Reviews

Das Entschwundene im Gegenwärtigen Friedliche Revolution, 8.11.2009 von Angelika Ramlow

Versuchte Annäherung an die Mauer Berliner Zeitung, 7.11.2009 von Anke Westphal

Die unsichtbare Grenze entlang Die Welt, 7.11.2009 von Hanns-Georg Rodek

AVIVA-Berlin AVIVA-Berlin von Tatjana Zilg

The Vanished in the Present

An associative circumvention with open eyes – Cynthia Beatt’s “The Invisible Frame”

21 years ago, in 1988, Cynthia Beatt set off on an unsual journey with the young Tilda Swinton: following the Berlin Wall on a bicycle. From the present day perspective – 20 years after the Wall fell – CYCLING THE FRAME offers us a glimpse of a vanished island city. In Cynthia Beatt’s new film THE INVISIBLE FRAME, shot in June 2009, Tilda Swinton once again rides the border line – but this time she explores the many-faceted landscapes on both sides of the former Wall.

When Cynthia Beatt shot CYCLING THE FRAME in 1988 no one could have imagined that she was creating an unusual historical document, for the Wall fell one year later and the memory of it vanished in many places along the route. CYCLING THE FRAME is distinguished by a filmic form of expression that is, 21 years later in the new film, once again outstanding: it unfolds as an associative film poem that touches us by its interweaving of documentary material with personal reflections in the form of Tilda Swinton’s inner monologues as well as an atmosphericly dense “soundscape” that the British composer, musician and actor Simon Fisher Turner created from original sounds.

Starting from the Brandenburg Gate, Cynthia Beatt and Tilda Swinton circumvented and explored the former border of the city with the bicycle, with an open gaze, searching for traces of the Wall line that could often only be recognised, lost in the landscape, as a single lost piece of broken Wall, watchtowers, signs, or the border line sunk in asphalt. It can seldom be detected on which side of the former Wall Tilda Swinton gazes into the landscape, from West to East, or the other way round? The once stationary coordinates of perspective have vanished, are no longer determinable in the space of surburban architecture and, to a greater degree, the sprawl of meadows and lakes of the countryside encompassing Berlin. The eye can now roam where the Wall once stood, and the loss of formerly determined orientation also comprises a moment of freedom.

The ongoing discussion in Berlin about whether it was right and made sense to pull down most of the Wall and commit to its disappearance can be considered from a new angle in THE INVISIBLE FRAME. Tilda Swinton’s discrete and yet intense performance, her trenchant reflections that elude rigid thought patterns and unfurl in a moment of poetic freedom, allow the audience associative space and enables them to re-consider and newly perceive the disappearance of the Wall The filmic shots attain an almost haptic quality through the interplay of the world of images created by static camera and fluid travelling shots with the sound wall that congenially underlies the original sound, allowing the audience to sense the tangible pleasure of this motion through the open landscape – and thus conveys how very much Berlin has changed.

In the expanding nature, a once ostensibly insurmountable monument that symbolised lack of liberty and repression, the separation, demarcation and exclusion of people and places, becomes part of the process of transformation within the natural passage of time and is left to vanish. Traces must be searched for – that also has a liberating aspect. Because the once ostensibly insurmountable line of separation is now hardly discernible, it can therefore be unmasked for what it was: an unnatural and enforced thing that could not be endured. But Tilda Swinton and Cynthia Beatt also pose the question, how can something come to light that is not visible, that exists as a memory, suppressed and forgotten: the inhumanity of the individual, the suffering of the individual. And they point in passing to new walls that demarcate private property, newly studded with directives “keep out”, although under other auspices.

The filmic journey along the former Wall strip ends at the Brandenburg Gate with an inner monologue, which can be located in the area between utopia and reality: “ (….) open borders, open future, open sky, open arms, open sesame”. In the closing credits we see that the film is dedicated to the people of Palestine, wherewith the director extracts the formulated thoughts of Tilda Swinton from Berlin’s introspective viewpoint and embeds them in another part of the world, where again a Wall is being built, where places and landscapes and people are being separated and destroyed.

