Presented by White Light Cinema
A Prescient 1983 German Film Essay
on Surveillance

Saturday, July 27 at 8:00pm, $7-10

Program Details:
DER RIESE (THE GIANT) directed by Michael Klier
(1983, 82 min, Video on DVD, West Germany)

Owing to a poorly-picked date for the previous screening, and many requests to bring this back – we’re bringing this back.

“Comprised entirely of material generated by surveillance cameras, Der Riese is a rhapsodic but ominous work depicting the world with a cold mechanical spirit. That nothing can escape the chill stare of surveillance is only the starting point of Klier’s tape. People come and go in public places-parks, department stores, banks, airports-like lifeless ciphers, unaware of the authoritarian stare of the camera. The flattened field of vision, black-and-white imagery, and sterile quality of the technology make the inhabitants of Der Riese emptied shadows. They are the signs of life; truly signs, not the flesh rendered in two dimensions. Lyrically constructed sequences unfold to the strains of Mahler and Wagner, adding an almost heroic mood to much of this dark work. But this is where Der Riese excels-footage seemingly impervious to meaning here acquires the energy of high drama. Even the unblinking eye of the surveillance camera can be foiled.” (Steve Seid, Pacific Film Archive)

“An unconventionally constructed essay video on video surveillance in public space. The video uses documentary material from remote-control surveillance cameras on public streets, squares, shopping malls, and transit spaces like airports and train stations, as well as pictures from banks, department stores, supermarkets, and private grounds and buildings. The combination of various footage in a realistic style creates the impression of a central surveillance apparatus as an anonymous, powerful subject that omnipresently sees everything without itself being visible.” (Reinhard Wolf)

“Everyday life is being increasingly checked and observed. We are watched, recorded and documented as if we are all under suspicion. What’s more this often takes place without us even knowing it. This disturbing development is partly due to technologies such as video. For instance, it is now quite normal for buildings and other aspects of public life to be guarded by surveillance cameras. In Der Riese Klier transforms the viewer into a voyeur and shows him life in a German town through the eye of one of these cameras. To the evocative music of Mahler and Wagner, we watch images of streets, airports, subway stations, department stores, banks and private houses through the ‘all-seeing’ video eye as it keeps its look-out for trouble. But it goes further than that: our constant observation must mean that our privacy is also being put at stake. Big Brother is watching us. But who’s doing the looking? Who is being protected from whom? And what is being guarded?” (Netherlands Media Art Institute)

About Michael Klier:
Born in 1943 in Karlovy Vary, studied Philosophy and History. Before he began making films himself, he acted in several films by Harun Farocki and Rudolf Thome, among others. His first film Der Riese (1983), a video documentary about video surveillance, won several international prizes. Thereafter, he developed his artistic signature with films such as Ueberall ist es besser, wo wir nicht sind (1989), Ostkreuz (1991), the documentary Out of America (1995) and Heidi M (2001). He has also directed a series of film portraits about François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Henri Alekan, Juliette Binoche and others. (Biography from Media Art Net)


Filed under: surveillance, video