Marc Bauer

The Architect, 2014
Animated film, 16mm transferred to video, color, sound, 28.15 min.
Music composed and performed by Kafka
Ed. of 5 (+ 2 AP)

Opening sequence: the impossible narration

“This is the story of a boy who, in horror at the images in Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens in 1920s Berlin, has a vision of his future.

F.W. Murnau presented his film Nosferatu in 1922.

The film is seen by many as a premonition of the arrival of National Socialism in Germany.

Murnau died after crashing his car on the way to Santa Barbara in California, the New World, in 1931.”

These four sentences launch the animation The Architect, which was made using hundreds of Plexiglas plates painted with black oil, and a final sequence done in digital color animation. This 30-minute-long silent film stems from a collaboration between Marc Bauer and the French rock band Kafka. The aim was to create a film that would be at once a video work and a stage prop for Kafka’s concerts, while also providing the film with an original soundtrack.

These four sentences constitute the narrative cornerstone upon which viewers must base their trust when seeking to unravel the complex tangle of a narration that develops by raising questions about how historical events are envisaged. These sentences build a temporal frame within which the film’s action unfolds, by indicating two dates – 1923 and 1931 – which correspond to two real events. The Architect thus seems to be clearly structured, if one pays heed to the statement that serves as an introduction. However, as of these initial claims, various elements provide clues about a falsification that will underscore the entire film, starting with the first date – that of the first screening in Berlin in “1923” –, which is erroneous, for the film was in fact previewed at Marmorsaal on March 5th 1922 to Berlin’s high society. Even if this date is corrected when the poster for Murnau’s film appears in the fourth minute of The Architect (“Nosferatu von F.W. Murnau 1922”), this dating error points to the film’s structure, which is entirely based on time-confusion, on a series of temporal paradoxes that enmesh historical truth, anachronism, rewriting of History under the form of uchronia, etc.

The introductory sentences weave a narrative thread, and from the very first images, its linearity is deconstructed. The film opens flying over a mountainous landscape, leading the viewer to the Orava Castle in Slovakia, where Murnau shot the scenes at Count Orlok’s (alias Nosferatu) castle, for the film inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This initial tracking shot opens in a forest, rises above the mountains and ends up inside the castle during the shooting of Nosferatu. However, as of these first images, space and time are contaminated. The tracking shot first grazes a mountain, yet its peak – a black rectangular protuberance – comes from another place and another time, for it has been inspired by the landscape view at Marc Bauer’s parents’ chalet in the Swiss Alps. The tracking shot then skims past the Kehlsteinhaus – Adolf Hitler’s famous “Eagle’s Nest” – which was inaugurated in 1937 on the Führer’s fiftieth birthday, and then reaches the castle where scenes from Nosferatu were filmed – we are now in 1921 for the making of a film that takes place in 1838… This first scene, much like a millefeuille, superimposes a bunch of “composite” spaces and eras, echoing the composite technique used for the opening sequence: each shot derives from the superimposition of several layers of Plexiglas, thereby creating an illusion of motion and depth of field. The composite technique used for the film infuses space and time with the dynamics of decomposition and recomposition, heightened by the juxtaposition of sites and the superimposition of eras. This in turn gives rise to potential links between incompatible space-times, hinting at the prophetic nature of Murnau’s film regarding the rise of Nazism, thus perhaps revealing the film’s murky autobiographical side while also creating narrative red herrings.

(Text by: Jean-Charles Vergne, Cinerama)