N I H I L ,

or All the Time in the World

A FILM BY ULI M SCHUEPPEL
16mm; 54min; b/w; West-Berlin 1988

PREMIERE: Hofer Filmtage 1987

PRIZES: “Best Filmmusic – 2nd Price” NINO ROTA-Festival, Trossingen 1989, – “Honorable Jury-Mention” Maritime Filmtage, Wilhelmshaven 1989

WATCH THIS FILM NOW on vimeo:

“… and tune into a song,
from beyond the grave.”
Lautreamont

There are five of them. Susan’s dead. They are four. Mark lies trapped in the cellars of the water factory by the ruler of the water monopoly. There are three of to free him. In another cell they accidentally discover the one-armed man.
The single-cell being …

Fire, water and the island. A struck cross. An apple, sore hands and the rotating bottle.
No direction – anywhere. The vision drowns once more.

A parable nightmare from Berlin in 1986. Too late.

“This cult film from Berlin in the late 80s, which like no other conveys the worldview prevailing at the time, tells in poetic black and white images, in the tradition of expressionist German film a la F.W. Murnau, of the feelings and moods of that time. Impressively accompanied by the grandiose sound collages of the ‘Einstürzenden Neubauten’ musician Alexander Hacke. “
(M. Schmölz)

 

Shot on ORWO b / w material in West Berlin, Nordstrand, Heiligensee
Sept / Oct 1986 & March 1987

Summer 86
The ideas for the script were created in a couple of nights. Usually, Isat in the same corner at “Hansa-Studio”. Bands like “Einstuerzende Neubauten”, “Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds” and “Crime and the City Solution” were recording their albums after another. I only had to close my eyes and the projector was running, like weeds images grew emberantly to the background of the new sounds. I felt the mood, the quiet-intensive atmosphere that the film was to carry with it. The parabel and the baladesque was created. The expressive strength and poetry of the picture was to be more important than the story and action.

No reality, no contemporary was to be shown directly, but only to be seen in the presence of the actors faces. No cars, no people, no Berlin! Still, WestBerlin was to be present throughout the film, and no other city. The feeling and the conception of the world shown could have only been created here, at the end of the 80s. Small groups develop everywhere, energies which move forward desperatly. Anywhere. An illusion of losers who become heroes. No aim (which?) is relevant anymore. Only the movement…” (Uli M Schueppel, Excerpts from “Chonicle of an unexplored film”, 1988)

http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/musik-und-fragen-zur-person-der-filmemacher-uli-m-schueppel.1782.de.html?dram:article_id=299646

press quotes

“… The emotional feeling it conveys, generates… defiance against resignation, from strength to resistance. But the film doesn’t deceive: People create their idols in the same manner as they create hope, utopia, illusion. In NIHIL the framework is visible: As a construction to recognize the dream – as dreamed. Special praise also for the fact, that it makes one again remeber what a spezial meaning the colour black has for the cinema!”

Dr. Norbert Grob (Jury Member, Maritime Filmtage)

“… Almost nothing is explicit, everything is a determination of the atmosphere, dark, morbid, mysterious, religious, mystic, poetic. NIHIL from a film school student… Its a type of underground Tarkowskij, without imitating the already known, or even quoting it.”

Der T agesspiegel (9.2.88)

“Schueppel knowingly latches on to the traditional photographic build up and picture formation as well as an expressionistic form of storytelling. His film is made up of a strong expressive cadrage and perspectives that relay to the viewer a feeling of gratitude that film as a mdium can have such an aestetic influence on our sense of vision. It is definitely not one of those visual atrocities made for the masses.”

“Schueppel knowingly latches on to the traditional photographic build up and picture formation as well as an expressionistic form of storytelling. His film is made up of a strong expressive cadrage and perspectives that relay to the viewer a feeling of gratitude that film as a mdium can have such an aestetic influence on our sense of vision. It is definitely not one of those visual atrocities made for the masses.”

Filmfaust (march 88)

“Cultish – worth seeing! A break fom the outdated, boring narrative cinema… DFFB-student Uli M Schueppel shows us that something new and innovative can come out of that… A completely new form of musical film work an a new form that is not only a back-ground for film-music…”

TIP (No. 23; 88)

Between times – A ballad, a dramatic (film-)poem, subdivided into verses. The style is not regulated by the content, but is just as important as the individualistic treatments, by the expressive strength, almost expressionistic black and white photography, sombre music… which border on surreal, exaggerated picture symbolism, the resigned atmospere… A film between times… between tradition and avantgarde (…) and a film about times, where the time planes flow into one another and ultimately mingle incoherently.”

