warehouse warehouse

Everyman

by Katharina Pethke,  available 12.9.-26.9.17,  selected and interviewed by Pujan Karambeigi, translated by Pierre Schwarzer
Jedermann, 2016, S16, 30'11''

“Change, Philipp change, change!“ exclaims the photographer while he stages the star-actor Philipp Hochmair for the premiere photos. The Film follows Hochmair’s professional identity chaos, his excessive roles, his smooth exhibitionism intimately and cautious. From an actor who is constructed and deconstructed on all conceivable levels, whose self-image threatens to dissolve, and at the end of which, perhaps, precisely this is his chance: to be nobody means being able to be everyman. [read on]

Katharina Pethke, Jedermann, 2016, film still, Courtesy: The Artist

Pujan Karambeigi: Could you tell us something about how it was to work with such a professional actor, being on the search for himself? How are we to imagine your instructions and your experimental setting? Or, to put it differently, have you even bothered to counter his roleplays?

Katharina Pethke: First of all, I have not assumed „something hidden“, an identity lying behind the roles, just waiting to be uncovered. In dealing with Philipp I understood, that the concept of identity needn’t be onionlike, but perhaps network-like instead: one thing conditions the other, inspires and destroys it. That must be the inner civil war which he then talks about. That’s why it was never an option to make a classical documentary in which the actor is shown at home, or learning his lines and so forth. The challenge was treating all this on the same level. Fittingly, Philipp was working on a post-dramatic play of JEDERMANN just at that time, in which he plays all roles in a one-man show. This was obviously very fitting.

PK: „Chaos of identity, chaos of identity, I repeat, chaos of identity“, says Philipp Hochmair to the public in Vienna, while we watch how the camera follows the twisting path of a street. How did the sound and image track come together?

KP: I have equipped Philipp for over a year with a Dictaphone, that he could treat like some sort of diary. Sometimes I asked questions or gave a few instructions, but generally I was first observing what happened, when there was this space that he needed to fill, in his own way, almost monologically, confronting himself or the roles. Some situations turned absurd, funny, but others also really interesting – I got them all on a flashdrive and worked them in. For me it was a method to deal with Philipps unconditional wish to be led without using all too much influence. My images then came to be much later, as possible answers, as counterpart, as dialogue.

Katharina Pethke, Jedermann, 2016, film still, Courtesy: The Artist

PK: Was there a moment, in which you wanted to abort the entire project? In which the “inner civil war” of the Jedermann suddenly turned against the movie?

KP: I was somewhat surprised when all in Philipps life turned out to be acting and will remain as such. Is identity in this case not to be understood as a net but rather as a reinforced shield wrapping around vacuum? Or as a flowing, ungraspable airy vision? It became clear to me quite quickly that I will have to work with this supposed inability to immobilize this ungraspable fluidity, this incapacity to get beyond it. I had to start with this and wanted to work with it. Thus, I reinterpreted my frustration.

PK: The title of your film and parts of the lines spoken by Philipp Hochmair come from Hofmannsthals Jedermann, a play revolving around excess, confession and forgiveness. At the end of the play, Jedermann, as we know, finds his way back to god through his works and his faith, to join heaven (against all odds) as a repenting Christian.I can’t really say why, but it appears to me as if the last scene was quoting this moment of salvation.

KP: The scene, in which Philipp takes off his mask, all exhausted from his acting, in the soberness of his dressing room, and the acting cannot stop, because I am sitting there, with a camera pointed at him and a play unfolds around this state – this must have been the point at which I was closest. And perhaps it was the same for him.

Katharina Pethke, born in 1979 in Hamburg, is a filmmaker and professor at the HFBK – Academy of Fine Arts Hamburg. She studied German and art history in Hamburg and film at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. In her internationally acclaimed diploma film Louisa, she portrayed her sister, who had gone deaf and decided to learn sign language in her early twenties. As a film author Katharina Pethke has realized works for German television and has produced her own documentary works.