Frans Zwartjes (Alkmaar, 1927) is a film maker, musician, violin builder, draughtsman, painter and sculptor. In the late sixties he caused a furore with artistic, black-and-white films in which heavily made-up and over-dressed actors are caught in a web of sexually loaded power games.
Hysteria, psychosis and cruelty are among his standard themes. The oeuvre of Zwartjes, once called ‘the most important experimental filmmaker of his time’ by the American essayist Susan Sontag, includes over fifty films.
He is considered by many the father of Dutch experimental film. With trail-blazing films such asPentimento and Living he inspired many of his students at the Vrije Academie, but he also sent them on a wild goose chase. ‘I don’t tell them anything. They have to find out for themselves. There are no rules’.
What impressed me enormously was the New American Cinema. The Town Theatre in Eindhoven staged a screening of them in the early sixties. That’s where I saw, for the first time, the films of Bruce Connor, Markopoulos, that fat bloke…Peter Kubelka and Andy Warhol. I thought: ‘Jesus Christ, what’s going on here?’ In The Shopper by Warhol the camera is first directed at the ceiling and then slowly pans down, but you feel: that’s not done by hand. The top of the tripod hadn’t been fixed properly. The camera sinks down on its own – but in a wonderful way. As the camera is running you hear someone talking. That’s the main character and he just keeps on going. The funny thing is that, after a while, I started to find the film boring and I went out of the auditorium for a drink. I think I left and came back again about ten times, and every time I opened the door to take a quick look, I thought: ‘Christ Almighty, how fantastic!’ Those film screening have been very influential.
The films will be video-projected.
Admission $6 – tickets available at door
P R O G R A M
1970, b/w, 16mm, 9 mins
Two women, Zwartjes regular actresses are sitting side by side on a bench. They’re looking at a photo of a mountain landscape. The physical attraction between the two is clearly perceptible, but nothing happens…
BEHIND YOUR WALLS
1970, col and b/w, 16mm, 12 mins
The push-bottons on a radio, a glass of water with an effervescent tablet, an alarm clock, men and women in a room.
1971, color, 16mm, 15 mins
Zwartjes’ own favourite film is the much praised climax of his series Home Sweet Home, in which he explores the rooms of his new house. ’Living has this weird, indefinable atmosphere’, Zwartjes said in an interview, ‘the strange way people move around and the whining music with it…’ The film is a demonstration of Zwartjes’ virtuoso camera work. He pays the main character and at same time operates the camera, which is hand-held while he films himself.
Zwartjes: ‘I was so strong as a horse in those days’. Two persons, Zwartjes and his wife Trix, move aimlessly through the house. Living was filmed with an extremely wide-angle lens, that suggests a powerful atmosphere of alienation.
1968, b/w, 16mm, 6 mins
Sorbet 3 is one of Zwartjes’ films and shows the strong influence of the New American Cinema he admired. It all hinges on the interplay of the eyes between the neurotic, restless camera, and an equally neurotic man in cross-dressing, who reaches for a sorbet and looks intently at what lies beside him on the sofa.
1968, b/w, 16mm, 5 mins
A black & white film rich in contrast and edited in the camera, about a woman, a Japanese toy bird and their relation to the viewer. With Trix Zwartjes.
1969, b/w, 16mm, 8 mins
A seemingly imperturbable man gets involved in a food orgy with two voluptuous, half-naked women. All the actions – one of the women is blindfolded and sprinkled with baking powder, after which lots of food is smeared about – have a strong, sinister charge. Make-up, lighting and the editing reinforce this effect.
1969, b/w, 16mm, 16 mins
A film in three parts in which a man and a woman, Zwartjes’ wife Trix and his regular actor Lodewijk de Boer, in a house and outside along the water side, circle around each other, repulsing and attracting each other. Zwartjes collaborated in writing the music for the film.
1970, b/w, 16mm, 15 mins
International prize-winning film from Zwartjes’ series Home Sweet Home, with Moniek Toebosch and Christian Manders as two sombres personages who are engaged in a claustrophobic game of attraction and repulsion. ‘I film about me. Me and the world, me and its relationships (…) For all sorts of reasons it remains a mistery’, Zwartjes said once in an interview.