FactsDance Film, 45 min, 2002
Directed by Jan Schmidt-Garre
A parable on the laws of art based on a short story by Ilse Aichinger.
A man wakes up. He is bound. The bonds leave him room to move. He performs in a circus. A woman tries to match his movements in the bonds; she fails to seduce him. The bound man finds a wolf in the forest. In his bonds he is equivalent to the wolf. He brings it to the circus. They perform in the circus. The woman cuts the bonds. The wolf almost kills the man. The woman shoots the wolf. The man goes away.
José Maria Tirado Nevada
And with an appearance by Ilse Aichinger
Choreography: Saburo Teshigawara
Music: Dimitri Schostakovitsch (String quartets Nos. 13, 14 and 15), performed by the Fitzwilliam String Quartett
Cinematography: Martin Farkas
Editor: Gaby Kull-Neujahr
Co-produced by SF DRS, ORF, ZDF/3sat and NRK
With the support of the Bavarian Film Fund FFF and of the MEDIA Programme of the European Union
Grußwort des Leiters der Redaktion Musik und Tanz beim Schweizer Fernsehen, Thomas Beck, zur Premiere "Der Gefesselte", München, 14.03.2003
Wir kennen viele Bilder für Freiheit oder Befreiung in der Literatur. Aber wohl kein anderer Schriftsteller, keine andere Schriftstellerin, hat eine so provokative Freiheitsmetapher erfunden wie Ilse Aichinger in ihrer Geschichte "Der Gefesselte". Es ist ausgerechnet eine Fessel, die hier für Befreiung, Entgrenzung steht. Ein Paradoxon, das typisch ist für die gebrochene, geschärfte, verstörende Wirklichkeit in der Literatur Ilse Aichingers.
Als Jan Schmidt-Garre mir vor 4 oder 5 Jahren erstmals von der Idee erzählte, den "Gefesselten" mit den Mitteln eines Tanzfilmes zu erzählen, stand mir die Idee sofort klar und einleuchtend vor Augen. Nur der Tanz schien uns in der Lage, die eigenartige Schwerelosigkeit der Sprache Ilse Aichingers zu übersetzen, ohne das Geheimnis ihrer Bilder zu verraten.
Dank der Choreographie von Saburo Teshigawara und der Regie von Jan Schmidt-Garre ist "Der Gefesselte" weit mehr geworden, als bebilderte – also verflachte – Literatur. Statt dessen transformiert er ein Zeichensystem in ein anderes, neues, ohne dessen empfindliches und komplexes Material zu beschädigen. Ein größeres Kompliment, glaube ich, kann man einem von Literatur inspirierten Film nicht machen.
Ich bedanke mich bei allen, die diesen Film möglich gemacht haben, und wünsche Ihnen einen inspirierenden Abend.
Toni Hildebrandt, Klassik.com
Bound is a piece of art the likes of which we will not see again for a long time. Precisely because it is so unique it contains so many riddles. Aichinger, Harfouch, Shostakovich and Teshigawara harmonize and polarize – surely this combination of such diverse great talents is what makes the magic of this project. Applaus.
Intellectual dance drama? Certainly, but done brilliantly – exciting from the very first to the last moment.
Horst Koegler, koeglerjournal 2002/2003
A multilayered, abstract piece of art which combines prose, music, acting and dance to form a new synthesis of fascination and poetry. With his various films on music, dance and the fine arts, Jan Schmidt-Garre has clearly established himself as one of the field’s most ambitious directors.
Horst Koegler, koeglerjournal 2002/2003
Keinen Tanzfilm der üblichen Art kündigt der Fernsehsender 3sat für morgen, Samstag, um 21.45 an: "Der Gefesselte" von Jan Schmidt-Garre nach einer Erzählung von Ilse Aichinger, die ihren Text selbst liest. Beteiligt sind der japanische Choreograf und Tänzer Saburo Teshigawara als Protagonist, dazu die Schauspielerin Corinna Harfouch und als Gast vom Royal Ballet José-Maria Tirado Nevado, weiterhin das Fitzwilliam String Quartet mit Ausschnitten aus Schostakowitschs 13., 14. und 15. Streichquartett. Eine wichtige, ausgesprochen stimmungssuggestive Rolle spielen die Naturschauplätze in der Umgebung von München.
