THE MASTER AND MAX
Max, the epitome of the narrow-minded bourgeois who is
completely lacking in ambition, lives strictly according to convention
and is never at one with himself or the world, is actually a
fictitious character, like Max’s beloved Christine and his faithful friend Polo, a product of the
imagination of filmmaker Clemens Klopfenstein. The director has long
been plagued by a creative crisis. Now his fictitious figures are
condemned to wander aimlessly through the film world of their creator
as lost souls caught up in the treadmill of the same old, same old.
When Max once again falls in love with the fun-loving and hedonistic
Christine, only for his advances to be rejected because she finds him
a dull and boring killjoy, he comes to a decision: he will seek out
his MASTER in the hope that the filmmaker can finally free him from
the role he seems damned to play for the rest of his life…
This compilation film marks the 70th birthday of Swiss writer-director
Clemens Klopfenstein, whose work has earned him cult status far beyond
the Alps. The film, put together from the works of the director, who
made films over decades using the same three actors, dares to try out
something that is unique in the history of film: on the basis of the
works of one single director, it tells a new, completely original
story that at the same time reveals the very essence of the
Marcel Derek RamsayDirector
Project Title (Original Language):DER MEISTER UND MAX
Runtime:1 hour 23 minutes
Completion Date:January 15, 2015
Production Budget:200,000 CHF
Country of Origin:Switzerland
Country of Filming:Switzerland
Language:German, Swiss German
Film Color:Black & White and Color
Before film school, Marcel Derek Ramsay, born in Switzerland in 1969, was a professional photographer whose works were shown in numerous exhibitions and won various awards. His short films – often experimental and found footage works – earned him among other things a nomination for the Golden Leopard in the Best Short Film category at the Locarno Film Festival. He was a cameraman on Samir’s documentary film “Babylon 2”, which has become part of Switzerland’s collective memory, and this was followed by a lengthy period as a cutter for Swiss TV, commercials, and independent productions.
His editing left its mark on numerous animated films and documentaries, including “Beyond Farewell” by Susanna Hübscher, where he was also responsible for much of the camerawork, “Die Seilbahn” (The Cable Car) and “Schlaf” (Sleep) by Claudius Gentinetta, which won awards in Cairo, Tokyo, Baden, Montreal, and Geneva, to name but a few, “L’Île Noire” by Nino Christen, who is currently enjoying remarkable success at film festivals, as well as Jacqueline Zünd’s “Goodnight Nobody”, which also won numerous awards including the “Best Newcomer” prize at the Visions du Réel (Visions of Reality) documentary film festival in 2010.
In 2008 Marcel Derek Ramsay established the “Cinéma Copain Ltd.” production company, and since then he has been producing film trailers, works of his friends who are film makers, as well as his own film projects. At the moment the company is producing the animated film “OS Love” by the exceptionally talented young Swiss film maker Luc Gut, the documentary “Das letzte Feld” (The Last Field) by Mehdi Sahebi (“Zeit des Abschieds” – Time to Say Farewell), as well as his own documentary about noise musician Joke Lanz with the working title “Je t’aime Sudden Infant” (I Love Sudden Infant).
Klopfenstein’s 70th birthday seemed to us to be the ideal occasion to put people in the mood to (re)discover one of Switzerland’s most original and idiosyncratic directors. In doing so we have tried something that has never been seen before in the history of film: using material from Klopfenstein’s complete cinematic oeuvre, films that were shot long ago, we have weaved a new, original story with its own plot, a clearly defined central protagonist, its own suspense and drama, and newly created conflicts and resolutions resulting from the editing of the material. At the same time we have brought together Klopfenstein’s films in a dialog, filtered out predominant themes and topics, and brought the very essence of Klopfenstein’s creative universe to light.
Even after extensive research and numerous discussions with film historians we have been unable to find a single film that has attempted a venture of this nature. The two works that come closest to ours are “The Clock”, an art installation by video artist Christian Marclay that attracted a great deal of attention in the art world, and the compilation film “Final Cut” by Hungarian filmmaker György Palfi. However, both of these films use works from countless filmmakers. Marclay’s film does not tell a new story, but simply uses the time of day – moving forward in real time and always visible on screen – as the unifying element of his film. It is also impossible to identify with any of the characters in “Final Cut”, as throughout the film the faces change every couple of seconds, and the same faces are shown at most three or four times. The aims of the film – which include making the narrative conventions of boy-meets-girl stories visible – forced the filmmaker to use a story that feeds off cinematic stereotypes and is hence extremely banal.
Our good fortune is that Clemens Klopfenstein – similar to François Truffaut with Jean-Pierre Léaud as Antoine Doinel – has always had the same actor play the role of his alter ego, and, with him at the center, has arranged a trio whose other two parts are also always portrayed by the same actors. This makes it possible for us to use material from a whole range of films in which the main characters never change. In order to weave together the scenes, fragments, and atmospheric shots from Klopfenstein’s works into a new story, the risk we had to take was, of course, that in one scene a character might be 20, in the next 50, then again 30, sometimes with dark hair, then blonde, at one point with long and later with short hair. A similar effect – in much more extreme form – was tried by Oscar-winning director Todd Haynes in “I’m Not There” (2007) and met with huge critical acclaim, or by Todd Solondz in his “Palindromes” project (2004). Both films were written as original works and not, as in our case, filtered from existing films.
The choice of this form of montage originated, as mentioned above, in our idea of an homage to Clemens Klopfenstein, that unique oddball character in Swiss filmmaking. The fragments of his films used here fuse together to create an incomparable Klopfenstein cosmos. They unveil not only the topics on which his work consistently focuses, but manifest his unique sense of humor and the enchanting poetic quality that permeates his work, as well as his singular use of sounds, colors, music, atmosphere, and recurring motifs.
We hope that this engaging approach will encourage others to discover the work of this eminent Swiss artist. Thanks to the refreshingly avant-garde style with which he shot low-budget films à la Dogma long before Dogma was filmed, or the way he tried out improvisation without a fixed script years before Jim Jarmusch or Mike Leigh, he can be described as a precursor of the Dogma as well as the Mumblecore movement, in a sense the grandfather of Lena Dunham, Greta Gerwig & co. However, Klopfenstein also owes his unique position in Swiss cinema to the unabashed way in which he has always held a mirror up to Swiss society with its bourgeois shallowness and narrow-mindedness – symbolically representing the same phenomena in many other countries – and has done so without ever losing his sense of humor or his love for his characters.