FILMSPARKS — 50 Years DFFB: Hin­derk Emrich

The com­plex ques­tion posed to me is excit­ing because cin­e­ma is all about work­ing on and in a con­tra­dic­to­ry medi­um with many chal­lenges. The live­li­ness of the “cin­e­mat­ic expe­ri­ence” – strange­ly fic­tion­al, tech­ni­cal and also very real and sen­su­al, even “musi­cal” all at the same time – has a “way of touch­ing peo­ple” that leads to psy­cho­log­i­cal changes that extend right into the per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al life and change it. The film­mak­er Jörg Gras­er once spoke of cin­e­ma as a sub­sti­tute for reli­gion and Gilles Deleuze of its “Catholi­cism.”

What does “influ­enc­ing the per­son” mean in this sense? Encoun­ters here are not only encoun­ters with indi­vid­u­als, but with a col­lec­tive and in some respects even “arche­typ­al” char­ac­ter. “Big films” radi­ate some­thing like a “super” indi­vid­ual being, cre­at­ed by a large group of peo­ple, who dri­ven by a cer­tain theme, shape the effec­tive­ness of an emo­tion­al and intel­lec­tu­al flu­id­i­ty, which is not only intel­lec­tu­al­ly, not mere­ly fac­tu­al for itself and oth­ers, but also resem­bles a simul­ta­ne­ous­ly indi­vid­ual and inter-per­son­al char­ac­ter.

In this sense, “encoun­ters” and psy­cho­log­i­cal changes are nev­er one-dimen­sion­al. Rather, peo­ple always express them­selves in res­o­nance with phe­nom­e­na, in forms of expe­ri­ence that over­lap and at the same time con­tra­dict each oth­er. Rain­er Wern­er Fass­binder, for exam­ple, as a deeply lone­ly per­son, has a con­stant kalei­do­scop­ic exchange with his staff and actors and (in the spir­it of Michael The­unis­sen and his book “Der Andere”) “trans­formed” him­self respec­tive­ly. To put it in Hegel’s words: we are what we are, always simul­ta­ne­ous­ly the oth­er of our­selves. This – in the realm of cin­e­ma – is trig­gered by the “nat­ur­al” char­ac­ter of the film expe­ri­ence, which is always fic­tion­al and yet at the same time tech­ni­cal­ly pro­duced.

In my case, a very ear­ly impres­sion came about through the fact that both my par­ents per­formed in the­atre plays as teach­ers, where­by I was allowed to act in plays writ­ten by my moth­er – on the stage and as a drum­mer in front of the stage – which had a strong for­ma­tive effect on me ear­ly on. At the age of thir­teen, I bought myself a 8‑mm film cam­era and my first great film expe­ri­ence was Kalatozov’s WENN DIE KRANICHE ZIEHEN (The Cranes Are Fly­ing), which effect­ed me so deeply that it became clear to me – great film can tru­ly be a work of art.

In my opin­ion, peo­ple are not so much shaped by facts as by the flu­id­i­ty that car­ries these facts. This flu­id­i­ty rep­re­sents an intel­lec­tu­al-spir­i­tu­al space, an inter­per­son­al, real­i­ty-cre­at­ing ener­gy in us – ulti­mate­ly a meta­phys­i­cal real­i­ty – that con­stant­ly shapes, trans­forms, and influ­ences us anew in our life. In this con­text, we often speak of trans­dis­ci­pli­nary sci­ences. But what does that mean? Today, trans­dis­ci­pli­nar­i­ty is usu­al­ly noth­ing more than pure addi­tion, not a real pen­e­tra­tion into a new field of knowl­edge in the sense of a deep­er dis­cov­ery, even an enlight­en­ment. Con­verse­ly, how­ev­er, it can be the case that knowl­edge in one field, e.g. psy­chi­a­try, psy­cho­analy­sis, or brain research applied to a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent field, such as art or phi­los­o­phy, can pro­duce a com­plete­ly new per­spec­tive in the over­all con­text of “life”. In my pro­fes­sion as psy­chi­a­trist and psy­chother­a­pist, through expe­ri­ences in phi­los­o­phy and art, I have been able to fun­da­men­tal­ly pur­sue my pro­fes­sion in a new way and not only to endure the cer­tain grav­i­ty of the job of a psy­chi­a­trist, but also to exer­cise it with a new inter­est, new enthu­si­asm and new cre­ative pow­er, because the uni­ver­si­ty at which I was work­ing allowed me the free­dom to do so (Medi­zinis­che Hochschule Han­nover).

