‘Incendio Italiano’ Berlin, 1982. Music by Frieder Butzmann, Film by Thomas Kiesel.
It appeared at the film exhibition Super-8/Berlin, curated by Keith J. Sanborn for HALLWALLS (700 Main Street, Buffalo, New York 14202) in October 1983.
Kiesel, in Incendio Italiano (roughly, Italian Conflagration) takes the metaphor of highway travel as the central axis for an exploration of poetic sensibility in the grand tradition of Goethe’s Italian journeys and Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. The woman we see “speaking” German at the beginning, “speaks” Italian at the end. This newscaster indexes the passage from one sensibility to its opposite, but only a rough directionality obtains during the course of the film. Our road trip floats freely between north (a jerky loop of the Berlin wall) and south (vacation footage). Daily activities are seen, under the motif of a flickering, warped grid, to hold a mysterious energy which film can release. A shoe is tied, later we see the same foot- age,projected in reverse to reveal a strange beauty in the gesture. This is a more purely poetic enjoyment of a trope we see in Vertov’s Kinoglaz, where a living steer is reassembled from a rent carcass. But Vertov moves didactically in one direction against the current of the dominant representation of reality. Kiesel gives preference - though not an exclusive one - to a kind of meditative mirror play, relying on a system of references internal to the film and to German culture.
The track of Incendio was created by Frieder Butzmann, a well-known Berlin musician. It flows in dense parallel movement with the stream of images, re-enforcing the elegantly oblique references of the imagery to the economic and political state of things.