What do you think of Bela Lugosi
TO DIE BEAUTIFUL - JÖRG BUTTGEREITS NOSFERATU LIVES!
“Death is a master from Germany!”, It says in the final of NOSFERATU LIVES! at the Dortmund theater. With his fourth theater production, director and TODESKING Jörg Buttgereit not only commemorates Friederich Wilhelm Murnau's classic film from 1922, but also builds an incredible bridge between film and contemporary history, in order to make one thing clear to his viewers: the cinematic cradle of the horror genre is in Germany ! This return to the roots of a genre movement that was young at the time, which was nipped in the bud a little later and forced to emigrate, harbors both hope and horror in Buttgereit's piece.
Hope that after such a long time it will be recognized that horror characters can again have a permanent place in the German cultural landscape. "Death is a master from Germany!" - a quote from Paul Celan's poem “Todesfuge” on the Holocaust - does not just refer flatly to the historical context of Murnau's film from a Germany between two world wars - Siegfried Kracauer later referred to NOSFERATU as Hitler's first media name - but rather to the immense one Influence of the film on all future generation of horror films. How much HELLRAISER's Pinhead, Freddy Krueger from NIGHTMARE and simply all of the sharp-toothed descendants of NOSFERATU owe the visual motifs of Count Orlok, is only really realized through Buttgereit's staging. Similar to SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE, the proximity to the protagonists on the studio stage allows the audience to feel almost as if they were on the set of Murnau's film. Uwe Rohbeck, who was already awarded the Critics' Prize for Buttgereit's DER ELEFANTENMENSCH (also still to be seen at the Dortmunder Schauspiel), manages the impossible: he seizes the figure of NOSFERATU so perfectly that he leaves all previous predecessors behind. Rohbeck does not imitate Schreck, Kinski or Dafoe but becomes a living undead himself - the Count. The cold shower of real horror can hardly be more tangible. Orlok's appearance almost feels like a real freakshow - a real undead is on stage to entertain the audience.
This consists mainly of a white screen behind which the actors disappear from time to time in order to depict the events in a fascinating shadow play. Accompanied by a continuous cascade of live music from the piano, which serves between gloomy mood music with touches of John Carpenter's THE FOG and almost unbelievably interwoven quotations from Bauhaus (“Bela Lugosi's dead!”) To Black Sabbath and the Rolling Stones, the speaking part is the Actors reduced to a minimum. In the NOSFERATU stage, text panels are faded in, just like in a silent film, while the good broker Hutter (Ekkehard Freye) sets off on a journey to Transylvania. Buttgereit works brilliantly with the stage lighting to reflect his terrible experiences in a shadow play that torments Hutter's wife Ellen (Annika Meier was also in GREEN FRANKENSTEIN / SEXMOSTER) every night at home. In keeping with the original, large gestures are played in silence, only interrupted by informal inserts from a narrator (Andreas Beck) who provides the (film) historical context for the audience. Even William Castle finds LIVE at NOSFERATU! his way to Transylvania for a sweet shock on the floor.
LIVES with NOSFERATU! Jörg Buttgereit sets a stage monument not just for the classic but for the entire horror genre, referring to a tradition that has slumbered undead for far too long. But NOSFERATU LIVES! is not a rude awakening but a wonderfully gloomy fairy tale hour, which everyone who loves monsters like Buttgereit will leave with a languid sigh.
The previously scheduled performances of NOSFERATU LIVE! are sold out by April. But more dates are being planned. Tickets and further information are available at www.theaterdo.de. (Kay Pinno)
Interview with Jörg Buttgereit
DEADLINE: Tell me how you got into the theater in the first place?
JÖRG BUTTGEREIT: GREEN FRANKENSTEIN wasn't my first play. I've already done a few theatrical things in Berlin. Im Hau (Hebbel am Ufer Theater) CAPTAIN BERLIN VS. HITLER and the so-called ROUGH CUTS - Buttgereits film lessons, a whole series of such unique film lessons at the theater. In 2005 my first stage work was, if you will, with GABBA GABBA HEY, the Ramones musical in Berlin. That was really a surprise. But that only happened through a friend of mine who had bought the rights to the piece, knew me from before, because I used to work for concerts and concert organizers. And Michael Schaumer from Berlin was one of these organizers. He had hired me back then to work for the Ramones in the stage pit, back in the 80s. So he knew that I was a Ramones fan and also knew my films, and when he wanted to get the Ramones musical off the ground, he asked me if I didn't want to do it. And then it was a musical.
