APPELT: We are currently witnessing major changes in the field of lighting. LED technology offers entirely new possibilities for working with light. The demise of the light bulb has led to a general reassessment of the meaning of light for the first time in many years. The film industry also finds itself confronted with new challenges. How has its situation changed in the era of digital cinema?
HORWARTH: The cinema is now shifting toward the post-cinematographic.
WIMMER: And the post-cinematographic element is the digital aspect, the change in the mode of presentation?
HORWARTH: Changes to everything. Are you familiar with Remediation, the book by David Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin? The study goes back hundreds of years and shows that new media have never appeared as something totally new and different, although they’ve often been just that. It describes how they have all stayed very close in their early forms to what is registered in people’s minds as conventional or standard. That’s why the industrywhen we stop to think about current developments in the cinematries to make digital cinema look as much like its analog predecessor as possible. This is a two-track strategy. The second track is digital 3-D technologywhich is even more spectacular and immersive than everything else. And in contrast to the 1950s, it seems to be working fairly well from the standpoint of the industry.
WIMMER: Although it still gets on one’s nerves rather quickly.
HORWARTH: Many people think that it was primarily a tool used to establish digital technology in movie theaters. That won’t necessarily remain as importantfrom a business standpointas it seems to be right now for very long. But as far as ideas about realism, about how a decent image should look on the screenthat type of conventionare concerned, the objective is not to achieve big differences. In fact, the hope is that people who go to a multiplex theater and watch a digital projection today won’t notice any difference at all. If we were to take the digital medium seriously, then we would have to start looking for what this medium really has to offer, what’s unique about it, and that would be something totally different. That would have something to do with interaction, for example.
WIMMER: Art. Art would have to do that again.
HORWARTH: In art, in the avant-garde, works by people who work deliberately with computer crashes or with the intrinsic relationships within the medium look differ completely from films by Michael Snow or Duchamp or Kubelka, who were concerned with identifying the parameters of the medium of film.
A process of “remediation” also took place around 1900, when various commercial entertainment and game technologies of the nineteenth centuryfrom the theater to optical toyswere transposed into the medium of entertainment cinema.
WIMMER: Literaturefilm has taken up all of the narrative forms of literature, in linear and non-linear narrative formsfast motion, leaps in time, flashbacks, etc.
HORWARTH: With respect to the nineteenth-century realist novel, we haven’t progressed much further, not really… In the process of developing the concept of cinema art, the theoretical work done during the 1920s, everyone was naturally intent on identifying the differences between film and the theaterEpstein, Arnheim, Balazs, and so on. But for the first twenty years, the commercial industry itself remained closely oriented in most of its fictional forms to the stage and the corresponding customary expectations of theater audiences. Their ideas about entertainment and culture were shaped primarily by theatrical presentations, such as vaudeville, traveling theaters, opera, stage plays, and the like. That was true of both bourgeois and popular culture. In other words, this process of “remediation” unfolded relatively slowly, and that will probably be the case now as well.
APPELT: The lighting industry seems to be proceeding in much the same way with respect to LED technology. Old habits and conventions are served first. An effort is made to replace old lights and lighting units with new ones that are as closely identical in terms of design and lighting effects as possible. There are commercial considerations involved, of course. Yet that’s not without its problems, as these new technologies are highly complex, and only experienced or especially creative people manage to come up with truly sound concepts. So there’s a tendency to rely on what has worked in the past, just as the early cinema drew inspiration from the theater. Has the cinema been oriented toward the theater when it comes to light as well?
HORWARTH: With respect to public presentation, you mean?
APPELT: No, with respect to filming itself.
HORWARTH: No, at first, the emulsions were very slow and lighting was designed to meet the needs of the machinery. That explains why daylight studios were so popular. One of the first film studios in Vienna, for example, was located in Neubaugasseon the attic floor. These early studios may have been modeled on the studios of visual artists. The influx of daylight through the ceiling is still visible in the great hall of the Künstlerhaus, for instance. Perhaps the earliest film studios can be compared to the large studios of Makart and other artists of the period…
There’s a wonderful film made by R.W. Paul in 1896, one of the earliest fictional filmsa love story with a kissing scene and two costumed actors that ran for ninety seconds. The film was shot on the roof of a theater in London, as there wouldn’t have been enough light anywhere else.