Es geht um das Schicksal eines Mannes, der eines Morgens im Gras liegend erwacht und sich gefesselt wähnt, an einem Seil, und der sich in diesem Zustand der Behinderung peu à peu seine identitätsstiftende Bewegungsfreiheit erarbeitet und dabei seine eigene Grazie und Anmut entwickelt (Schmidt-Garre sieht darin "eine Parabel auf die Macht der Kunst, auf ihre den Menschen transzendierende Kraft. Auf die Dialektik von Freiheit und Form. Verwandt dem Marionettentheater-Aufsatz von Kleist"). Eines Tages entdeckt ihn der Zirkusdirektor, der von ihm so fasziniert ist, dass er ihn als Attraktion in sein Programm einbaut. Dort verliebt sich dessen Frau in ihn, ohne doch in der Lage zu sein, in seine Welt einzudringen. Im Wald kommt es zu einem Kampf des Gefesselten mit einem Wolf, der ihm instinktiv näher steht, und den er durch die Natürlichkeit seiner Bewegungen zähmt. Als die Frau schliesslich seine Fesseln durchschneidet, sieht er sich zurückgeworfen aus seiner Freiheit in die Bodenlosigkeit seiner kreatürlichen Existenz, die ihn zwingt, sich erneut seine Freiheit zu erarbeiten. Er verlässt die Frau und den Zirkus.
Entstanden ist dabei ein mehrschichtiges, abstrahiertes Kunstprodukt aus Wort, Musik, Schauspielkunst und Ausdruckstanz, dessen verschiedene Ebenen einander durchdringen und zu einer neuen Symbiose zusammenwachsen, die eine eigene Faszination, eine eigene Poesie besitzt.
Teshigawaras animalische, ausgesprochen exotisch anmutende Expressivität und Geschmeidigkeit, die Harfouch sich mit ihren schauspielerischen Mitteln anzuverwandeln sucht, ohne doch bis zu ihrem Kern vorzudringen, dazu die sehnige Schnellkraft des spanischen Tänzers als Wolf in dem äussert spannend choreografierten Kampf der beiden (der ein bisschen an die Kampftechniken fernöstlicher Filme erinnert): das entfaltet sich im Fluss einer natürlichen Ruhe, die die fünfundvierzig Minuten währende Aufführungsdauer des Films zu einem zeitsuspendierenden Schöpfungsmoment dehnen. Im Anschluss an diesen Film sendet 3sat übrigens noch eine Porträtstudie Schmidt-Garres über Teshigawara, der ja bei uns hauptsächlich durch seine Arbeiten in Frankfurt und München bekannt geworden ist.
Mit seinen diversen Filmen über Themen der Musik, des Tanzes und der bildenden Kunst gehört Jan Schmidt-Garre zu den ambitioniertesten und renommiertesten Fernsehregisseuren auf diesem Gebiet. Sein neuestes Opus bietet eine willkommene Gelegenheit, darauf hinzuweisen, dass er der Sohn von Helmuth Schmidt-Garre ist, der als Musikkritiker des Münchner Merkurs bis zu seinem Tode 1989 zu den prominentesten Vertretern seines Fachs gehörte. Zusammen mit Karl-Heinz Ruppel, seinem Kollegen von der Süddeutschen Zeitung, zählte er zu den Pionieren der sich allmählich herauskristallisierenden deutschen Ballettkritik nach dem Krieg, die für sie, die beide von der Musik herkamen, noch einen ganz anderen kulturhistorischen Stellenwert hatte als das heute der Fall ist. Als Autor der 1966 bei Friedrich in Velber erschienenen Studie "Ballett. Vom Sonnenkönig bis Balanchine" schuf er ein Standardwerk, an dem wir damaligen Novizen unsere ersten Grundkenntnisse über das Ballett erwarben. Schmidt-Garre, Ruppel, Niehaus, der Prinz zu Wied, Regner, Axel Kaun, dazu die ständig im Theatermuseum arbeitenden Mlakars... – mein Gott, was waren das doch noch für Münchner Zeiten!