ZITTY (no.23; 88)

“Murnau goes underground!
NIHIL is a notable work by young DFFB student Uli M Schueppel. Morbid, black and white… Through ist expressive, piecing, intensity – aided by Alexander Hacke’s musical poignancy – the film mirrors a feeling of life in this age.”

Volksblatt Berlin (5.11.88)

“The world and its security fall apart. In NIHIL the atmospere of hopelessness is not mouthed through dull lethargy, but with a concentrated, almost minimalst mystique. The film formulizes, leaves nothing to chance, but it doesn’t explain either. A short film: 50 mins, which are to create a world…”

 

Nothing Babylon, Asshole!

Chronicle of an expired film
by Uli M Schueppel, Berlin October 1987

SUMMER 86 – I remember these days pretty hot. OR? Barely bearable at any counter, directly under the rotating fan, the screwdriver-cocktail sticking to the fingers. Or even better in the “Gift”, underground – among us. Then EVERYONE was still awake in the afternoon, awake again, awake for days – overslept.

Some football championship ruled the public, Europe – the world? In any case, I picked up my working title from one of these reports. A striker tripped over the goalkeeper and shot past the empty goal: “… but he had ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD …”

The script precursors were created during the nights. Most of the time I sat in some corner of the Hansa Studio. One after the other, “Einstürzende Neubauten”, Nick Cave and his “Bad Seeds” and “Crime & The City Solution” recorded their albums there. In any case, I just had to close my eyes and the projector flickered down, images grew like weeds to the newly emerging sounds. Here I felt the mood, the calm, intense atmosphere that the film should one day carry. The parable and the balladesque emerged. More important than story and plot should be the expressive strength and poetry of the images.

No reality, no today should be shown directly, but only reflected in the presence, in the faces of the actors. No streets, no cars, no people, no Berlin. And yet West Berlin, and no other place, should be present throughout the film, the feeling shown, and the view of the world should only have emerged here at the end of the 80s.

Everywhere (small) groups formed, energies that desperately move FORWARD. Anywhere. Illusion without hope – losers who become heroes. No goal (which one?) Counts anymore. Just move … Away.

It was clear from the start that I didn’t want to work with “professional” actors, but with friends, acquaintances who can also portray themselves in reality. This resulted in a reverse approach: I didn’t look for the actors on the basis of the script and the characters in it, but I mainly knew who I wanted to shoot / work with, and assigned the role and their story to the respective person.
Apart from the much greater authenticity, this did not result in this uncomfortable, superfluous border between “those-in front of” and “those-behind” of the camera during the shooting.
Well, the script was halfway done, and the summer was over.

(Extract from diary 09.13. 86)
1 day before 0. Next NO Time.
First and last rehearsal. Rather, we read the script together. Velvet Underground sparkles in the background. There are also the pictures. Friedrich empties my refrigerator. A gray Saturday. The camera is unborn. We film with the body. It is important to forget, erase, switch off the German film of the last 60 years.

Gesine smiles – the shape of a tear swirls through longing. HUGE. We don’t think about film, this is about cinema, magic, creating an inner experience, and Olivier nods …

Blixa in Ritterstr. Met. The initial concept of his role, a tribute to our admiration for Artaud, is becoming more and more independent. Going through his text again. Forgot the metal hand. He probably didn’t sleep for a few days either. “Just tell me what is important to you about your text ?!” His notes are overflowing with sentences. No simulation here either. Blixa is the one-armed prisoner. The visionary. THE VISION.

AUTUMN 86. Again the real (and better) adventure, compared to the story, is the shooting. With a few interruptions, mainly because we keep running out of money, they drag on for a month from mid-September. We only shoot at night within Berlin. That means always around 5 p.m. the lights are set up, 8 p.m. the first flap, sunrise ends. Afterwards breakfast and discussion of the coming night together.

Often enough, it turns out that the next location is not yet available, or we no longer like it, its cancelled, etc. Then the day is filled with looking for something new, better, but above all free. We can even find a sailboat with a captain completely unnerved after two nights with us and without money. Allegedly, the boat “after us” should have leaked … Unfortunately, we probably left the “deluge” quite often!

