Još malo klasike austrijskog esperimentalnog filma. Radax je surađivao s otkačenim književnikom Konradom Bayerom a napravio je i film s Thomasom Bernhardom.
The Austrian post-war art scene was one of tricksters and jokesters performing the "avant-garde" 20 years after the fact to the audience of a stuffy petty bourgeoisie whose rooted to the soil taste had been consolidated in over a decade of Austro-fascism and National Socialism.A perfect example and the main film artifact for this trickster scene Sonne Halt! - the collaboration of Konrad Bayer and Ferry Radax - is a feverish conglomerate of nonsense text and cut-up film eschewing dramatic unity. The text - mostly consisting of cut-ups from Bayers novel Der Sechste Sinn - nervously criss-crosses in and out of the meaning of the film layer which itself jumps back and forth through space and time.------Some claim there's even a narrative hidden in there which might go like this: "A sailor arrives at the port of Buenos Aires. while at the same time appearing as a Dandy at Fegina the Riviera of Monterosso al Mare (Konrad Bayer in a double role). Both are connected in a mysterious way through some kind of inner monologue. A stylish cool beauty (Suzanne Hockenjos) is getting bored by the Dandy so he shoots down the sun from the sky possibly in order to impress her. But a very erotic Eve (Ingrid Schuppan) catches the sun and takes it away from the Dandy. Now he shoots down the moon as well but also this fails to impress the cool blonde. Angered by her indifference the Dandy destroys his whole strange world and subsequently loses Eve. Grief about her death and despair about the Lady's rejection make him turn into a sailor again. Again the sea is waiting for him."
Ferry Radax is a man of many histories. The Austrian-Hungarian filmmaker is an experimentalist, appropriation artist, screenwriter, muse, director, a “wild man.”
At seventy-five (with a twinkle in his eye, and still mustachioed), he has been celebrated from Dublin to New Delhi, most prestigiously the ‘Cross of Honour from the Austrian Government, the Asian ‘Academy Award in New Delhi,’ ‘Golden Palme’ in Cannes and upcoming, the ‘Gold Medal of the City of Vienna.’
In June, the Austrian Filmmuseum hosted two of his most important experimental films both with a connection to surrealist mind spinner Konrad Bayer (1932-1964), to honor his 75th birthday. Using a mix of documentary, fiction and multi-media elements, his movies are a theater of gentle psychological interpretation and humor, provoking intrigue into, at times, quite radical and difficult subjects.
He has a lyrical, dry way of carving words into language, recalling “concrete poetry,” quietly surfacing from the background.
His work is highly referential, with influences from Luis Bunuel’s Milky Way, Jean Cocteau’s mythic story telling, and Warholian moving color visuals, Magritte’s faceless Man in a Bowler Hat and landscapes, or music from Procol Harem, and much more to put the senses on high tension wires.
Side by side with the Wiener Gruppe, avant garde poets and performers from the mid- 1950s including Konrad Bayer, Radax’s independent evolution began and he became best known for his portraits of famed Austrian intellectuals and artists – philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and playwright Thomas Bernhard. as well as Irish novelist James Joyce and other outsiders.
In all, he produced over one hundred forty films and later in life, paintings reminiscent of the American painter, Edward Hopper. He is a mirror not just of Austria where he spent part of his childhood, but the places and spaces of the world through which he has followed the journeys of his subjects.
From the start, Radax’s life path defied categorization. Christened “Feri” by his parents, in the Hungarian fashion, Radax changed his name to the English spelling early on, liking the suggestion of a ferryboat and its implications for crossings, boundaries or otherwise, that has characterized his life.
Trained with the Vienna Boys Choir, he went on to the Frankfurt Musikgymnasium where it was the spotlights on stage, he says, that inspired him to become a filmmaker. With the fears and deprivations of war a constant backdrop, he began taking photographs in the late forties with a borrowed Leica, already conscious of evolving (with) his own “voice.”
In 1949, at the age of eighteen, he went to work for the Austrian-born location and still photographer William A. Nassau on the set of The Third Man (1949-1951). It was hardly a glamorous job; he carried cameras, tripods, lamps and was the only assistant in the dark room. Yet, as there was no film making tradition in Austria at this time, excitement was in the air: filming, technically impressive, expensive not to mention, being the presence of such an imposing actor as Orson Welles.
Through cut and paste in “the Vienna underground of the time,” Radax continued to cut his teeth working on Nassau documentaries until 1955.
It may be hard to recall how gray Vienna was in those years between 1945 and 1955, divided into Russian, French, British and US zones, the economy, along with the infrastructure, in shambles. Ferry Radax lived in the Russian zone.
“Russians, arrogant” he recalls, “British, British and Americans, easy going”. Since there was nothing of the immediate past in Vienna, one had to self-invent; creativity began to explode.
“You could begin everything new, since there was no possibility to be informed about what happened before the war,” he says. America was a mythic source of hope, “Coca Cola was imperialized,” and Blue Danube Radio generated ideas for the future. Revival was the key to his generation.
While shaped by Vienna, Radax felt closed out of career opportunities, and like many others, emigrated to Germany to earn money and gain experience.
“A society of envy will throw your madness out,” Radax said, “but when you come back, they give you another chance. Like aliens from other places, you can return and make your mark.” Perhaps his own sense of alienation was the connection to his choice of numerous portrait documentaries: Joyce forced to leave Ireland, Wittgenstein’s self-imposed exile to Norway and Ireland, Thomas Bernhard who fled to the Austrian countryside to escape Vienna ‘s stifling establishment.
One of Radax’s curious and rarely seen films, The Head of Vitus Bering (1970, was screened at the Film Museum event, after a script by Bayer whom he had originally gotten to know through the Wiener Gruppe. This is about the explorer/sea captain’s somewhat surreal adventure to discover whether Asia was connected to America in the early 1700s – thus the name, Bering Strait.
Another better known cult film he made with Konrad Bayer, is Sonne Halt (1959) a bizarre castle adventure centered on a decadent Louis XIV character (not unusual for Radax to create the eccentric) who looked a little like the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz.
In 1980, he turned Joyce’s literary labyrinth, Ulysses, into one of his most well known and clever productions, Who are You, Mr. Joyce, where within the setting of Carnival in Zurich, a masquerade for ‘Bloom’s Night’ emerges.
The narrator meets the ghost of Joyce in a graveyard and follows the steps of his life to Dublin, Paris, Trieste, Zurich, through moments with his children, his lovers, “madness being the secret of genius” Joyce once wrote, which Radax surely embraced.
Other films of particular note include:
Ludwig Wittgenstein, biographical and philosophical investigations (1971-1975) took four years on and off to complete having studied in depth this philosopher’s treatise, Tractatus among other writings. This film put the then little known Wittgenstein into the world, equally established Ferry’s reputation.
Capri – Music Vanishing Away (1983-1984), tells the life a composer who goes to Capri to write his masterpiece encountering Capri as a place of creative people and dark secrets.
Thomas Bernhard – Three Days (1970) is a slow moving interview in black and white documenting this controversial writer and the making of the film at the same time, a masterpiece. - Victoria Oscarrson
Interview mit dem Filmemacher Ferry Radax
Download des Transkripts (318 KB, PDF-Format)