Monday, September 15, 2014

Searching for Der Riese (Michael Klier / 1983)



I was recently introduced to a film through a Harun Farocki interview. In it he mentions a film called Der Riese [The Giant] directed by Michael Klier (1983), a name that has until now escaped my attention.  In the interview he describes the film as the first to be comprised solely of surveillance camera footage, creating a sort of city symphony a la Walter Ruttmann's Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927).










Farocki situates this film within an understanding of late 20th century images, which now include technically and scientifically produced images that exist outside of the dominant paradigm of education and entertainment. The images are produced for and by systems of production and management and are not designed with narrative or beauty in mind. These ideas are notably present in Farocki's own films War at a Distance (Erkennen und Verfolgen, 2003) and As You See (Wie Man Sieht, 1986) as well as a short companion to War at a Distance called Ausweg (2005).

Being a great admirer of Farocki's work, I was naturally intrigued by any film that impressed him greatly. In seeking out anything I could find on Klier's Der Riese I quickly discovered how difficult it is to come by.

All I found where some fascinating youtube clips: here, here, and here (there is some overlap in these three videos, but each one contains unique material worth viewing.)

A David Hudson piece penned for Mubi's Notebook in 2010 links to an exhibition on CCTV cinema (link) and includes this citation on Der Riese:
"The most operatic and sustained effort was Michael Klier's The Giant (1983), a wonderful experiment of back-to-back images of surveillance, well ahead of the game and making the subject more or less redundant, in that there was, and remains, little to add." (X)
The Seventh Art produced this video essay on Surveillance Cinema by Christopher Heron and Amy Cunningham, which considers Der Riese alongside the films Faceless (Manu Luksch, 2007) and Influenza (Bong Joon-ho, 2004).

I found that it screened at the Nightingale in Chicago, a wonderful place where I once saw Ne change rien (Pedro Costa, 2009), followed by a discussion of the film by Gabe Klinger and Jonathan Rosenbaum. It also seems to be in the collection of MoMa. Both links provide some contextualizing information on Der Riese.

I've been unable to locate this film through alternative channels, namely, I cannot find so much as a torrent or pirated copy of this film.

I guess this post is a message in a bottle. If you know how to find this film, please drop me a line!

p.s.

via Girish Shambu: a link to Harun Farocki tributes curated by David Hudson.

3 comments:

  1. Andrew, I don't have a line on the Klier film (unfortunately; it sounds great) but thought I would drop in quickly to recommend Chris Marker's immensely haunting Stopover in Dubai, a piece of surveillance cinema that attempts to narrativize the assassination of a Hamas military leader through CCTV footage and an orchestral piece. It's one of the best things I've come across in the last few years, and I think about it all the time. You can find it on Youtube, if your curious, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijVK6-85RkU

    Cheers

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  2. Wow, what a film. I can't believe that one slipped under my radar, I'm usually more aware of a Marker release. Thank you for the link! It's style recalled Farocki's Respite, which if you haven't seen it I highly recommend it. The music seems apt for this discussion: in the interview Farocki discusses Klier's use of Mahler to create a sense of narrative where there is none. In the Marker film, it gave the footage the sense of a Hitchcock thriller, but far more haunting.

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  3. Andrew, thank you for this post. Two tips to help you watch it:

    1) It's included in a DVD compilation of German Video Art: http://40yearsvideoart.de

    2) It is also available from the Goethe Institut for non-profit institutions / screenings.

    It also screened at Flaherty NYC recently, and Experimental Response Cinema will be screening it in Spring 2015.

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