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Retrospective: Romuald Karmakar

THE DEATHMAKER

 

Director_ Romuald Karmakar
 
Germany 1995 112min 35mm color feature
Review

The Deathmaker is based upon the transcripts of a series of dialogues held in 1924 between Fritz Haarmann and Dr. Ernst Schultze? which let people to believe that the film was something of a docu-drama with Gotz George re-creating the ‘real’ Haarmann. Nothing could be further from the truth: Sure, Karmakar and his co-screenwriter Michael Farin used (almost) only dialogues from the transcripts? but in such a way that they turned the real relationship between Germany’s most famous serial killer and the criminal psychiatrist asked to evaluate his sanity completely around: The Deathmaker tells the story of how two men, adversaries by fate and society’s rules, become friends in the shadow of the precluded death of one of them? while the historical Schultze just wanted to see Haarmann dead, he hated his guts, saw him as a mistake of nature that needed to be eradicated, and had therefore no interest in finding any saving traces of madness in him. Karmakar’s main aesthetic point of reference for The Deathmaker was the Kammerspielfilm (cinematic chamber play), a form pioneered in the early 1920s by screenwriter Carl Mayer for directors like Lupu Pick or Leopold Jessner; meaning: the film’s form is from (about) the same time as the case itself. And so is the recording of the song “Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden” (about a soldier remembering his fallen friend) which Karmakar chose as the title song. A line late in the song suggests another level to the above-described counter-imagination of history: The singer wonders “...galt sie ihm oder galt sie mir?”(was the bullet - on the battlefield - meant for him or his comrade)? which here suggests that it could, just the same, have been Schultze waiting for his date with the blade, for we are all brothers and equal in God’s hand. This notion: That everything could be different every second, that we’re all makers and shapers of our destinies, and that all those social Others are but Us: this particular pathos of choice, of civilization as essentially contradictory informs the whole film, as well as Karmakar’s œsuvre.

CREDIT
  • DirectorRomuald Karmakar
  • ScreenplayRomuald Karmakar, Michael Farin
  • ProducerThomas Schuhly
  • CinematographyFred Schuler
  • EditorPeter Przygodda
  • SoundRobi Guver
CastPierre Franckh, Gotz George, Jurgen Hentsch
DIRECTOR
Romuald Karmakar
 
Born in 1965 in Wiebaden, Romuald Karmakar never studied at a film school, but he started to make some films since 1985. In 1994, he founded his own production company Pantera Film and his first feature The Deathmaker(1995) became a sensation among film critics and audience. Manila received the Silver Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival in 2000. Karmakar is now known as one of the most controversial and aesthetically radical German filmmakers. In 2010, JIFF had a retrospective on his works.
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