MAURICE SUMMEN interviews LUCIAN BUSSE
What is your movie Berlinized about?
It’s about the 1990s. That time, the feeling and attitude towards life – I reflect that in footage from my own archive and current interviews. Berlin between eras, the tuning back into normality, as it were.
Before was the era of the Berlin Wall, an exceptional, absolutely unique situation for a city. And then the East was open and there was a new quality of time, the total loss of control of the East’s authorities.
When did you move to Berlin? Were you here before the Wall came down?
Luckily, I came to Berlin in 1986, so I witnessed West Berlin before the Wall came down. I witnessed two decades in Berlin – and also helped shape them; I believe you could say that.
Wherever I was, I always had the camera running because I needed footage for my video show Alien TV, images that I could work with artistically. I viewed the things around me from an abstract, artisticdocumentary perspective.
And this is how I filmed my entire environment in Berlin-Mitte, year after year, accumulating a section of Berlin’s history. The construction sites and how everything kept changing. And the events and happenings all around me.
Yet the footage in the movie appears to be very documentary and less as if you had an “art film” in mind. That raises the question whether you always planned to do something like Berlinized?
Since I always took the camera with me for Alien TV, there were also these other situations which I then filmed in a more documentary style. Some of them were these amazingly great moments that made me sure, this is it, keep filming, this must be recorded.
And then I’d toss the tapes into a box, thinking, this is going to be a movie someday, you’re going to do something with this. I thought that even back then, yeah, the plan was there.
When did you start reviewing your archive? What triggered you into thinking, now’s the time, I need to go into the archive and make the movie?
I was looking for a video for two of the protagonists of those times, two dancers. I remembered their performance as a very special, magic moment. And when I saw the video again, I knew: it really was a magic moment, you cann feel it when you look at the footage, there is a suspension of time. And I thought, wow, maybe the rest of my archives is also as special as I remember it. I really should look into
And then you had to start searching for the protagonists from back then and re-establish contacts. Were you still in touch with most of the people, or did you have to do a lot of research?
In some cases I had to research, like for the Honey Suckle Company – I had to get their numbers through several different people. But with others, Patrick Zollinger from Radio Berlin for example, I still had an old number. I just dialed it, he picked up and said: “Hey Lucian!” Amazing, after all those years. It makes me happy that there are connections that just keep alive.
Were they all interested in your project?
Yes, everyone was. I told them about my plan on the phone, and they all said: “Oh, wow, yeah, I’d love to do that, come on by.”
You told me that you didn’t exactly move to Berlin planning be a cinematographer. Now you work as a film editor, cinematographer, filmmaker. What was your original plan when you came here?
When I first came to Berlin, I discovered that you could just “be” here. That feeling matched my attitude. Anything else makes me feel like drowning – when I can’t be or exist as my creativity demands. In Berlin it was clear that there’s enough space and time to find a way to live and be creative.
Is there any aspect of those times that you miss? Did making the movie make you feel nostalgic?
No, that would be like missing your youth. I don’t, I’m very much in the present. Now I have the chance to make such a movie, back then I’d never have been able to do that. You could run wild back then and have fun, but now I have so much more refined possibilities, both technically and regarding the networks I’ve established over the years, that’s much better. I’ve moved on.
What I maybe miss is this general sense of fun we all had in just doing things – that’s all become a bit more serious now. Because of the conditions, there is less room for error, art isn’t allowed to be as free and purposeless. But I think that will come back, too. Because basically that is the spirit of Berlin. You can’t clear that away, and I think that the next generation will just dig it up and fill it with new life.
Berlin’s official slogan is “be Berlin” – could your movie be interpreted as a contribution to that?
I guess you could say that. My intention and mission is to show people what has happened here. People come here and regard the city and themselves in it as really crazy and edgy, but they don’t know the foundation of that.