On DVD with Arthaus Musik:
Ilse Aichinger: Bound
He awoke in the sunshine. But it made him close his eyes again; the light flowed down the slope, formed small streams, swept up swarms of mosquitoes, which flew low over his head, circled, tried to land and were displaced by new swarms. It was when he moved to shoo them away that he realized he was tied up.
His chances all lay in the amount of free play in the cord. He propped his elbows up on the ground to test it. As soon as it tightened he stopped, and tried it again more cautiously. If he had been able to reach the branches over his head he’d have used them to pull himself up, but he couldn’t reach them.
In the early morning light, the animal tamer, whose circus was located on the field adjoining the village, saw the bound man coming down the path, gazing thoughtfully at the ground. He watched as the man stopped and reached for something. He bent his knees, stretched out one arm to keep his balance, and with the other picked up an empty wine bottle, then straightened up again. He moved slowly, to avoid being cut by the cord, but to the circus owner it seemed like the voluntary limiting of great speed. The astonishing gracefulness of the movement enchanted him, and as the man looked around for a stone on which to break the bottle to cut the cord, the animal tamer walked across the field to him.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly present The Bound Man!" Even his opening movements drew loud cheers from the crowd and caused blood to rush to the cheeks of the animal tamer. The man rose to his feet. His own surprise was like that of a four-legged animal standing on its hind legs. The spectators found it as astounding as if they were watching a bird that voluntarily remained earthbound.
His fame grew from place to place, but his movements never changed. He had to keep practicing them during the day to keep the slack in the cord. By remaining within its limitations, it freed him and because it didn't confine him, it spurred him on and gave his leaps and bounds purpose.
Nobody knew how hard it was for the circus owner to keep the man with them or how often the man said he had had enough and wanted to move on. Later, he stopped talking about leaving. When the owner’s wife brought him his food by the river and asked him how long he would stay, he did not answer. She thought he had gotten used to – not being tied up – but not forgetting for a moment that he was tied up, and that that was all the cord would permit. She asked if it didn’t seem ludicrous to him to remain tied up, but he responded: no, he didn’t. A circus had such a large entourage, elephants, tigers, clowns – why not a man who was bound?
There were times he told her he felt as if he weren’t tied up at all. She responded that he wouldn’t ever have to feel bound if he would simply be willing to get rid of the cord. That was always an option, he replied.
One day a young wolf escaped from the circus. The owner kept quiet about it, to avoid spreading alarm, but the wolf soon began raiding the surrounding pastures and preying on the cattle. At first, people thought that the wolf had been driven to these parts by an impending severe winter. But soon they began to suspect the circus. The circus people offered the local mayors their help in the hunt, but all their efforts were to no avail.
He felt a slight elation at having lost the deadly advantage of free limbs that causes men to lose. The freedom he felt was having to adapt every twist and turn to the cord that bound him – it was the freedom of wild flowers swaying in the evening breeze.
The crowd demanded that he repeat his battle with the wolf. He said that such a thing had no place in a circus performance and the owner declared that he did not keep animals to have them slaughtered in front of an audience. But they stormed the ring and surged against the cages.
So, he had not been sufficiently on his guard against those who wanted to free him and their compassion. Had he lain too long on the riverbank? If only she had cut the cord at any other time...
He reached the river at dawn and it seemed to him as if ice floes were drifting past, and as if the first snow had fallen, taking all memories away.
(From Ilse Aichinger’s 1953 short story. Excerpt for the film "Bound," English by Chris Doherty.)
"Bound" and "Absolute Zero" – Interview
Jan Schmidt-Garre in conversation with Dinko Skapurovic, September 2005
How did the idea come about to turn Ilse Aichinger’s short story, “Bound”, written in the 1950s, into a dance performance?
