Andres Veiel: Die Spielwütigen (Crazy For Acting, D 2004)


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Andres Veiel: Die Spielwütigen (Crazy For Acting, D 2004)


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Andres Veiel: Die Spielwütigen (Crazy For Acting, D 2004)
Ekkehard Knörer



Director Info

Andres Veiel is, next to Volker Koepp and theorist/essayist Harun Farocki Germany's foremost documentary filmmaker. "Black Box BRD" (2001), a double biography of a German terrorist and a German bank manager killed by terrorists, was praised by the critics, won almost all awards available and, most surprisingly perhaps, also found a huge audience - at least for documentary standards.

Veiel was born in 1959 and when still graduating in psychology began his film studies in Berlin. His breakthrough film was "Balagan", the portrait of a controversial Isreali theater group. "Die Überlebenden" (The survivors, 1996) investigated into the suicides of three young men from Veiel's home town. Veiel is currently planning another movie on Germany's history of terrorism, "Vesper, Ensslin, Bader". 


Filmmaker Andres Veiel makes a documentary on acting pupils. He shows the actors acting - and not acting. That is: in case they don't act when they seem to be not acting. "Die Spielwütigen" is a documentary. That is: in case it does not make use of or fall back to feature film structures. You have, however, to fall back on something, as life for sure does not have a form. Life, no doubt, has to be formed to be presentable as a documentary, just the way characters have to be formed to be presentable on a stage, as actors. There is, it seems, a deep and most probably subconscious connection here between the film, which insists on having a form, and the training the acting pupils undergo in order to find a form, to be put into a form that resembles what the audience readily accepts as, recognizes as: the right form in which it is done. Making a documentary. Acting.

The structure is chronologically clear. We begin in 1997, when the four characters Veiel has chosen for documenting are accepted to the Ernst-Busch-Schauspielschule, an institution, by the way (or rather: not so much by the way, but very importantly) that has managed to remain renowned even after the wall, on whose Eastern side it was and still is situated, had come down. Veiel had, in fact, chosen one of them before, in a TV prequel to this film; he has dropped two of the three whose life as beginning actors he had documented. His new film remains silent about all that. It also remains silent about the relationship between the "author" and director of this film and the actors - who don't act, but just "are real", except, of course, when they are acting, on the stages of school and, in the end, real life. "Die Spielwütigen" subscribes to an ideology of documenting without interfering. Which, you could argue, is always caught in a catch similar to the paradox of time traveling into the past. You cannot not interfere, but nonetheless you better behave yourself and refrain from consciously wreaking havoc with the ever fragile orders of life and time. You act, in short, as if it were possible not to act. This documentary very obtrusively, one could argue, insists on refraining from talking about its rather paradoxical position at all. Which might be a good thing, of course.

It, however, results, in this case, in a reproduction of clichés, or myths, or ideologies that seem almost inextricably connected to acting. These have very much to do with the thin life between acting and not acting, between the finding of a form and the dangers of art as technique. The ideology of acting is that it is your life you in away put on the line and give a form, which lies in a technique. This is, at least, the ideology still very vital in this former Eastern German school of acting (which it is: a school of acting). This ideology produces either "perfect actors" like Constanze Becker, one of the four characters whose life Veiel here documents, who very smoothly continues her acting career in the more renowned, publicly funded theaters of German cities. Or it forms (and fails to form at the same time) egos like Prodromos Antoniadis' who insists on being an artist capable of conquering the world - a hubris his teachers cannot really act against as the immodest idea of acting as an art (as opposed to: as an artistic and highly artificial technique) is implicit in their own ideology.

Or it, miraculously, fails to reign in the stubborn and most impressive individuality of one Stephanie Stremler who is not accepted at first, but, it almost seems, wills her way into this institution one year later. She seems the least estimated (of the four) by the Ernst-Busch-teachers and she is the one who is most incorruptable by any ideologies. Acting is her life in a way different from the others. The others seem to know nothing but acting and the world of theater, she however - for whom, no doubt, living is acting in a very existential manner - manages to aquire a life closely connected to acting, but still outside school. She marries an Israeli musician, she in an inoffensive way completely stays outside, it seems, and even stand above all subtle and not so subtle techniques of forming by subordination that make the Ernst-Busch-Schauspielschule seem like a perfect Foucauldian institution. And she also manages to stubbornly subvert Andres Veiel's in the other cases rather successful attempts to give his documentary and, a forteriori, the life of his characters the rather blissfully unreflecting form and order that makes it acceptable on the screens of German movie theaters, where "Die Spielwütigen" as one of very few documentary films can be seen at the moment.

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