The shooting time lets us sink into a trip. Outside of the film, nothing exists anymore, nothing is valid anymore. How many days / nights without sleep?
If a catastrophe had broken out “outside”, we would not have noticed it until the electricity had been turned off. Pirates in stormy seas, only concerned with themselves and the illusion.

(Excerpt from the diary: 09.14.86)
The first night of rotation is imminent. No sleep, count the missing, unorganized things like sheeps in bed.

Sunday morning. Drive to the area at the Görlitz train station. As feared: All the doodles, sayings and drawings must of course disappear from the wall, and the stones could use lighter contours. Get paint and paint a few yards gray. The residents and walkers think I’m completely nuts – paint a wall that is ready to be demolished … Sunday therapy!

At 7 p.m. Friedrich still doesn’t have his weapons ready. Now, AT THE TIME to go crazy!
8:30 p.m., forget everything. A small work of art is his modification of the plastic MP from the Karstadt children’s department – and above all, the car jack as a laser rifle …

Around 3 a.m. Andrew (N.U.) Unruh roars in with Mark Pauline from Survival Research Laboratories (San Francisco) on his moped. He heard that we were filming a scene in which a wall was supposed to blow up, and that Mark was a specialist in such effects …

I’m really surprised how Friedrich throws himself into his role and the film. He strictly refuses to accept the simulation in front of the camera, so that the recordings with him always have a documentary character. For example, in his scene of being liberated from the cell, five hours beforehand he begins to get so exhausted and broken, to roll naked in the dirt, to be chained, as if he had really spent the last 4 months in the cell. When shooting, he can hardly be spoken to. For him, stage directions come from another world. Several takes of the same kind (connections?), or even speaking thew text is almost impossible. Often we just have to go filming and wait to see what happens.
Friedrich then no longer plays MARK – HE IS MARK. This creates a kind of “schizophrenia” for him, which keeps us all in suspense during the shooting, but which cannot be switched off even after the shoot has finished.

It’s (already?) after the fourth night. We decided by voting (!!!), based on previous experience, not to tolerate any more alcohol on the set during the next shooting nights. Friedrich seems to agree.
I spend the day at a girlfriend, the phone goes on incessantly at my home and I just need some rest. During the afternoon expresso in the “Mitropa” I find out what ‘Jedermann’ (= Berlin) already seems to know: Friedrich ravaged his apartment in the morning, spilled red buckets of paint everywhere, then took off his clothes on some bridge and has thrown his clothes into the channel. And now, wearing only a trench coat, a knife in his hand, is looking for me – to kill me. Well!

Absurdly, the first thing I think about is the clothes that we would have needed for more scene connections, and then I go home. There is already panic in the conservative apartment building where I live, the old woman from below is still trembling. Friedrich (or was it Mark) leaves traces in the hallway, five red stripes across the door of my apartment, as if someone was looking for a hold with bleeding fingers. It was color.
I cancel the shoots for the next two days and go underground for now. The next day, Friedrich on the answering machine: “Whats’ going on? I’m standing here like stupid at the location – no one there! When will you go on with this fucking movie? “Everything was long forgotten …

He soon got the name “Fritz von Sinnen” from the team. There are countless stories and images in my head, the “experienced” film. Friedrich is always raging between us with his tremendous intensity, and these energies released by everyone can still be felt afterwards when looking at the film.
Shortly before we leave for the North Sea for a week, someone from the team tells me his dream: a castle-like waterworks, right on THE island. Countless rooms, corridors along the edge of which stinking sewage drains. Deep night, the team and actors sleep numbly in mattresses that are far too soft, and then suddenly Friedrich, THE bloody ax, falls from room to room to bestially hack everyone …
Of course none of that – still alive. But I don’t have a good feeling that with this film-shooting such fears gets triggered.

