Thorsten Fleisch Interview About Film Authorship & Self-Reference

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thorsten fleisch dromosphere

A still from Dromosphere by Thorsten Fleisch, which explores speed & the illusion of movement

Despite his distinguishable cinematic style, experimental filmmaker Thorsten Fleisch doesn’t feel like he created his films.

That doesn’t apply to all of my films, but most of them I really do feel that I didn’t create them, as they rely on processes that reflect a certain technique that I later refined […] in directions that I found visually interesting. For example, in using crystals on film strips like in ‘Kosmos’ or a mathematical equation in ‘Gestalt’, I did not invent crystals or that formula for the equation but used it as a source material for artistic expression. In a way my material is a tool like a brush for a painter but it’s not as invisible though. […] The tools / materials I used or developed have very strong signatures themselves.

His modest views on cinema authorship remind of Roland Barthes’ Death of the Author which examines the elusive nature of literary authorship, or Drew Christie’s Allergy to Originality which deals with the remix nature of modern culture. By describing the materials and tools used in the creative process, Thorsten Fleisch gives them almost a co-creators status. Given the modern ubiquity of technology, Fleisch possibly presents a less anthropocentric and egoistic view of authorship.

I think generally speaking authorship comes from an era that is no longer valid and thus there is a great need of re-thinking and adjusting it concerning the legal implications. I don’t have any solutions or master plan though. It is a very complex topic.

Thorsten Fleisch: Dromosphere & Self-Reference

Thorsten Fleisch Dromosphere

Self-Reference in Dromosphere by Thorsten Fleisch

In the visually perplexing Dromosphere, Thorsten Fleisch explores the concept of speed and movement.

In the beginning, I wanted to explore space in a sort of four-dimensional space-time way. I built a dolly that would move the camera along a path that was connected with the exposure time. Each single-frame I would move the camera so the space would be blurred in a controlled way and thus have movement incorporated in the single frame that was independent from the movement of the camera in the following frames. So my idea was to move through a space distorted by time. I was doing all this with a 16mm Bolex camera. I was not so pleased with the results so I changed [it] to put an object (a toy sports car) on the dolly that was still connected to the camera exposure. I used a digital SLR camera […] that I would move after each single-frame shot. With this technique I was much more pleased as it visually focused [on] the idea of time-distorted space.

Dromosphere examines the illusion of movement— one of the main concepts in Chris Marker’s La Jetee—and Thorsten Fleisch has previously talked about the cinematic meaning of this perceived illusion:

Of course there are also cinematic implications; that is, the paradox of creating a moving image created with still frames. In fact, this film turns that notion inside out by showing the stillness of a moving object.

There is also a self-referential sequence in Dromosphere, which shows the filming process. Fleisch explained his interest in self-reference as more than just an artistic method.

I think this is what is one of the most interesting characteristics or features about humans as a species. Not only can we think and model things that concern us in our minds based on past experiences (experiences we made ourselves or even experiences by others), but we can also think about what thinking actually is and thus maybe break the barrier of human consciousness. From the talk shows of the 80s to social media now, humans have been consciously and unconsciously obsessed with themselves and gladly shared it with everyone else. this must be an evolutionary plan to overcome our current design.

Unlike Michael Haneke’s self-reference in Funny Games, which depicts the artifice of cinema, or Hollis Frampton’s self-reference in Poetic Justice, which presents cinema as the main topic of cinema, Thorsten Fleisch’s self-reference in Dromoshphere is a sort of self-consciousness or a hyper-awareness of the self. Thus, the self-referential sequence in Dromosphere could be the mirror test of the film.

This self-awareness of the film is ideologically similar to Frampton’s ideas about the inevitable physical presence of film in film. As he said in one of his lectures (summarized here):

Certainly a film must be about whatever appears most often in it. […] Then [film] is what all films are about.

And with its cinematic imagery, Dromosphere certainly feels like a film full of filmness.

Thorsten Fleisch & Enter The Void

In 2009, Fleisch worked with Gaspar Noe and created the opening title sequence for Enter The Void. Fleisch explained how the collaboration came about:

Gaspar had seen Energie! and he wanted some aura effects for some part of his movie ‘Enter The Void’ which was in post production at that time. He invited me to his studio in Paris and showed me parts of the movie. Then back in Berlin I was doing some studies of different high-voltage photographies to be used by the special effects company working on the film (BUF in France). Later he asked me if I could put high-voltage on the titles of the movie and I did. He very much liked the result and they made it into the credits animation (which Tom Kan did). The other studies were not used in the film. He went for a different and less flickery aura effect in the movie.

Thorsten Fleisch: About Teslapunk & How Cinema Relates To Gaming

My brother Timo who is also playing the gamer in ‘Hex Suffice Cache Ten’ is a computer scientist and works in the game industry. A few years ago when he was in between jobs we decided to make a game together. It started as a shoot-em-up for mobile but ended as a console game title. So far it has been released for Xbox One. We’re currently working on a Wii U port. My part in developing the game was the general concept, the graphics and the music and sound. I’ve always been a gamer from Atari 2600 days to now so to design a game was a great experience.

For the graphics I used a 2D collage style with old book illustrations and photos as the source material. The game has a retro sci-fi theme and so the use of vintage visual material seemed a good way to create the universe in which the game takes place. With the music I tried to create a dramatic structure that complemented the gameplay. For example in one level there is a section where the music speeds up together with the speed of the spaceship of the player, and things start to get really hectic. Or in the last level, the final boss, a Martian gramophone DJ and emperor, starts to sing on the soundtrack while he attacks the player.

For me games relate to cinema as maybe books relate to cinema. Lots of common ground, still totally different in terms of technique and experience. It’s a very new medium and I have been witnessing the evolution of games virtually from day one, which is interesting. I have only consciously lived through about a fourth of the history / evolution of cinema.

Given his eclectic portfolio so far, one begins to wonder about Fleisch’s next project. The director said he is working on an experimental horror feature called Zyntrax: Symphony of Flesh. The director promised it’s “ambitious and much darker than Hex [Suffice Cache Ten].”