The starting point for The View from Our House was a particular memory recounted by Erika, an elderly aunt of one of the film-makers. She had told us, quite coldly and out of the blue, that she had heard screaming coming from what she described as a concentration camp in a garden suburb in Tempelhof, where she had lived in Berlin in the 1920s and 30s. Although this seemed an unlikely place for a camp, we were intrigued by what had been said. A little later, we discovered, close to Erika's former house, some barrack buildings and learned that one of these had been used, not as a concentration camp, but as an SA prison where people were tortured and murdered. Our intention was to make a piece of work that built out from this memory of Erika's, exploring forgotten and apparently insignificant aspects of the Nazi past whilst attempting to make them resonate in the present. We researched the area of Tempelhof and found locations, buildings and objects that we felt could relate to Erika and her memories but also to a wider past. We chose to deal with Erika's memory in a loose way. imagining and (re)inventing it whilst simultaneously basing it on personal documents.
One way in which our film engages with Erika's memory is by tentatively mapping the proximity of her house to the prison. The film flits between and around particular locations of Erika's life in Berlin and the prison. The camera formally addresses what it sees in the vicinity of Tempelhof, creating collections of things, present and past. These visual inventories halt the film's linear progress, denying the possibility of a single coherent narrative. This methodology provides a central structure for the film around which other approaches gravitate or coalesce: the urban landscape, glimpsed from S-Bahn trains, provides a journey from one idea to another, and the vague terrain of barracks and warehouses, sometimes only partially visible in the black of night, dissolves the narrative once more. Rather than moving on, the film returns – to the house and to the prison. The same spaces and surfaces are recorded from different viewpoints, in different lights and different seasons. The film offers a collage-like presentation of surfaces and built space whilst flatly refusing to reveal any of the prison's history apart from what is shown and what can be gleaned from Erika's memory.
One particular element that brings Erika directly into the history the film presents is her own photographs. These she took as an enthusiastic young photographer, in the years 1933-4 – thus overlapping with the existence of the prison. The photographs appear in the film in sudden blasts, as contact prints cut out, stuck on a page and numbered – another collection.
The presentation of these histories is, in part, matter-of-fact but at the same time, the way in which images and sounds are juxtaposed in the film attempts to make these histories more palpable, haunting and personal.
We made this film over three years, responding directly to a sense of location, season, light and weather, rather than writing a script. We chose to work with standard definition video and super 8 film as the texture of both these media seemed appropriate to convey the vague and imprecise nature of memory. We have, on occasion, used archival sound recordings (birds, trains, music), made by Erika's father, Ludwig Koch. Juxtaposed with contemporary images, their quality provides a sense of disjuncture, adding further to the texture of the film and the texture of memory. The visual and aural approach to place pursued in this film extends ideas explored within our previous long work, Stella Polare.
THE VIEW FROM OUR HOUSE I A FILM BY ANTHEA KENNEDY AND IAN WIBLIN
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