In my phi­los­o­phy stud­ies, I was influ­enced by pro­fes­sors such as Arno Baruzzi, Dieter Hen­rich, Robert Spae­mann (Munich) and Michael The­unis­sen (Berlin). Each of these philo­soph­i­cal per­son­al­i­ties exud­ed a tremen­dous res­o­nance in my life, for my intel­lec­tu­al, spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion, which had a fun­da­men­tal effect on my pro­fes­sion as a psy­chi­a­trist and psy­chother­a­pist, because it was pre­cise­ly through philo­soph­i­cal reflec­tion that new ther­a­peu­tic and ana­lyt­i­cal per­spec­tives arose.

Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary, schol­ar­ly artis­tic and philo­soph­i­cal work can indeed lead to enor­mous break­throughs in knowl­edge and changed per­spec­tives in pro­fes­sion­al work and per­son­al­i­ty devel­op­ment. In my schiz­o­phre­nia research, for exam­ple, I took as my start­ing point a philo­soph­i­cal idea from the tran­scen­den­tal philoso­pher Johann Got­tlieb Fichte, who in his “Wis­senschaft­slehre” lays out the con­cep­tion of the “spon­tane­ity of I” and thus devel­ops the self-con­sti­tu­tion of the sub­ject and its con­struc­tive­ness. This has now been of enor­mous impor­tance for schiz­o­phre­nia the­o­ry with regard to the dilem­ma of inter­nal cen­sor­ship mech­a­nisms in the brain. In neu­ro­bi­o­log­i­cal brain research, my research group was able to prove the defec­tive con­nec­tiv­i­ty in the brain of schiz­o­phrenic peo­ple by using func­tion­al MRI (mag­net­ic res­o­nance imag­ing) mea­sure­ments.

The pos­si­bil­i­ty of such inves­ti­ga­tions has yield­ed fur­ther find­ings in the var­i­ous fields of psy­chi­a­try, e.g. also in the field of synaes­the­sia research. These results, how­ev­er, could only emerge on the basis of the syn­op­sis of psy­cho­log­i­cal, philo­soph­i­cal and ulti­mate­ly artis­tic intu­ition for psy­chi­atric anthro­pol­o­gy. All this, how­ev­er, was ulti­mate­ly trig­gered by a dream, about 35 years ago, a fever­ish dream in which F. Dos­toyevsky appeared to me and informed me: “You’ve read my nov­el The Dou­ble incor­rect­ly. It is not about the divi­sion of the ego in schiz­o­phre­nia, but rather about reveal­ing the pre­vi­ous dis­in­te­gra­tion – or “mul­ti­plic­i­ty” – which is revealed in psy­chosis. This dream expe­ri­ence led me down the “right path”, i.e. “All true life is an encounter,” as pro­posed by Mar­tin Buber. Through these encoun­ters we are con­stant­ly re-formed, recon­sti­tut­ed, new­ly devel­oped; through kalei­do­scop­ic con­tra­dic­tions, we are enabled not only to see hori­zons, but even to grow beyond them.

In a very sim­i­lar way, this was the case in artis­tic fields such as the film indus­try, where my first great expe­ri­ence was work­ing on shoot­ing the film “Abra­hams Gold” (1990) with Jörg Gras­er and star­ring Han­na Schygul­la, which began after a very seri­ous on-set acci­dent with the orig­i­nal actor Sibylle Canon­i­ca. At the time, I was shocked that the cre­ation of some­thing fic­tion­al (the film) could endan­ger someone’s life. Oth­er cru­cial encoun­ters were with pro­fes­sors at film schools: Siegfried Zielin­s­ki, Peter Lilien­thal, Jea­nine Meer­apfel, Rein­hard Hauff. I can still remem­ber when I showed the Amer­i­can film GIRL INTERRUPTED at the DFFB, in which the mov­ing fate of the bor­der­line patients is showed. After my talk, the stu­dents asked me, “Where are the boys with bor­der­line symp­toms?” And then one of the stu­dents answered spon­ta­neous­ly, “The boys are in prison.” This is one of the many expe­ri­ences, in many dif­fer­ent film schools, where I had the impres­sion again and again that I got more from the stu­dents – more or less gifts – and more than I was able to give myself.

The lec­tures at the HfG in Karl­sruhe, which I was allowed to give togeth­er with Edgar Reitz, were a par­tic­u­lar ray of light in this con­text. Our top­ic at the time was the dilem­ma of work­ing out a phi­los­o­phy of space in the cin­e­ma, a project that inspired us so much dur­ing our joint lec­tures that we decid­ed to pub­lish a dia­log­i­cal book on the sub­ject.

The main idea of this text is that “space in film” does not only rep­re­sent geo­met­ric dimen­sions, but rather val­ue worlds, rela­tion­ships of prox­im­i­ty and dis­tance, dom­i­nance and weak­ness. Par­tic­u­lar­ly excit­ing in this con­text is Edgar Reitz’s con­cept that in cin­e­ma there is a space that can’t exist – and this is where the cam­era stands.