Goethe films: Schlingensief: German Chainsaw Massacre / Holding of skulls

Schlingensief shooting Chainsaw Massacre © Filmgalerie 451

Thu, 05/17/2018

TIFF Bell Lightbox

350 King St. W.

Series co-presented with the Laser Blast Film Society & KinoVortex

Iconoclast, enfant terrible, agent provocateur. While many would call German filmmaker-performer-activist Christoph Schlingensief (1960-2010) fearless, he himself said shortly before his untimely death that to make good work, “I have to approach those I fear”. GOETHE FILMS features core Schlingensief projects that tackle the ghosts of Europe's past, present and future – fascism, capitalism, division and reunification – in his signature no-holds-barred splatter style. 

GERMAN CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE FIRST HOUR OF REUNIFICATION (Germany 1990, 63 min), directed by Christoph Schlingensief, starring Irm Hermann, Udo Kier (assistant director), production design by Uli Hanisch (The International, Perfume).
THE HOLDING OF SKULLS IS NOT MY THING! (Germany 2001, 45 min), directed by Alexander Kluge. Cultural theorist Kluge in a phone conversation with Schlingensief against the backdrop of a controversial Hamlet production in Zurich, in which Schlingensief played Fortinbras and caused a sensation by casting breakaway right-wing extremists.

3 October 1990: the official celebration of German reunification. Fireworks light the sky, the masses sing the national anthem. Schlingensief slips the camera away from the festivities to “Ossi” woman Clara, who flees to the promising West in her Trabant car, leaving her husband behind with his throat cut. Arriving in the West, she becomes the target of a butcher’s clan hunting for fresh meat from the East. “German Chainsaw Massacre” is a radical comment on German reunification, comparing the capitalist market to a meat market. The film hit German cinemas on 29 November 1990 – Schlingensief had shot it within two weeks. Aside from the cynical political commentary, “German Chainsaw Massacre” is a bloody, provocative, at times hysterical homage to trash movies like Hooper’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, or Hitchcock’s “Psycho”.

“The Holding of Skulls is not my Thing” documents a phone conversation between Alexander Kluge and Christoph Schlingensief, talking about Schlingensief’s controversial Hamlet production in Zurich. We see Schlingensief on the phone against the backdrop of scenes on the Zurich stage. For his production in 2001, Schlingensief decided against “modernizing” Shakespeare’s story. Instead, he staged a classical version – but then making a radical cut to the present: into the setting of robes, crowns and daggers, he throws a group of six former extremists, who interrupt the play and announce to the audience why they broke with their neo-Nazi past.
Christoph Schlingensief worked feverishly across opera, installation, theatre, film, political activism, radio play, TV, and writing; immersing himself and his open-mouthed audiences in horror, trash, satire, and the experimental, being honoured for it at ICA London, the Venice Biennial (winning the Golden Lion posthumously), MoMA PS1, Centre Pompidou and other prestigious institutions, Christoph Schlingensief was an ogre as well as an oracle of things to come, from new media movements to right-wing resurgence.
Born in 1960 in West Germany, Schlingensief made his first 8mm film at the age of eight. Since then he created more than 20 films, many with the support of the Goethe-Institut. After learning he had lung cancer in 2008, Schlingensief wrote about his illness and published his diary. He died in 2010. His legacy is the Opera Village Africa, an international art and educational project in Burkina Faso, which he realized together with award-winning Berlin architect Francis Kéré.

Philosopher, author, director Alexander Kluge (born 1932) and Christoph Schlingensief first met in 1993 at the funeral of actor Alfred Edel (German Chainsaw Massacre), who had played in both of their films. They became friends, and Kluge started producing a series of  TV pieces on Schlingensief’s projects, examining them in interviews and conversations, starting with an introduction to “German Chainsaw Massacre” and ending with an episode on Schlingensief’s musical theatre “Mea Culpa”, shortly before Schlingensief’s death.

The program title "Approach those you fear" references a quote by Christoph Schlingensief in a 3sat TV interview 2008.

All GOETHE FILMS are open to audience 18+. Viewer discretion advised.

Part of the Goethe Institut's focus on German film

Part of the series GOETHE FILMS: Schlingensief: Approach Those You Fear

05/10 | 6:30pm | "The 120 Days of Bottrop" by Christoph Schlingensief
05/15 | 6:30pm | "Foreigners out! Schlingensief's Container" by Paul Poet with Christoph Schlingensief