Bernhard and Radax: A conversation through camera (Diagonale 2012)

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A Film Critic by Lora Sari on Thomas Bernhard – Drei Tage, Regie: Ferry Radax, DE 1970.


Thomas Bernhard – Drei Tage is a biographical film about, well Thomas Bernhard. It can also be seen as autobiographical, since the narrator is Bernhard himself. Bernhard draws a self portrait, sitting on a bench in a private garden in Hamburg. In simple terms, in this film you see Bernhard talking about himself and his work for three days.


Those three days are not displayed continiously. For example there are no night time shootings. You assume that they come here every morning, Bernhard sits on the bench and starts talking about whatever he wants to talk about. Even though the theme is a Radax-Bernhard collaboration, since it is a documentary, Radax could only build the story frame, but could not interfere with the content of Bernhard's stories or how he told them. This, I believe, is creating a deficiency in the film. I call this a deficiency, because when you see other Radax-films, you know what's been missing in this one: the Radax'ish language: A language which is a natural outcome of his unique persona. In order to avoid or dilute this problem, Radax could have asked questions or commented as the direct interviewer.


I take this film as a proof, that Radax is not a director who only gets along with images successfully, but also with words. To me, in case of experimental films, the act of showing things is way too important than the content or the language. On one hand Drei Tage makes you think, that maybe what made Radax films so special were the touchs of Bayer, which is anyway true. But on the other hand, there are also other films, which have no Bayer references, yet still are that special. Aside from Radax's gift of directing and editing, you know that his sarcastic, sometimes mocking stories are fulfilling his moving-images. But you also know that his stories always cover some strong matters behind its sarcasm.


As I mentioned above, even though Bernhard can not fulfill the absence of Radax in language and content, seeing Radax behind the camera and how he tells his story through his camera, is a must-see: Constantly changing camera angles and zooming-ins and -outs are the trademarks of the film. The whole film is in black and white. I can not think of any other color fitting so perfectly to Bernhard's personality. You feel that Radax is playing with his camera and doing some try outs, as he always does. You see that he is experimenting during the film and after: The editing of the different camera angles, how he puts them all together, how he inserts some black-outs in between them and how they get along perfectly with Bernhard's monologues, makes you want to watch it repetitively, so that you don't miss anything. Even though he is not directly interviewing Bernhard, you know his camera angles are some effective responses to him. This time, Radax's camera is his mouth. As you watch the film, you know that they are on the same page.


What is also worth watching in Drei Tage is seeing the setting of a Radax film. It happens to be a very modest setting, with four or five people, as I expected. We see the filming of the filming through the little monitor wired to the camera. From previous films, I know that Radax loves to emphasize that a film is a film. He loves to break down the filmic reality and wants to bring you back to this reality: You are only watching a film.


Drei Tage could have been just perfect, if it was maybe called Zwei Tage. The film could have last a bit shorter. Even though you are not a Bernhard fan, it is interesting to see some guy talking about himself. After all he does not talk about boring subjects, and frankly he gets to be funny, sarcastic and self-mocking at some points. Seeing Radax behind the camera with his crew and being dragged into his setting for a little while is also exciting. Thomas BernhardDrei Tage is not a black and white film, until someone reminds you that it is black and white. I still can not understand, why the film is green in my memory, when I think about it...