I read it in a philosophy course in college and I was fascinated by it – on the one hand because of its perfect prose and on the other because of its subject matter: the dialectic between freedom and form. And I had this insidious reflex that directors probably always have when they discover something they like: I want to do something with that! After the project had been dormant for a while, it suddenly became clear to me that dance could be the right medium: dance as the transliteration of bonds.
At what stage of the project did the Japanese choreographer and dancer Saburo Teshigawara become involved?
I had looked for the right choreographer for years before I saw Teshigawara’s “Absolute Zero”. I was totally fascinated by it, especially the middle part, which I was fortunate to be able to videotape later. I thought to myself: that’s the choreographer I want for “Bound” and I want him to dance it himself – Teshigawara.
Your video of the middle part of “Absolute Zero” really does show how fascinating Teshigawara is as a dancer...
In “Absolute Zero“, there are moments that are impossible for the camera to capture. At one point he stands there with his back to the audience for two minutes before he very slowly turns around. That was so intense on the stage. The 1,000 people in the theater were totally spellbound by the sight of his motionless back. Tremendous. On the other hand there are these incredibly rapid, snakelike movements that I tried to film in a very rigid style. The camera does not participate in what is happening, with pans or tracking shots, but is like a window behind which something very exciting is happening. Sometimes it’s visible, sometimes it’s not.
What happened to the concept of “Bound” after Teshigawara joined the project?
It was his suggestion that the role of the circus director’s wife be cast with a non-dancer. I thought this character should be embodied by a dancer who dances this “not–able-to-dance”. But Teshigawara had plenty of experience with non-dancers and he knew he could teach them a kind of dance in a very short time by means of showing them how to control their breathing. That’s perceptible in the rehearsals we shot for Marieke Schroeder’s documentary “Still Move”. I suggested Corinna Harfouch and they worked very well together.
Let’s talk about the formal aspects and the aesthetic considerations of “Bound” – what was important to you?
One important question was that of the locations. The natural settings, as Ilse Aichinger describes them in her story – a meadow, a forest, a river – are metaphors, actually spiritual spaces. It’s not nature that you can smell and touch. But film is a primitive medium: if you set up a camera in a forest, the result, at least at first, is one-to-one a forest. The artificiality Aichinger had in mind and what I especially needed in connection with dance would not work there. So I originally thought we’d have to use interiors and I wanted to do it in a big castle where there were all different kinds of rooms: a ballroom, a smaller room for the intimate scenes, a staircase perhaps for the meadow. But then that seemed cowardly and far-fetched and I thought: maybe we could find locations in nature that with the help of lighting and staging could have some of that artificiality. So I started scouting for locations that had a certain purity, a meadow that was a perfect meadow, no trees or chimneys in the background. Finding one was very difficult. The next step was to light it as if it were a stage set. That was only possible with an extreme lighting concept, in which we pitted yellow artificial light against bluish sunlight, that isolated the characters, that set them apart and gave them a golden aura. So nature suddenly looked like a painted ply board backdrop. It worked very well on the meadow and the forest looks much more like a stage set or a fairy tale forest than a real one.
What aspects were important to you as regards the content of the story?
The problem of artistic form. The man’s bonds help him discover a beauty in motion that was not possible otherwise – limitations are what create the space for art. That goes for simple forms like strophic songs and especially for highly developed ones like classical dance, with endless rules and thousands of limitations. But within these limitations, the freest and greatest art can be created. Ilse Aichinger shows this very well with the character of the bound man, especially by connecting him to the other pole of creation, the wild animal, in this case the wolf. With its animalistic innocence, it is not impaired by individuality and all of its movements are sleek and beautiful. That’s why the bound man and the wolf understand each other perfectly, because they both – in different ways – transcend normal men. That’s why their dance works. And that’s why the bound man, even though he doesn’t seem to have a chance against the wolf – first of all because he’s a man, and then because of his bonds – is able to subjugate him. So you could say that artists, for that brief moments of creation, overcome the banality of their day-to-day existence and touch the locked gate to paradise. And that takes us to the other great piece written on this subject, Kleist’s essay on the Marionette Theatre.