Studio shooting didn’t become such a highly complex matter until spotlight technology began to improve at a rapid pace. We’re all familiar with the wonderful set photos from Hollywood in the 1920s or from the UFA in Babelsberg. That really was a kind of secret science. And it produced all of the major studios with their respective experts in camera work, lighting, make-up, architecture… Those were truly fascinating workshop situations in which forty or fifty people collaborated in the shooting of a single scene.
WIMMER: And then they realized that space could be designed with light.
HORWARTH: Yes, just think of black-and-white and especially of the 1920s and people like Schüfftan, or the camera people who worked with Murnau and Sternberg. They were the first to assume the role of artists when it came to lighting design.
But then if you look at people like Méliès…he had a different background. He had previously run a magic theater and realized that the medium of film offered incredible possibilities for the kind of stop tricks he employed. But he filmed in plain, frontal stage situationsin daylight. That required a maximum of light to ensure that the lighting remained consistent in the course of his stop tricks. It certainly called for a great deal of cleverness, but was by no means comparable with the “light magic” performed by camera artists in the 1920s.
WIMMER: The goal was always liberation from dependence on daylightboth through optical means and improvements in film material.
HORWARTH: And of course that also went hand in hand with an increase in artifice.
WIMMER: And control.
HORWARTH: That movement was opposed by everyone pushing for greater realism. Nearly every innovative movement in the history of film has appealed to filmmakers to “get out of the studioThis studio bubble, this self-enclosed production setting can’t what we’re looking for from the world.” And so I think that the revival of interest in the early cinema also reflects the wish for a degree of reality that events constructed in the studio simply cannot offer. Consider, for instance, the wonderful “phantom rides,” the early films that used modern means of transportation to create a dynamic and capture an abundance of reality. Someone simply positions himself with the camera on a tram running alongside the Vienna Ring and shoots during the ride. An event constructed in the studio generates a different, completely artificial parallel reality as film. It is always a pendulum motion between the two poles. The entire history of film is the history of this pendulum motion.
WIMMER: One interesting moment is Stanley Kubrick’s film Barry Lyndon. I find it interesting because what he was trying to do there was emancipate himself from the need to use artificial light, since better film material was available by then. And then he made a historical film set in the eighteenth century, a costume movie.
HORWARTH: There you see the pendulum movement in one and the same film. He reverts to candlelight. There is real candlelight in the scenes. Yet this candlelight can appear in his film and on the screen only because the tremendous technical progress achieved elsewherenamely in the sensitivity of the emulsionmade it possible to capture an image on film. Anyone could have worked authentically with candles long before, but no one would have seen anything without the new possibilities offered by film chemistry. That’s a paradox of technological progress that makes it possible to replicate the “primitive” pretechnological authenticity of a scene from the eighteenth century with state-of-the-art technology. The dialectic of “real” and “artificial” is demonstrated here in a single example.
WIMMER: And the idea of creating a highly artificial phenomenon, a work of art, from this authenticitythat’s what I always find so fascinating. And Kubrick had a masterful hand when it came to ensuring that the one was not confused with the other.
