightfall" (1999), about two lovers in a nocturnal journey of separation and unification. This week, Kelemen's monumental work "Frost" (1998) will be screened, a 200 minutes odyssey following a mother and son who are fleeing their apartment and a violent husband and father. Kelemen – who also conducted master classes at the Film and Television Department at Tel-Aviv University – is just about to leave Israel when we get a chance to talk about his work and his long lasting friendship and collaboration with Béla Tarr, one of the last masters of the art of cinema. "My films deal with foreignness, alienation, and Europe as a place of many different cultures and languages", Kelemen characterizes his work. "Many countries in Europe fought each other, and what unites them is the experience of wars and pain. I use this diversity in order to tell stories about people from different places that struggle for better life, to realize their dreams and desires". The relationships depicted in his films are characterized by the cruelty inflicted by low lives, especially immigrants, on each other. In this sense, they are inspired by the early films of German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder ("Fear Eats the Soul"), which also dealt with desperate figures from the margins of society. "If you want to tell something about the world we are living in, it is almost necessary to look at the weakest parts of society", Kelemen explains his interest in these protagonists. "If you want to know about the quality of a society, you have to look at the edges. That shows you how the society really is. And if you want to know something about human beings – you have to look into their secret depths. There are gaps that open in moments of crisis, situations when cracks in the surface allow you to look deeper into the human being".
Like in Tarr's films, one of the characteristics most identified with the films of Kelemen are the long takes. But these are defined by uniquely extreme emotional dynamism – something that distinguishes them from Tarr's contemplative camera movements. "I was very much influenced by music", explains Kelemen. "One of the first composers I really loved was Bartók. His compositions are based on a flow of time and modifications and small changes of movements that slowly grow from silence without harsh cuts or strong breaks. This encouraged me to make a flow of images. I find this similar idea in Tarkovsky's films and in the films of Béla Tarr". Kelemen and Tarr met accidentally in a Berlin café one afternoon and the connection continued in the film academy where Kelemen was a student and Tarr conducted a workshop. "A wonderful gift of destiny", Kelemen describes their collaboration. In 1995 Tarr invited him to shoot his middle-long film "Journey on the Plain". Nowadays, Kelemen is one of the staff members of the film school Tarr has recently founded in Sarajevo, after announcing his retirement from filmmaking. "The school continues a certain uncompromising attitude to filmmaking, requiring that you remain very faithful to your vision which should not be spoilt by commercial ideas", Kelemen characterizes the new institution. "It's a place that defends the idea of cinema as an art. That's the attitude Béla always had. Making films in a free and artistic way". Most recently, Kelemen shot an Israeli film, Joseph Pitchhadze's "Sweets" ("Sukaryot"), and has very fond memories. "I chose not to shoot 'Sweets' as an Israeli film, but as a film about human beings with human questions and problems. The film circles around very universal themes", he says. "I have to love the characters I shoot, otherwise I wouldn't be able to shoot (kill) them", he laughs. "Shooting them is not photographing the surface. It's like revealing something, finding a way to something hidden. It is only possible to catch if there's a connection and affection. That's exactly how it went with 'Sweets'. I tried to love the characters, to understand them. I never prefer one or the other. They're OK even if they create a lot of trouble. But I'm not against them. There's no difference for me whether I'm shooting a film as a director or only as a cinematographer".
The Cinema of Fred Kelemen
In the mid-'90s, Susan Sontag championed the young German director Fred Kelemen as the grate white hope for art-house cinema. Now, Tate Modern is screening a season of Kelemen's films. Sontag based her belief in Kelemen's greatness on his powerful debut, Fate (1994), a journey into a nocturnal urban world of utter desolation, tracking an accordionist who gets drunk and murders his girlfriend's lover. Since exploding onto the cinema-scene in such spectacular fashion, Kelemen has made three other features: Frost (1997), where this time the journey tracks a mother and child across a harsh German landscape in winter; Nightfall (1999), in which a man and his girlfriend undergo a dark night of the soul as they split up and then reunite; and, Fallen (2005), where a lonely archivist fails to help a woman about to commit suicide and then becomes obsessed with her. Essential to Kelemen's work is the question of personal responsibility. His characters' struggles are existential and the spirit of Kafka lurks in the shadows, while his camera doggedly pursues his protagonists in a series of amazingly choreographed long takes. Kelemen will be doing Q&A sessions after Fallen on 29/09 (7pm) at Tate Modern, on 30/10 (8:45pm) at Cine Lumiere and on 01/10 (3pm) before a screening of Fate at Tate Modern. Kultureflash, 2006 September 28
The Works Of Fred Kelemen
‘In a dark time the eye begins to see'. These are the words of poet Theodore Roethke's but could almost serve as the distilled imperative of the singular cinema of Germany's Fred Kelemen.
A genuine auteur of the new moving image, Kelemen garnered much attention for his visionary 1990s trilogy – Fate (1994), Frost (1997) and Nightfall (1999) – in which the new profound social uncertainties of an emergent, radically altered Europe and the stark personal crises of its dispossessed were explored with a rigorous formal invention and a compelling emotional intensity. His works soon found some many fans across Europe and gained an underground cult status. These first few films are still in circulation today, and have become incredibly sough after in many moving image circles. Indeed, the late Susan Sontag found in Kelemen's work an urgent relevance, a kindred spirit to the meditative, metaphysical cinema of Sokurov, Béla Tarr and Sharunas Bartas, where profound enquiries into both being and the nature of the image are primary concerns.
With his latest feature Krišana (Fallen) Kelemen continues on his defiantly chosen independent path to craft a brooding, new existential fable for an unstable new century. Swimming against the tide of almost all but contemporary cinema in his passionate and creation of a resonant, aesthetically bold and philosophically enlivened oeuvre, Kelemen's is a pressing, essential voice, needed more than ever in these all too fallen times.
Born in Berlin (West) as son of a Hungarian mother and a German father, Fred Kelemen studied painting, music, philosophy, science of religions and of theatre sciences and worked in different ways theatres as a director's assistant before he began his studies at the German Film & TV Academy Berlin (dffb) in 1989. Since that time, he has made a number of films and videos as director and collaborated as Script Writer and Director of Photography and Cameraman with several film directors like Hectór Faver, Yesim Ustaoglu, Gariné Torossian and Béla Tarr. He directed several plays at different theatres in Germany and he is working as a guest lecturer at the Centre of Cinematographical Studies of Catalania (C.E.C.C.) in Barcelona/Spain, at the School of Visual Arts (ESBAG) also in Geneva, Switzerland and at the New Latvian Cultural Academy (LKA) in Riga. Retrospectives of his work had been presented all over the world from Australia to Greenland. In 2005 retrospectives of his films will follow in many eastern European states and also in Russia. Fred Kelemen is member of the European Film Academy.
Throughout his years as an artistic and often under-hyped director, Kelemen has likened himself to the emerging avant-garde of the turn of the century. His unmissable style has accredited him with some of the fields top achievements, with nods from film festivals around the Globe, The Tate Modern will bring together his first trilogy of films for a night of pure cinema gold on weeknights throughout the coming winter, further details of these showings can be found at Tate online and in future Edition publications. Also in the new year Fred Kelemen himself will grace the Turbine Hall for an interactive session with fans and critics of his work. Expect fireworks, film and fracas as he delves into the darkest depth of his work, life, times and career. It is assured to be an unmissable night. Tickets are available from the Tate box office. - by edition Tate Modern