Tuesday, September 7, 2021 at 7pm
Werner Schroeter's Eika Katappa

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Introduced by Nick Mauss

Eika Katappa, Werner Schroeter, 1969, digital projection, 144 mins

Werner Schroeter’s Eika Katappa enacts preposterous kinships and misaligned fates—on the level of narrative as much as in the collision of New German Cinema with American Underground aesthetics. The director’s formative encounters include, at age thirteen, the beginning of his earnest devotion to Maria Callas, followed by the strong influence of the films of Gregory Markopoulos and Rosa von Praunheim, and perhaps most crucially, his attendance of productions by the Living Theater (on tour in Mannheim during the late 60s), where he met the actress Erika Kluge in the audience, and re-christened her (in the manner of Smith or Warhol) Magdalena Montezuma.

Montezuma became Schroeter’s primary muse and collaborator, and, in the words of Gary Indiana, “the most important actress since Anna Magnani.” In Eika Katappa, Schroeter’s 1969 break-through film, she stars in multiple roles, genders, states of mania, suffering, and ravishment. The film, praised by Josef von Sternberg and by Schroeter’s contemporary Rainer Werner Fassbinder, is a concatenation of Wagnerian travesty, expressionist film, passion play, and amateur approximations of Hollywood Melodrama in which fragments of monologue appear like errata from sources as disparate as Lautréamont and Patricia Highsmith. “We had no desire to be linear…it’s more of a mosaic of human emotions,” Schroeter has said of his approach. Montezuma speaks certain phrases obsessively, with a meaning that becomes more opaque with each repetition, such as the falsely redemptive, “Life is wery precious. Even right now,” filtered through a thick German accent. Musical fragments unexpectedly flood the image with emotion the way a dance song blaring from the window of a passing car can puncture “reality” when you’re absent-mindedly walking down the street. The refrain- or chant-like recurrence of musics, texts, images, and gestures lends an apparently intuitive, but very intricate polyphonic structure to Eika Katappa, akin to a lieder-cycle in which people can live.

Schroeter himself said of the film: “As an externalization of Christian eschatology, various Operatic reductions, a comedic-amateurish aspect with an icing of modern cliches of ‘experience,’ Eika Katappa presents the erotic tension at the core of exaggerated purism.” The critic Frieda Grafe described Schroeter’s performers as unlike “actors in the usual sense. They do not transform the author’s text into product, into a message. They agitate language, they point to practices rather than to some separable ‘meaning.’ They follow, in reverse, the path that in Western cultures inevitably leads from expression to idea, from representation to a premeditated concept.” Schroeter achieved this “agitation of language” by dislocating the causality of image from sound to create aching film-images that speak music and sing literature, through multiple deaths and endless resurrections. Likened to an “ecstatic tantrum” at the time of its premiere, Eika Katappa articulates a theory of history through “bad” lip-synching.

- NM

Tickets - $8, available at door, cash and cards accepted. Box office opens at 6:30pm.