And then another picture of the last day of shooting. West Berlin again, Obentrautstrasse. With and at Kloie’s place. An involuntary re-shoot after this scene was almost completely destroyed by the negative tear in the labotary. Friedrich quickly makes us forget the sentimentality of the “last shooting night”. After he smashed some glasses / bottles, bananas flew through the room, and he started a serious fight with Olivier, we hurriedly put him in front of the door. Some time later, while the light was being changed, I happened to look out of the window, and Friedrich attacked a group of Turks on the street, who were just leaving the neighboring karate center. We all race outside, reinforced by some musicians who watched the shoot, but Friedrich is already kneeling in the middle of the street. A black eye, his nose bloody, surrounded by the obviously irritated Turks, he shouts into the night: “I am also an asylum seeker! I am also an asylum seeker! “

WINTER 86. Long months in the editing room follow – detention. Playing around sounds, creating, discarding and the first rough cuts that are too bumpy – a torture … But the re-shooting of the epilogue is still pending and I long for it. Bruno Dunst has agreed to portray the “old Mark”, which makes me particularly happy because I have long admired his love for film as the active operator of the Schlüter cinema. Bruno Dunst is in his mid-60s and in fact has not left West Berlin for 25 years, he has always turned down other offers of roles in West Germany and the higher his acceptance is to be classified.

The organization of the shoot is extremely difficult. A completely different team has to be put together. Bruno has to find a projectionist for his cinema, the children traveling with him are not allowed to have school behind their necks, and Blixa has to be coordinated with the tight rehearsals of the Zadek play in the Hamburg theater (Hamburger Schauspielhaus)
On Sunday, four days before the “Andy” premiere, the time has come. Because there is no longer any money, we have to compress the journey, filming and return trip into one day …

(Excerpt from the diary: 02.24.87)
Three o’clock at night in Berlin we start with two buses. Talked to Blixa again on the phone beforehand, talked about the flu, etc. Don’t listen at all. No more choice, too late to change, to cancel, to kill (whom?). This time everything has to work out! Not at all: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD …

Picked up Bruno right from the end of his late night performance. At the FRG border it was found that all of the sound material was forgotten in Berlin. That too … Long exceeded the tight schedule. A bus goes straight to the sea, Olivier and I make the detour to Blixa, and if possible to load tapes.
Hamburg, Sunday morning. Blixa is bathed in sweat in bed, paler than ever, 40 degrees fever. His voice was a single croak. I feel like an asshole, tearing him out – do it anyway … Above all, he’ll come with me! Love him (forever!) For it …

With Alex and Marc Chung’s help, we got several people out of bed until we got the missing sound-tapes together. Finally on the highway again, with Blixa, a mega plastic bag of medication, the tapes, and Alex, who is just after a “little Sunday excursion”. Pushing loud Elvis songs out of the boom box, the further north we come the clouds, my/our bad mood, and the tiredness away. For the first time this year the sun breaks out.

1pm start of shooting. A maximum of four hours of light for 15 settings. Everyone works in fast motion. In addition, there is a stormy north-east wind from Sweden, minus 25 degrees. I gave my gloves to Blixa, my hand bursts everywhere, everything covered in blood. We only tick off the bare essentials of the set resolution – like machines in the ice. I am completely empty, find no peace to enter in the film, the place, the atmosphere. Always behind the workload to be done, lagging behind the bare essentials. NEVER AGAIN! At least the kids seem to be having fun by the sea …

5pm return. A bus directly to Berlin. Bruno later said that he had to sing for hours because Ciro kept falling asleep behind the wheel. Back to Hamburg with Alex, Blixa and Olivier. Blixa immediately back to bed. The rest of us distract ourselves until morning in Hamburg’s “nightlife”. Nevertheless, I’m kind of glad – and thankful!
Monday lunchtime back to Berlin and sleep….

SPRING 87. At some point a rough cut version was finally ready, with which I was halfway satisfied. The rhythm was right, although at first we only understood it as a suggestion, as a guide for the music. The music remained the great unknown. It was as if we had built a skeleton, formed a body that only lacked the blood to pulsate and move.

Alex Hacke was, so to speak, the “dream composer” – but we didn’t talk about it for a long time. Although he often came by during the filming, then in the follow-up phase our nightly-morning meetings always quickly slipped into wild excesses, so that we couldn’t talk about film. In the meantime, several Berlin musicians and groups have offered me to make the music. Somehow Alex heard about it, arrived, and just said: “It’s clear that I’m making the music, right?” Of course!

Fascinating how Alex takes real sounds from their spatiality, their origins, in order to make them new instruments in his composition. In the “Kids Traum” theme, for example, after the monotonous, magical lashes of the whip and the bass, a deep, vibrating humming sound is added. You can feel in his mobility that this cannot be a synthetically produced sound. Alex then told me that he “found” this tone under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
What a feeling to see “kids dream”, these mythical-ritual pictures, and then to sense the rolling trucks and Cadillacs in this tone! Our cinematic approach and conversion of reality into the artificiality of the story, the setting and the casting was actually quite similar.

