Standort: / Meldung: ""Human behavior is endlessly fascinating""

Petra Erdmann

Im Kino und auf Filmfestivals

27. 2. 2015 - 14:22

"Human behavior is endlessly fascinating"

Seit Ende der 60er Jahre erforscht Frederick Wiseman mit der Kamera Institutionen, die den amerikanischen Alltag prägen. Sozialämter, Modelagenturen, Fabriken, Klöster und Jugendgerichte - sein neuer Film widmet sich der Londoner National Gallery.

Der 85-jährige Amerikaner Frederick Wiseman zählt zu den renommiertesten Dokumentarfilmern unserer Zeit. Seit Ende der 60er Jahre erforscht Wiseman mit der Kamera Institutionen, die den amerikanischen Alltag prägen. Sozialämter, Modelagenturen, Fabriken, Klöster, Spitäler, Schulen und Jugendgerichte (wie in "Juvenile Court").

Wiseman bedient sich der Institutionen als Orte intimen Geschehens - das macht ihn seit über 50 Jahren zu einem präzisen Chronisten unserer Gesellschaft. Nahezu ohne Recherche beobachtet Wiseman den Hergang an seinen Drehorten. Es ist keine Seltenheit, dass nur 5% des massig gedrehten Materials Eingang in die fertige Dokumentation finden.

1967 geriet das Filmdebüt des studierten Juristen zum Skandal. Für "Titicut Follies" filmte Wiseman nämlich in einer Strafanstalt für geistig abnorme Rechtsbrecher, in der der Missbrauch von Insassen durch Ärzte und Wärter gegenwärtig war. Frederick Wiseman gehört einer Generation von Filmemachern an, die zu den "learning by doing" -Regisseuren zählen. Vielleicht auch, weil er sich in seinem Brotberuf als Rechtslehrer fadisiert hatte.

Frederick Wisemans neueste Kinoarbeit heißt "National Gallery". Da beobachtet Wiseman scharf und kontemplativ das Innenleben des ehrwürdigen Museums in London.

Ich habe Frederik Wiseman in Paris getroffen und wollte wissen, ob man sich heute mehr denn je als Künstler den Institutionen unterordnen muss. Geht es doch darum, das der erhoffte Promotion-Effekt über einen Film Bedingung für eine Drehgenehmigung sein könnte?

Wiseman: They may be more aware but so far it hasn't affected getting permission, and it hasn't affected the behavior. I don't think most of us have the capacity to be somebody different because we're being filmed. If we don't want out picture being taken we say 'no', or walk away, or thumb our nose or something. If we agree to be photographed - for whatever reason we may agree, whether indifference, or narcissism, or 20 other reasons, we act in ways that we are comfortable with, and that's precisely what you want. If people could change their behavior because they are being filmed then the level of acting would be much higher for the movies and the theater than it is, because there would be a much wider base of potential actors to choose from. One of the reasons you can make these films and you are able to record such a wide variety of human behavior, from violent behavior, to kindness, to banality, to all the different aspects of human behavior, is because most of us think what we do is okay. We don't see ourselves the same way other people see us, and that makes it possible to record for film this enormous complex aspects of existence.

Interview mit Frederick Wiseman

    Are the institutions you are filming in allowed to see the material afterwards? Do they have any chance to interfere?

    No. It is very clear in a written agreement in advance that I retain editorial control over the film. The only time that I've made any exception to that is the films that I've made on the military basic training manouver in "Missile", and I agreed that The Pentagon could review those movies to see whether there were any breaches in national security, and in each case I had a screening at The Pentagon, and there were no breaches of national security and they didn't request any changes to be made. For example, when I was doing "Missile", I guess there was some fear that I might stumble across a launch code, and I had no wish to know the launch codes because I'd have a lot of new friends if I knew the launch codes. In each case I was willing to take the risk, knowing that there was no risk. For example, when I made "Basic Training" in 1970, between the 1930s and 1970, when I made the movie, probably 40 million people were going through basic training, and if there was any real secrets in basic training 40 million people knew them. So there were no secrets.

    Frederick Wiseman

    Charles Haynes

    Frederick Wiseman, 2005 (CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes)

    You have been portraying institutions for almost 50 years. What still surprises you?

    What always surprises me is the variety of human behavior. I mean, in one sense, while I think the movies are dramatic narrative movies, in another sense they are also natural history, because I am having a look at the various ways we, or people, behave over the course of the time I am making the movies, and the infinite variety of human behavior is endlessly fascinating.

    I remember the first film you made "Titicut Follies" in the Sixties about a mental hospital. You came back to hospitals in other films, twenty years later. How do you see society changing through your perspective?

    Well, I don't think I can really answer that question, because it involves too vast a cultural generalisation and I am not particularly good at that. I mean, I have a hard enough time figuring out what's going on in the subject of a film, and I resist the idea. I think whatever I said would be pretentious and wrong. So I won't answer it.

    Your cinema derives from the Sixties where direct cinema was born: no comments, no interviews, almost no music. Could you compare a little bit, when you were filming in the Sixties, what that meant?

    Well, actually I don't experience any difference shooting now than I did then. I mean except I know more. I think I know more in any case. I think I have learned more about how to make a movie, but in terms of the people didn't object to being filmed then, nor did they act for the camera and the same thing is true now. I mean, the experience of making the movie in terms of dealing with the people, who are the subject of the film, is not different. Digital technology, I mean, maybe because I worked and edited with film for so many years, I prefer to work on film, but you cannot really do that anymore. Digitally you may shoot somewhat more, but not that much more. Still the best way to preserve the negative is to make a 35 master, because the technology doesn't exist yet to preserve a film shot digitally as long as films shot on film.