I have been wondering for quite some time now, why the major part of my life has been shaped by film. After more than fifty years, after having watched so many films in my life, after having the privilege of meeting so many people through film and because of film, and especially after so many conversations and heated debates about films, about what they have to say, and how and why they were made.
It is really strange that after all this time, I’m reminded most of
the films I saw at the very beginning. For example, in the sixties,
as a boy of fourteen and still in grammar school, I was invited to a
youth film club, with some of my classmates and the teacher, where
the pupils and teachers watched a film in the cinema together and
discussed it afterwards and during class.
There and then, the fascination with cinema and films must have hit me with its full force, because ever since that time I have used every opportunity, not just to watch films, but even more importantly; to talk about them, exchange opinions and discuss them.
That’s why it was very fortunate that several times a year, this
youth film club organized get-togethers all over Germany, where we
could watch films and – what was pretty sensational to us –in many
cases talk to the directors themselves. Of course, we wanted to know
how a film was made, why this particular film was so important to
the director, and why this or that performance or scene was this
short or this long in the film.
I still remember very well that I too had to make a film at all costs. And because cameras were far too expensive, clever photo-dealers suggested that if you bought at least two films -and they were almost prohibitively expensive- you could take out a camera for a week, free of charge. So, I bought two or three films with my pocket money and for a week I rode my bike through Germany, from one youth hostel to the next. If the money ran out during this time, it was a good idea to find a day job in the wholesale market, where you could even take a bit of fruit that hadn’t sold and also have some money for a few more days of adventure.
The subsequent time in college was again marked by cinema and film. It was also the time of experiments and underground films. As a member of the generation of 1968, that found it necessary to protest and had called for a strike at the universities, I made my own first attempts to be actively involved in film. Of course, the protests weren’t cut short by film. There were the evenings in the cinema, where Eddie Constantine's films were shown, and we created a lot of noise and mood in the cinema with pots, lids and cooking-spoons. We didn’t take in anything that happened in the film but it was worth it.
By now, it is clear to me that the move towards film is probably made in the early years, and that the fascination with cinema, with the medium of film, doesn’t just spring from watching films but to a large degree from the conversations about film and its possibilities.
A life with films... and in some way, every single one was worth engaging with.