World Mirror Cinema

North American Premiere

Austria | 93 MINUTES | None |


In the first three episodes of Gustav Deutsch's ongoing project, early cinema becomes a mirror that reflects and illuminates its audience. Each installment begins with footage shot outside a theater: Vienna's Kinematograf Theater Erdberg in 1912, Surabaya's Apollo Theater in 1929, and Porto's Cinema São Mamede Infesta in 1930. Deutsch then zooms in on a man on the street, whose image dissolves into another man in different film whom he roughly resembles, as if we were glimpsing his interior life. The resulting Kuleshov effect constructs imaginary narratives these moviegoers' lives: Does that boy outside the theater dream of becoming a sideshow strongman in a Tarzan loincloth? Returning to the street scene we zoom in on another person, like a CD-ROM on autopilot. A clip from the movie playing that day is shown including, in Surabaya, Fritz Lang's Siegfried's Death. Deutsch's archival investigation of several film libraries has yielded an illuminating collection of everyday scenes, news footage, dramatic films, and cinematic curiosities including a 1906 German stag film entitled, The Sand Bath. In each segment the footage progresses from the diurnal to the downright bizarre-- from boys playing in the street to an eerie figure dancing in an empty room wearing a series of animal costumes. In his excavations, Deutsch creates both an interconnected dreamworld and a history of early 20th Century where Portuguese grape stompers and Indonesian shadow puppets happily coexist as traces on the palimpsest of memory.