Private Project

Story of Night

Clemens Klopfenstein composed this experimental ode to the city in 1979, in the same decade when city dwellers were moving out en masse to the suburbs. He filmed in no fewer than 150 urban centers, from Istanbul to Dublin, and from Helsinki to Rome. And he did so not during the daylight hours that mercilessly expose the decline and depopulation of shrinking cities, but under the cloak of night. This is when the urban environment appears most ghostly, with empty offices and residences calmly illuminated by buzzing streetlamps. Litter tumbles across the screen as a couple hurries home along a deserted sidewalk. A siren sounds, and in the distance a car engine turns over. Nighttime is clearly no time for people. Wherever human activity is to be found – in smoky drinking dens or at religious processions with fireworks and prayers – it resembles some kind of exorcism. Story of Night is a visual poem without narrative and with the minimum of camera movement. Klopfenstein captures the essence of the city through the interaction between humanity and the landscape it made. That essence is to be found not in the architectural hardware, but in the city dwellers who bring their surroundings to life and make it what it is.

  • Clemens Klopfenstein
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Experimental
  • Runtime:
    1 hour
  • Completion Date:
    December 1, 1979
  • Country of Origin:
  • Shooting Format:
    16 mm
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Clemens Klopfenstein

Born in 1944 in Tauffelen, Switzerland. Attended art school in Basel and in Zurich. Film courses with Kurt Früh in Zurich. Since 1963 painter and filmmaker. 1974 Receives grant for art in Rome. 1981 Receives DAAD film grant in Berlin. Art exhibitions in Italy and Switzerland. 1998 Awarded Swiss Film Prize, Best Fiction for "The Silence Of Men".

C. Klopfenstein, das “Urgestein des CH-Films” war schon in Solothurn eins dabei, er drehte mit allem was er in die Hand und vors Auge kriegte: erst 8mm, dann Super8, später 16mm, Super16, 35mm und dann Video8, Video Hi8, Analog dann Digital, jetzt Festplatte. Lebt seit vierzig Jahren in Umbrien als Maler, Zeichner, produziert mit familiärem franziskanischen Budgets.

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Director Statement

It’s a black-and-white record of European cities in the dark (2-5am), from Basle to
Belfast. Quiet, and meditative, what ermerges most strongly is an eerie sense of city
landscapes as deserted film sets, in which the desolate architecture overwhelms
any sense of reality. The only reassurance that we are not in some endless machineMetropolis
is the shadow of daytime activity: a juggernaut plunging through a
darkened village, a plague of small birds in the predawn light. The whole thing is
underscored by a beautiful ‘composed’ soundtrack, from quietly humming stretlamps
to reggae and the rumble of armoured cars in Belfast. A strange and remarkable
combination of dream, documentary and science-fiction.
Chris Auty, in: Programmheft London Film Co-op