The “Einstürzende Neubauten” have meanwhile helped Zadek’s pubescent “Andy” achieve considerable success in Hamburg, while everything continues to darken financially for me – a slow, continuous fade-out. At some point I confess to Alex that I have difficulty paying a mediocre 8-track studio for our recordings. Completely surprisingly, he immediately offers me to produce the music himself …

(Excerpt from the diary: 04.10. 87)
Hamburg, Building Site Studio, third day, night, day … Back to the studio immediately after the performance in the Schauspielhaus. Zadek hasn’t looked at me since yesterday. Alex made fun of introducing me to him as a “young, promising director” … Is there anything worse to be named? HaHa, bastard! … I fell asleep again in the middle of the performance, only briefly jolted awake by the sounds of Neubauten. I give up to see the piece!

Alex plays the harmonica to Lisa’s love flashback for the first time. He creates sounds like drawn out, disharmonious sighs that waft longingly into the monitor images of the mudflats … feeling blue …

Where have night and day lost themselves to again? 6pm back to the theater for the daily sound check. Every time I enjoy this half-hour live improvisation like a gift. The classically splendid theater deserted, and this music from a completely different world …

It is exciting to see how Alex succeeds in embedding the atmosphere of the pictures in his composition. The main theme, for example, these multi-layered guitar sounds, feedback that rush back and forth without dissolving, this illusion of a forward movement, like waves in an imaginary surf. Or also in the prologue and epilogue, which visually close themselves in a circle through the respective flames, Alex empathizes with this idea, reinforces it by using the same piece for both. At the beginning “normal” – forwards, but at the end backwards, so that the same tone lies on the burning Bible and Blixa’s departure behind the wall of fire – the same tone.

SUMMER 87. No summer. When we found out that Heinz Badewitz will be showing “Nihil” at the Hof International Film Festival, we celebrate a week.
I’ve been working off the money pumped into the film by the ExN’Pop-bar for four months now. But it will probably take another years before we are even …

AUTUMN 87th Premiere at the Hof Film Festival. Our anticipation sinks to zero when we learn that the film is programmed for the opening night at 0:30. And actually everyone (press, distributors, etc.) disappears in some pubs after the opening film “Wings Of Desire”. Until shortly before the show begins, Olivier and I sit there alone … Suddenly, out of nowhere, Wim Wenders and Solveig Dommartin appear, as well as a journalist and one (!) spectator from Hof.
The journalist is Bion Steinborn, and later introduces himself as the editor of the film magazine “Filmfaust” and would like to make a cover story with our film – “The Poetic Film in Germany”. At the press conference on “Wings Of Desire” the next morning, Wim Wenders gave a detailed (!!!) account of “Nihil”, the festival management immediately granted a second screening date, which was then sold out immediately ….

 

actors:

Mark: Friedrich Wall
Oliver: Olivier Picot
Lisa: Gesine Böhle
Kid: Kai Fuhrmann

Visionary: Blixa Bargeld
Susan: Cat Kerjotis
Mark (old): Bruno Dunst
Mark (young): Jens Mettelsiefen
Maria: Kloika Picot
and many more.

team:

Camera / light: Ciro Cappellari
Camera assistant: Roger Heeremann
Anka Schmid
Lucien Segura
Josy Meier
Light assistant: Frank Blasberg

Sound: Ludger Blanke
Angelika Becker
Ásdis Thoroddsen
Sound design: Uli M Schueppel
Voice actor: Efa Schütte
Christoph Parke
Radio voice: Oliver Schunt
Noise Maker: Karsten Ray
Mix: Martin Steyer

Music: Alexander Hacke
Instruments: F.M. Einheit
Alexander Hacke
Marc Chung
Martine
Studio technology: Thomas Stern

Set design: Hannes Heiner
Kai Fuhrmann
Friedrich Wall
Title: Birgit Tümmers
Wardrobe / Make-up: Dawn Neale

Editing: Inge Schneider
Assistant editor: Andrea Wenzler
Negative editing: Barbara Cordts
Script: Joanna Stolberg
Location manager: Myriam Dehme
Production management: Hans W. Müller

Script advice: Peter Braatz
Assistant director: Ernst Schraube
Script & direction: Uli M Schueppel

Production: schueppel-films
D F F B