Cinema and Architecture

in 11th Seville European Film Festival

by Oscar Peyrou

Why was one of the most interesting sections of the last Seville European Film Festival (SEFF) dedicated to the German filmmaker Heinz Emigholz, a representative of post-war avant-garde cinema? Born in 1948, Emigholz started making films in the 1970s. Before filmmaking he studied drawing and, later on, philosophy and literature in Hamburg. Emigholz has been, as well as a filmmaker and director of photography, an artist, writer, producer and actor, and is currently Professor of experimental film at the University of the Arts in Berlin (since 1993) and at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.

As the director himself said on several occasions, his main objective in filmmaking is to fight with time, “produce[s] small portions of time and reunite them” and, with this, “constuct an imaginary architecture in time”. With respect to space, Emigholz says, “what interest me is the ability or inability in architecture to design and situate spaces in relation to the mind and the human body. I have always perceived space as something complicated. The internal space of my own body and the external space in wich I must move. It took me almost forty years to find a balance. My films have likely helped me to [do] this.” Emigholz‘s interest in the dimensions of time and space appeared in his first films, ”Schenec-Tadi I”, ”Arrowplane”, and ”Tide” (1972). In one of his early films, ”Hotel” (1975), Emigholz showed, on a fixed plain, a table and a chair by a window where a couple were having breakfast at different times.

Another theme of this work is time in cinema. The idea of dividing to achieve a whole is confirmed through his films. Each building appears first on a general plain and is then divided into small drawings; interiors and exteriors. Emigholz always uses human perspectives. The camera moves around the objects as if it were a human eye, with the same speed or slowness. Architects who are interested in Emigholz are those who walked out of conventional and broken schemes; from Louis Sullivan with his light steel structures, to the use of concrete by Nervi, Schindler and Loos. He works harmoniously between form and function.

This year, SEFF projected seven of Emigholz’s films; ”Sullivan‘s Banks” (2000), ”Maillart’s Bridges” (2001), ”Two Projects by Friederick Kiesler” (2009), ”Schindler ‘s Houses” (2006), ”Loos Ornamental” (2008), ”Parabeton – Pierre Luigi Nervi and Roman Concrete” (2012) and ”The Airstrip – Decampment of modernism, Part III” (The Airstrip – Aufbruch Der Moderne, Teil III). The exhibition of Emigholz’s work presented in Seville allowed, due to the variety and choice of titles, a comprehensive understanding of the work of the German director and of the importance of that work within the world of cinema and architecture.

Edited by Tara Judah