HORWARTH: People who work in digital cinema today are best qualified, I think, to identify the differences. What does light do in the medium of film and in the digital medium? How does light make a moving image visible? The answer is completely different for the two media: the light is constantly “on” in the beam of digital cinema; the lines of the image are arranged without interruption. The whole image is never there, but there is always an image there. Yet the interrupter principle is the decisive factor in filmthat is, light and the absence of light in alternation. I recently delivered a lecture at the Cinémathèque Française at a symposium on the subject of this media shift. Halfway through the lecture I showed three short films. One of them we had bought a few years ago. It’s called 1/48 or “one forty-eight of a second” and was made a Mexican artist. The film is basically one frame long. You see black film, then the only exposed frame, and then black film again. The frame shows a clapperboard bearing the name of the artistJorge Lorenzo Flores Garza. That’s the one frame. When the film is running, you see black most of the time, but you see that this is a film that happens to be black. And then there’s light for the time required for one frameand that’s not 1/24 of a second, as most people think, but 1/48 of a second. Twenty-four images per second means in film that it is also black twenty-four times per secondnon-image. Thus this one frame is displayed for 1/48 of a second. Once, before we showed it, the people said, “You can’t see anything.” But they were wrong. Of course you see something, and very intensely. This momentary single image is incredibly vividand causes a genuine little shock. And it also illustrates a fundamental principle of film technology.
WIMMER: The predigital.
HORWARTH: Exactly [laughs], viewed from the standpoint of the digital. The predigital medium. We used to say “film,” but soon enough we will be speaking of the “predigital era.”
WIMMER: What difference does it make in the viewer’s brain when the shift occurs from this sequence of individual images to these lines, their permanence.
HORWARTH: There’s very little scholarly literature on the subject. And there’s been a great deal of dispute between “pro-digital” and “pro-film” people, who at least address it in terms of technology. The technical differences can be described objectively and can’t be ignored, even when the image looks subjectively similar or identical. Unfortunately, I know of only a few studies devoted to the physiological and perceptual effects and differences. But it would seem at least logical to me that the image and what’s seen have an entirely different presence in the brain when it’s dark for half the time I’m looking at itas is the case in analog cinema. Or conversely, when images or light strikes my eye for only half the time during which I’m watching and only the “laziness” of the eye creates the impression of a constant presence of images and light. The whole flicker effect relates to that. Many avant-garde films work deliberately with this effect. And many movie theaters have only a two-blade shutter, which is sufficient for film speeds of twenty-four images per second. But when you run an early film from the 1900s at the appropriate speed of only sixteen frames per second, then you get a strong flicker effect, a flickering image. It’s reasonable to assume that this flickering was accepted as part of the presentation in many movie theaters in those early years, and that this constant interruption was especially noticeable. You don’t have that at all in the digital medium. In film, you have this relationship between a chain of discreet images that corresponds fully with the photographic medium and the machinery that transforms this serial photographic object into the impression of continuous motion through the principle of alternation between light and the absence of light.
WIMMER: Do you know anyone in the field of perceptual psychology who deals with this issue?
HORWARTH: Unfortunately not, no one at all. I don’t think much research has been done on the experience and perception of film. I really don’t know.
WIMMER: When you go to a discotheque and expose yourself to the stroboscope effect, that also has something to do with the pleasure center. You do something with yourself or your body. Or your body does something with you for a certain period of time.
HORWARTH: I think you can best compare that to auditory or musical perceptions. You are exposed to the beat or rhythm and thus to a form of temporality that’s also superimposed with the dynamics ranging from very soft to very loud. Those could very well be related forms with which the body deals with these factors.
I should also mention two Austrian cameramen to whom all these questions could be addressed: Christian Berger, who has dealt a lot with these issues in collaboration with Bartenbach, and Martin Gschlacht, who has thought a fair amount about the question of what it is, exactly, that is created with light.
APPELT: I recently met with Christian Berger, since I’m interested in the reflector system for film lighting he developed with Bartenbach. He has a lot of experience with light, and really knows a great deal about it. He comes from this Bartenbach light camp and co-founded the Bartenbach Academy, but then moved over to film. The reason I think that cooperation with people from the film scene is so important for my project is that the people who do film lighting restage artificial light just like natural light and try to make it look as real as possible. In other words, they have the best possible experience in dealing with space. Let me get back to the candle in Kubrick’s film for a moment: the example of real candlelight used in film without the aid of artificial light. Is that still an issue for filmmakers today?