DEADLINE: Did you have any kind of relationship with theater before or was it just a cultural temple for you?
JB: Actually, I grew up with film, but if you look at it closely, my favorite films, namely the Japanese monster films, are nothing else than filmed theater, because these monsters are always portrayed by people in costumes on stages, in front of them also are just people with cameras. You can see the wires, you can see that there are people in there, so this manual work, which is so characteristic of the theater, it did it to me. I think that's the intersection. Theater is also a kind of refuge for me because cinema is becoming more and more digital and I really don't want to have anything to do with it.
DEADLINE: Are you old school in the Tarantino sense and say "Film has to be celluloid" or do you think that digital filmmaking is not enough for the cinema or that everything that goes with it is too exhausting and complicated?
JB: No, not exhausting and complicated. I have now shot another film with GERMAN ANGST, or rather a third film. And that's also shot digitally. But I made sure that there were no digital special effects in it. For me it is important that the things that you see must be visibly handmade. I just don't value digital effects because it always seems to me as if you had to hide something afterwards that didn't work on the spot. With my films in the past, I was dependent on everything going live, because we did everything live and there was no post-production at all. It was all celluloid and not digitally cut either. In that sense, I'm not old school. I'm one of those people who are outraged when digital heads explode in one of the later Romero films. I immediately forget that, I don't take it seriously at all. It's not even bad will, but I don't appreciate it and it fizzles out for me. For me it is as if there were only a sign that says “A head is bursting here”. (laughs) But I don't see it. That's just an animation.
DEADLINE: At some point you said to yourself that filmmaking was finished for you and you turned to other things and here you have now found a safe artistic haven in which you also enjoy a certain freedom of fools ...
JB: Apparently yes. (ponders himself, puzzled). But I don't even know where that comes from. It's just a leap of faith that the theater director here gives me. He got me with the words “Don't you want to do something here? And if so, what? " brought here. That is of course great. In the meantime he asks "What can you do next year?" and he also has his own ideas. And NOSFERATU was also Kay Voges' idea and not mine. He just called at some point and asked: "Can you imagine doing NOSFERATU?" And I said: "Yeah sure!" (laughs). Sometimes there are no-brainers. In fact, I think it was the case that one of the dramaturges here once came to Gelsenkirchen, where CAPTAIN BERLIN was being recorded. And then he saw “Man, he really does theater, then he can do it somewhere else too”. They already knew that they weren't asking anything new from me, but that I would just change my location and the conditions would be better than in Berlin. It's not that easy with funding in Berlin. With CAPTAIN BERLIN or the film lessons, the budget was already relatively tight.
DEADLINE: Is that a different kind of theater than here in Dortmund?
JB: I couldn't get anything in Berlin without the Hauptstadtkulturfonds, and it just ran over the house, that is, over the venue. And here it is that I am simply employed, get a work contract. Do that and I'll say yes and they'll say and that's what you get for that. And here I don't have to worry about the actors getting paid, which I always had to do. They are fixed here, they are already there when I come and I get accused of them, so to speak, which also has its charm.
DEADLINE: Where do you see the advantages as a director in the theater when you compare it to film?
JB: That you have more time to work with the actors and not have to worry about the tech shit. Or rather, there is technology shit here, as I say, but here you can get away with it if you only deal with the actors, because the first two weeks of rehearsals take place without this technical effort. When I come with the actors on the big stage with the technology, then you are through with them and can then concentrate on the other things. In the film everything is mixed up - everything is done for the moment and this chopped up is also a bit annoying with the film.
DEADLINE: How is the further development process for a piece like NOSFERATU after the idea is there?
JB: I wrote the other pieces myself that I have done so far. I've now taken the film for the play - there isn't even a German script or a theatrical version of it. Even though NOSFERATU is a rip-off from DRACULA, but DRACULA also exists as a play - even from the 20s or 30s. I didn't have access to that now. I just watched the film and adapted it, but with the awareness that I had to do it with fewer actors than were in the film and on a stage that can do nothing, as my poor set designer always says. So no lifting platforms - nothing. The studio is kind of a workshop. It's nice and dark and very intimate, that's what I love about it, too, but we can't let NOSFERATU float from the ceiling. After three meters the headlights come up, not much is possible. But that's also a stimulus because it reduces you back to what is important. And that's usually the actors and what they bring across.
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