Kidlat Tahimik Teil Drei: Rockets and Zwiebeltürme



INT: I feel that in your films, there is also a usually funny and light eroticism that is rarely mentioned. You use a lot of imagery, which is never obscene, but which sometimes for me has a strikingly sexual meaning, like the rockets or the Zwiebelturm.


KT: I’m not sure about the rocket ships – that I saw them as a phallic symbol. But I guess, in this day and age, there is a preoccupation with sexual nuances. So, maybe, the reference to the virgin moon, that men have trampled all over her, is something that you hear from the feminist movement. Maybe it has an erotic touch.


I thought you were referring to the encounter with the princess in “Memories of Overdevelopment”. Again I'm just finding this out now. We come from a very catholic culture, but it has been imposed on us and it makes us very, very discreet about sexual attraction.  Here in Germany people are much more to the point. Katrin’s father has a sauna, and the first time we used it I was very self-conscious about exposing myself, but of course my eye was also very curious about the anatomy - the Vollbusen culture (chuckles). I don’t think I could ever do an explicit sexual scene, but I like the idea of exploration, of children playing. So whatever erotic value this scene has, it’s just incidental.


I wanted to show, that the slave, Enrique, has encounters which affect history, but out of a very innocent impulse. We always read history and we always think that these historic decision that lead to a Waterloo or to scandal or to the fall of a government were premediated and rational. But I think you have to put the human factor. The king wants to avoid the scandal and I wanted to have a playful scene; that’s the reason that I put that there.


INT: I think the circumcision in “Perfumed Nightmare” scene is very interesting. It doesn’t have a sexual connotation but it talks about becoming a man so there’s the thin line between the innocence and the boys being made aware about their sexual organ. Before the scene starts, there’s this close up of white foam floating on the river and, for me, in a way, it’s sort of ejaculation.


KT: I think it was a very innocent intercut to move from one thing to another or to probably start with an image of “What’s this? What’s this?” Then circumcision was just something that we all have to go through and here it’s just the social pressure: “Hey, you’re 12, you’re still supot.” Supot is a paper bag. So I don’t know why certain cultures make it a thing whether you’re supot or not. That was just one of the transitions but to become a man, I don’t think the boys even think about how they’ve joined the club they are already in. They just feel like they have to do it. So it was something that we happened to film because that was usually done on the Easter Saturday.


I don’t know why they do it on Easter Saturday. Maybe that’s the day when the circumciser is free. I’ve always been wondering how people react to that. I know when it’s screened here in Europe, it becomes a very silent scene. I think people are cringing but it’s interesting enough. “Ah, that’s how it’s done there.” But the moment you hear somebody giggling in the audience, you know: “Oh, there’s a Filipino here.” The cultural perceptions of the reception of scenes I’ve seen they’re really a culturally thing. But the one scene that is very universal is the scene with the photograph for the passport. It works in every culture. It has no words, it doesn’t depend on anything. It’s a montage, maybe that’s why Charlie Chaplin was successful, when he was struggling with a smile.


INT: There are these constant transformations in your films: a Ziebelturm turns into a rocket, the Centre Pompidou turns into a UFO…


In Perfume Nightmare, I had all these rockets technology as a juxtaposition to the first world. Maybe when I had was editing it for a long time I got fascinated with the different shapes. Its like you’re noticing clouds or shadows, when you look to play with your kids. It´s like when a child is first fascinated with his matchbox cars and then they become aware of different models of cars or they zero in on what makes one car different from another. When you’re editing you go back and forth, and then later you begin to notice all these different Zwiebels. I just kept shooting and then suddenly I see: Oh, there’s a madonna and her child. Or this looks like King Kong. You get deeper and deeper and play with those nuances as an artist. But it starts with some kind of a childlike framing. You develop a very playful way of reframing things visually. Like, we’re eating and then the way you bit bread made a face and I’m always taking pictures of these things.


INT: On on level there can be this kind of a childlike wonder. But at the same time there’s another perspective. It has to do with distance. As a foreigner, you see other things. In Brecht and his concept of Verfremdung there is this idea that you only understand certain things from a distance. In Brecht´s theatre, this means creating a certain technique of seeing things anew as something strange and to get rid of the routine of seeing things or understanding things and only then when we get rid of the routine will we understand. There’s been a long struggle over the translation of this term and it’s usually translated as “estrangement” and now the common translation is “distancing”...


KT: Well, the outsider´s eye is distant. It doesn’t have the same framing the culture has imposed on people who see these things everyday. I’m not trying to distance myself, but my distance allows me to frame things in an unusual way.


INT: But you do not look at things in the way an ethnographer would. In “Perfumed Nightmare”, its like you are make an ethnographic film on Bavaria. But the typical ethnographer would usually attempt to enter a culture and see it from within, he would learn the language, understand every gesture, the objects and the rituals. But you don’t try to give up the your distance because the way you see things is more useful for your story.