HORWARTH: Yes, that is exactly where Haneke wanted to go with The White Ribbon. He wanted Christian Berger to work only with real daylight or with candlelight, but without spotlights, in those huts, those dark abodes of servants in the early twentieth century. That’s a different situation than the one in Barry Lyndon, as Berger and Haneke shot on color film but then did the digital post-production and the prints in black and white. Nowadays, the post-production process is more or less completely digitized. They then eliminated the color and created a black-and-white that is very different than that of the 1920s, of course. The Cohen brothers used the same approach in The Man Who Wasn’t Where. I can think of several such examples of modern black-and-white films that were shot on color material because it’s so much more sensitive. Haneke couldn’t have filmed certain things like this candlelight business on black-and-white material. He definitely demanded the ultimate from Christian Berger with respect to the avoidance of non-diegetic artificial lighting.
WIMMER: As I remember, he achieved quite a bit in terms of black. I think the real problem is generating black while eliminating the color.
HORWARTH: Which is also the problem in digital processing. Digital black and film black are entirely different. One of the most famous digital restorations of recent years, which was the focus of a major presentation in Cannes featuring Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale, is Il Gattopardo. 20th Century Fox scanned the film, the negative, in 8Kin very high resolution. These days, it’s customary to project in 2K in digital cinema. As far as the “depth” of the scan is concerned, one would have to assume that an 8K scan brings out things that have never appeared in traditional film copies. The thing is, of course, that it brings out other phenomena as well, things that may not correspond to film in any way. The experience was terrific: this thoroughly cleansed image on the one hand, and the impression that all of the facial tones tended toward orange on the other. And of course we don’t see an 8K projection, since they don’t exist yet, but instead a 2K or 4K projectiona file that has been “computed down.” The relationship between the scan, the processed file, and the projection is much more precarious than in film. You might have the “best” possible scan, but if the projector isn’t properly calibrated, all the effort of two years of restoration work is wasted. Black was not a problem for me in this case. The problem was the effect of “black holes.” The black coats worn by Delon or Burt Lancaster while they were dancing didn’t look like textures moving through space and time. Instead, when you saw black, it was as completely and uniformly black as a “void.” One almost had the sense that parts of the image were missing…
WIMMER: You mean non-spatial, despatialized…
HORWARTH: Exactly. Really very strange. As if all of the fine details had been lost, which theoretically shouldn’t happen in such a good scanon the contrary. It must have had something to do with the projection.
APPELT: Herbert speaks of the non-spatial, the fact that spatial depth is lost or displaced. The same thing can happen with white. Since we’re talking about blackcan you think of any films in which darkness plays a particularly important role? We talk so much about light, but in the 1920s, scenes shot with light were predominantly dark, and light stood out as the most prominent feature. Are there cases in which the reverse is true?
HORWARTH: Not in isolation. I would say that darkness is always present in a relative sense. Darkness is prominent in film noir and expressive photography, but it can only be prominent because the light announces its presence with exclamation marks. Dark shadow or near total darkness becomes perceptible as dark when it’s penetrated by a shear of light.
WIMMER: We now have this forced darkness. In the earliest years of digital processing, everything had to be dark all around because you had to add something during post-production so that the seams wouldn’t be visible. That has since become quite unnerving because it has practically become a stylistic resource in its own right. What I mean is that the seams are the traces of processing or amalgamation in the material, where the filmed image and what is created in post-production meet, and I suspect that what was once necessary in technical terms in the early stage in the post-production of blockbusters in order to avoid negating the impression of realism in fantasy scenesdestroying the illusion, in other wordshas since been appropriated as a convenient stylistic tool by directors and is still used mercilessly for the purpose of “upgrading” even the most banal (action) sequences with dramatic dark areas as a means of heightening tension and significance. When I see that, I really do feel exposed to something like “forced darkness.”
