I missed my connection train in Bonn and ended up on an ICE barreling toward Frankfurt/Main at speeds of up to 296 km/h (184 mph). I felt like I was being rocketed through tunnels and across the rolling green landscapes, and wondered if human bodies are really built to travel at such speeds. What a contrast to the leisurely pace of the regional trains of the past couple of days.
It was a pleasure to arrive in Weimar and wander through the streets of one of my favorite cities in Germany. The home of Goethe and Schiller, Weimar is the epitome of the Age of Enlightenment. It’s hard not to be captivated by the gorgeous old architecture and delightful parks.
The screening was small but the discussion quite intense. A psychologist in the crowd, who was quite moved by the film, got me talking about all kinds of things, including Dad’s therapist Dr. Karen. Even though his own mother was still alive and helped out quite a lot during the first months of Dad’s amnesia, Dr. Karen is the one Dad called ‘Mom.’ Psychologists might brush this off as a simple case of ‘transference,’ but there’s no denying that it’s very strange how my father latched onto some strange woman and played ‘son’ to her ‘mother’. At an early stage of editing, we put this story in the film, but it was too bizarre and didn’t feel right. Plus it was awkward that we never got to see this mysterious Dr. Karen. And in some way I felt like the scene betrayed my father. But judging by the reactions I get whenever I tell this story, I now wish we’d found some way to slip it into the film. It might have been a counterweight to my grandmother’s story about taking Dad to a psychiatrist, and how he refused to go back to this horrible man who was accusing him of things that weren’t true.
The psychologist at tonight’s screening found the whole ‘Mom’ thing odd, and shared my opinion that Dr. Karen was enabling Dad in his new existence as ‘New Richard’ rather than challenging him to confront the realities of ‘Old Richard’s’ life. If a psychotherapist’s job is to listen and to intervene at key moments in order to get through to the patient and make him see what’s causing his distress and to search for ways to improve the situation, then as far as I can gather, this isn’t what Dr. Karen was doing. Or maybe by the time Dad started seeing her, he was already so deep into his ‘New Richard’ thing that there was no pulling him back out.
It was nice to hear some praise for the film’s imagery and editing, and I’m happy to pass on these compliments to Axel and Matt. Another film Axel shot a few years back just so happens to be playing open air in Weimar tomorrow – Michael Schorr’s Schultze Gets the Blues.
Afterward the screening, I went out for some drinks with Edgar Hartung, who runs the Kino Mon Ami, and Wolfgang Kissel from the Bauhaus University in Weimar. Wolfgang was in the jury of a festival where my Branson film Heaven on Earth won a prize, and he and Edgar organized a screening of it and some of my other films at the Kino Mon Ami back in 2002. It was nice to catch up with the two. But the real fun started when Herbert Lachmayer – a hilarious old scholar from Linz, Austria who is delivering a lecture tomorrow night at the Bauhaus University – joined us. Before long, Herbert was on a roll, wipping up words which had my head spinning: ‘Geschmacksintelligenz’ (‘taste intelligence’), ‘pornosophisch’ (‘pornosophical’), ‘Kleinbürgerfundamentalismus’ (‘bourgeois fundementalism’), and on and on.
In a jovial way, Herbert condensed the past three centuries of European cultural history into a kind of Weltanschauung (view of the world) which made me scratch my head while lights went on inside at the same time. It felt like something that could happen only in a place like Weimar, in the warmly elegant Residenz restaurant which, like the town itself, exudes a feeling of intellectualism I’ve felt nowhere else like this.
In a nutshell, Herbert lamented the bourgeois fundamentalism of our age, and pondered when a kind of fin-de-siècle spirit would surface and make us all realize how superficial the performance-oriented society we’ve enslaved ourselves in really is. Without coming across as nostalgic or whiny, Herbert brought up the fact that while the times we live in today are exciting in many ways, they lack the magical intertwining of art, intellect and political power which made the Weimar era so magical. Almighty capitalism has all but extinguished any and all remnants of the spirit of the Enlightenment. At what other time did artists and intellectuals have such an extraordinary power over the ruling class?