These fine, yet deliberately placed accentuations are typical of this seemingly playful, essayistic film, which leaves a deep and lasting impression in one’s mind.

By Angelika Ramlow, Friedliche Revolution – 8.11.2009

An Approach to the Wall

Tilda Swinton cycling and searching for traces of German history: Cycling the Frame and The Invisible Frame

In the summer of 2009 Tilda Swinton set off on an extensive bicycle tour. She rode through Berlin and circled the city where the Wall once ran. Swinton was, in a sense, riding along a phantom because the fate of this functional structure from the GDR-era was sealed when the German-German partition ended in late autumn of 1989. The British film director Cynthia Beatt filmed this journey and gave it the conclusive title „The Invisible Frame“. (Correction: It was the director, not Swinton, who made this tour and it was she, who selected locations along the 160 km of ex-Wall line, where Swinton then ‘performed’ as the cyclist during the 18 days of filming. The film is precisely enacted).

It was not the first time the two women had worked together. Swinton had swung onto the saddle once before for Beatt: 21 years previously, when the Wall was still standing and was officially referred to in the GDR as the „anti-fascist protective wall“. In 1988 a girlish Swinton, up-and-coming in the sense of career, pedalled along the Wall – naturally only on West Berlin territory, as the GDR Government did not think of this border as art material, but rather as a deadly serious political matter. In “Cycling the Frame” Swinton rides along the enforced frame of the island city of West Berlin, while speaking of this and that. She fantasizes, associates, and groans about her exertions (“my legs”), but body and soul appear to be one in the harmonious flow of a movement held in check by warning signs and continually interrupted by the ultimate barrier.

21 years later, this uniquely terrible, German Wall no longer exists; but there are many other symbols indicative of the inclusion or exclusion, depending on the perspective. And the fact that this is determined by one’s standpoint is expressed quite clearly. Swinton encounters garden fences or railings and sometimes nature has simply retaken the space that the border installations and adjacent structures once occupied; then the bicyclist’s gaze settles on fallen trees, wildly rampant greenery, crumbling fortifications, dead tracks, decaying works.

Of course, not only the places have changed – Tilda Swinton is no longer the fee with flying red hair in floral dresses. She presents herself now as a tall, white-blond, stylized in a sense as a universal being, who has risen to search for much more comprehensive correlations of history. Her curiosity now appears friendlier, even softer, and there is something measured in her movements, which no longer reveal themselves in the context of physical exertion. In 1988 a young woman explored a world framed by force and intuitively it made no sense to her – she would have liked to shoot a hole in the Wall, so that it would fall. Now, in 2009, there is a rather well trained high priestess underway. Swinton reflections concern openness and borders; and she recites poems by William Butler Yeats and other poets while she roams about. Then again, she observes joggers and dogs, is silent before the memorial of a Wall victim, peers from a watchtower into the distance, encourages a child at play or reads from a nature reserve sign.

The movements, reflections and banalities co-exist peacefully within the measured flow of images and thoughts – which is not only comforting, but rather allows a deeply genuine approach to the difficult penning of the united Germanys. For example when Swinton compares the remains of the Wall and the GDR with “a long-gone civilisation, a prehistoric one we cannot understand”. The essence is buried under shame and re-written history. “Open, open sesame!”, are Swinton’s final words in the film.

“Cycling the Frame” and “The Invisible Frame” are psycho-geographic, philosophical meditations. Ultimately they are concerned with withstanding the transient. If that is too ruminative, one can also see both films, now as a double-bill in the cinema, from a different angle. After all, one has just for oneself a dialogue with one of the world’s greatest actresses; the rest of the audience doesn’t really count. She cycles through our midst, almost unrecognised. At one point, she is overtaken by another bicyclist who turns and gives an appreciative whistle. Tilda Swinton bursts out laughing. She is an approachable goddess.

By Anke Westphal in the Berliner Zeitung