HORWARTH: Those are two different matters. My colleagues who work with digital restoration methods at the Film Museum could tell us quite a lotnamely about what happens during this translation process. As is true of any restoration, that is also an ethically complex process. What do I have to do in order to preserve certain characteristics of the scanned film, as least as simulations in the final product? How can I prevent certain digital artifacts from intruding? How can I avoid so-called digital noise? But they’re always talking about color, bit-depth, grain, and the inner structure of the image, and not so much about light per se… Although of course ultimatelyas in analog copyingit’s all about light definition, or grading. New considerations and decisions are necessary at every point in this process. Should I use a wetgate or not, for example? In that method, the film passes through a gate during scanning and a liquid that can be added to smooth out scratches in the emulsion during the scanning process. But that can also lead to other optical problems, such as different light refractions, for instance.
APPELT: For a while, I photographed against light sources or simply photographed dark-and-light contrasts. When I viewed these images, my eye had difficulty adjusting. The result was a kind of blinding effect. That’s an entirely different way of working with light than when light merely illuminates the subject. I could imagine that it would be especially interesting, particularly in film, to have the light emerge as if it were emanating from the image, to illuminate, or blind, viewers for a moment or for the entire length of the film.
WIMMER: That brings Sugimoto to mind and those extended-length exposures in movie theaters, art deco cinemas, and drive-ins. There are two series in which he positioned the camera in the movie theater and filmed it for the entire length of a film. That produces an incredible white.
HORWARTH: Summation in the two-hour film length, during which the shutter of the photo camera was open the entire timewhat comes out is white. At the same time, the sharpness and plasticity of the surroundings, those art deco arches in large movie theaters, for example, is tremendous. The resolution of gray tones is incredible… But what actually took place while he was photographing, namely the film projection, has been expunged by white.
WIMMER: Or it adds up to become white. And then it’s as Newton taught uswhite is the sum of all colors.
HORWARTH: Of course that’s a fine example of what happens when lighting or lighting systems themselves are moved into the picture. That’s often done within the context of the modernist canon, in films by Godard, for example, where you suddenly see the spotlight or where the camera retreats so far that the fact of its having been illuminated becomes visible in the image because the equipment is visible. And then there are those cases in which light is directed toward the camera or the audience, creating a blinding effect. In all kinds of lighthouse scenes, for instance, the light rotates and strikes you right in the eyes at regular intervals. That is a theme in avant-garde film, abstract or otherwiseand a certainly in Kubelka’s Arnulf Rainer. But in Brakhage’s hand-painted films as well. He shot several films in the cathedral in Chartres, for example, focusing on the stained-glass windows. And in much the same way he also shot films that evoke the effect of stained-glass windows, although those were done by applying watercolor to transparent film. That creates an incredible mélange of colors and light that can be seen on the screen. Viewers are confronted by nothing but this play of colors and pure projector light.
WIMMER: Or Benning’s skies and cloudshis Ten Skies.
HORWARTH: Ten sequences, each ten minutes long, of ten different skies. You can’t see the earth. You see one or two airplanes, or birds, and lots of clouds, of course. And a very beautifully constructed sound design in lieu of authentic location sound. He combines multiple elements, but all you see is the sky. That always reminds me of James Turrell. I had one of my most wonderful art experiences at PS1the room Turrell made there. He simply cut a square hole in the ceiling. You enter the room, and it’s cold. When it’s cold outside, it’s cold inside as well. And you wonder, “Where am I?” Then you look up at this square and think of Malevich. The room is dark, and outside it is whatever it happens to be above the building at a given time. And that was on a late afternoon in winter. And you have this “rosy-fingered dawn” of slowly fading pink-and-orange daylight. I think Regina and I spent an hour in there, with benches all around us in the rectangular room, and we just sat there, looking out from time to time, and freezing a little.
APPELT: Can film replace something like that?
HORWARTH: Not something like that, because art truly comes in contact with reality in that work by Turrell. As a form of representation, film could serve as a substitute, of course. But we all know that we’re not really looking at the sky. We remain within that mode of film art that gives us depictions, which we don’t do in expanded cinema. I think that Anthony McCall tends to go in the same direction in film that Turrell pursues in sculpture or painting. His work entitled Line Describing a Cone from 1974 was exhibited at the X-Screen show at the MUMOK in 2004. In my view, it’s one of the greatest works in the history of film, and also one of the most exciting works in the history of the relationship between visual art and film. Line Describing a Cone is short film that shows the genesis of a white circle on a black background for thirty minutes. It begins with a point of light from which a circle begins to form very slowly. The circle is completed in thirty minutes. This circular field appears at one end of the room. At the other end is the projection booth equipped with a 16mm film projector that projects the film for thirty minutes and in a loop. In-between is a smoke-producing material. Years ago, all it took to create that effect in New York lofts was to have people smoking in the room. At the MUMOK, where smoking is prohibited of course, or in other museums, they do it by distributing dry ice or similar material in the room. The result is an astounding but simple light sculpture, a cone. The tip of the cone is the projector, and the light forms a cone that extends from one end of the room to the other. And you walk through this cone. You can enter the inside of the cone and see through the smoke how your fingers break the circle of light. Then you go back and see other people moving about within this solid-looking cone, which is obviously not solid at all, as you couldn’t pass through it if it were. I mention that only because this Turrell effect is almost palpable for me, at least as a viewer. I’m watching a film whose illusory outcome is simply a slowly forming circle on the screen, but with the additional result that is a product of reality, namely that the path from the projection point to the screen is described by a virtual sculpture created by light, which is part of my space, and I interact with that sculpture when I’m in the room.
APPELT: I experienced something very similar when I saw the work at the MUMOK. You spend quite a long time in that room, voluntarily, as in the case of Turrell’s work as well. You have this physical experience of space in both works. You observe the light in yourself. You try to sense it, to feel it. The smoke makes it visible in three dimensions, turning it into a sculpture shaped like a cone. First you enter the circle, then you leave the circle, then others enter it and you start to watch what is happening. Such moments are among the finest things light has to offersituations in which you can gain these different forms of experience.
HORWARTH: I’d like to meet Anthony McCall some day. He’s done a number of such works, and he’s been a constant presence in the discourse on art theory over the past ten years. I think he’s also working with the digital medium as well now.
Kubelka’s Arnulf Rainer is fascinating in a different way… And that reminds me of another imageMartina Kudlácek has completed a four-hour film about Kubelka she’s been working on for four years. It’s now being shown in Rotterdam. In that work she filmed a situation I’ve always found impressive, namely the reflection and play of the film Arnulf Rainer on the faces and bodies of the people in the audience. And she also filmed Kubelka himself sitting in about the third row. Since he refuses to have his films digitally reproduced, they don’t appear in Martina Kudlácek’s film. That’s actually absurd, of course, but it’s also entirely consistent: four hours of Kubelka without a “real” look at any of his films. Yet she found all kinds of ways to make those films appreciable and comprehensible. And in the case of Arnulf Rainer, the idea is that you listen to the sputtering or the silent sound for those seven minutes and see Kubelka as he watches his own film with a smile on his faceand you see the darks and lights of his film, that specific sequence of light and non-light, reflected on the artist himself. Thus indirectly, the work is spatially very palpable. Even when you “really” see the film and gaze at the screen, you notice that there’s more involved than just this illuminated rectangle Kubelka is looking at. People who watch Arnulf Rainer always have a very strong sense of space and tend to retreat a bit, so to speak. It is also nice to walk around the room while the film is running. Just to wander about, up front, in the back and right up near the screen while the film flickers on for seven and a half minutes. That is a real film! There are people who claim that Kubelka’s pursuit of the idea of “invisible cinema” is understandable only within the context of his own work, and of his Arnulf Rainer film in particular. In a certain sense, the movie theater at the Film Museum would then be the cinema dedicated to this one film … but fortunately it’s a cinema for many other films as well, of course. But there’s surely a connection between Kubelka’s cinematic thinking as a filmmaker and his thoughts on the cinema, which is the ideal setting for the medium of film.
WIMMER: I saw the film at a very unsuitable place, namely in the basement of the Galerie Kalb, while it was still located on Grünangergasse. The room is an elongated cellar with a Viennese vaulted ceiling, and at some point they decided that they wanted to project Kubelka. And he evidently wanted that as well; otherwise they wouldn’t have been permitted to show it. I watched it once in the basement, looking at the film, and once with my back to the film. Of course that’s a rather strange experience in a Viennese cellar like that.
HORWARTH: Kubelka is not at all opposed to the idea of showing these films in such settings. He’s quite happy with that as long as they are projected as films. That’s preferable to having the film shown as a digital presentation of a scan of the film in the best multiplex theater in the world, as that would be an extreme media shift.
APPELT: So is he looking for confrontation with the medium of film?
HORWARTH: That was the case with the first “invisible cinema” in New York. They had these blinders on the left and right, at head level. But it was important that they be positioned only at head level, because the idea was not to be sitting in a closed cell but to focus on the film alone. And the physical connection to everyone else in the room needed to be maintained as well. The room itself was stripped of all adornments and distracting elements. No decorations at all! That’s the classical modernist approach: everything that reminds us of theater, everything that reminds us of bourgeois representational culture is eliminated. In this case, “invisible” means that everything except for the film on the screen should be as invisible as possible and not intrude into the field of perception. And that we also have the sense of being together in a room, watching a projected sequence of events. That’s probably always a balancing act. At the latest, the business with the blinders was done at the point at which the sound was no longer mono, since that made it absurd. When the sound comes from different loudspeakers and from the side as well, I can’t block it off, as I would no longer be doing justice to the sound as the filmmaker designed it.
APPELT: Gerold Tagwerker made a video featuring film clips from Godard’s Alphaville in which he concentrated on the scenes in which the protagonist flashes the audience with a camerathat is, whenever he takes a photograph and flashes in the exact direction of the film camera. These scenes alternate with scenes in which the camera ascends or descends different types of stairs. Tagwerker was putting those scene in context to his own work.
HORWARTH: Godard often turns the camera toward the light. In Le mépris there’s also a shot into the projection booth. They’re all sitting there as in a preview roomFritz Lang and all the rest of them, and the projectionist is filmed over and over again. The view moves from the theater room through the projection window, from which the projector casts its light. I think that appears in Numéro deux as well. We frequently find similar situations even in non-modernist filmsat least in films concerned with the cinema.
Art historians often postulate a connection between Romantic painting and the lighting concepts of German directors of the 1920s. I don’t know whether Murnau himself ever commented on the Faust film along those lines, but I think that there are very strong links to Caspar David Friedrich and similar genealogies. Of course that is a completely undocumented, intuitive assumption on my part.
APPELT: In The Spirit of the Beehive, his film made in the early 1970s, Victor Erice was inspired by the paintings of Vermeer and Zurbarán. He borrowed elements of composition and the use of light from both artists. As a visual artist, I work with light all the time, often making it physically palpable. And I can imagine that developing lighting scenarios for films oriented towards these old paintings is an incredibly passionate way of dealing with material and light, one it is impossible to resist.
HORWARTH: That sculptural, three-dimensional aspect is certainly very important in situ. When I think of the photograph I bought from you, for example, I recognize a kind of film-noir element, or an “Edward Hopper touch” in it. It’s definitely film light, a film situation that you create by emphasizing the streetlights. One is reminded more of historical epochs, of films from the 1920s or 1940s, for instance, than of contemporary phenomena.
WIMMER: Because no one who goes to the movies only goes to the movies, and no one who makes films does nothing but make films. We all work with the entire visual memory that makes us what we are.
HORWARTH: Still, I think it’s obvious that we pay more attention to these things in visual art or photography. The street in Siegrun’s photograph is a contemporary street. It doesn’t signal a historical aspect. It doesn’t present a “quaint little town.” We’re definitely in the present. But the light calls historical references to mind. And then we suddenly see small-town streets in an American film noir from 1946.