Introduction

Songlines is a film project comprising 9 short films made by directors from 6 different countries. Each film is based on and inspired by the music of the album The Breathtaking Blue by the German group Alphaville.

Songlines could be called a festival of international directors.

Every director has interpreted and visualised the atmosphere which a particular song creates in his or her own highly personal cinematographic language, thus in a sense creating a new audio version of the music which is independent, of the presence: of Alphaville's musicians. Songlines is an attempt to have film collaborate with music in a slightly different way than usual, that is the film is based on the music and not vice versa. Songlines is not a video-clip in the traditional sense, thus contains no lip-synching, playing or dancing members of Alphaville.

Australian Aborigines believe that the Gods created everything on earth by wandering through the desert and singing all creatures and things into existence. Aborigines still follow these "Songlines" now and again, guided by totems left behind by the Gods which only they recognise. In Alphaville's view, Songlines can also be the inspiration and creative concepts which transpire into a work of art and in its turn inspires whoever retraces these elements intrinsic to the music.

The origin of the Songlines project is a special kind of imagination and collaboration peculiar to the musicians of Alphaville. The fantasy and creativity which Alphaville has inspired in their fans has led to extensive correspondence and sometimes collaboration in lyrics or symbols used by the band. They are also fascinated by the possibilities of combining their music with film.

What the directors have to say about their films and the "reverse" approach to film and music involved in the Songlines project is evocative of the pleasure they took in working on a filmed interpretation of a song.

For a Million
directed by Alexander Kaidanovsky
U.S.S.R.

Alexander Kaidanovsky. Born in 1946. Graduated from "Soukin" Theater Institute in 1969. After working as an actor in various films (lead role in Tarkovsky's "Stalker") he studied directing at Goskino. Short Films: Sad (1983), Iona (1985), Feature Films: Prosta Ja Smert (A Simple Death, 1985), Gost (Locarno 1988), The Gasman's Wife (In Competition, San Sebastian 1989).

In explanation of his hoodwinker, namely making a film three minutes longer than the music, Alexander Kaidanovsky noted that he'd never made such a short film before, nor had he ever made a film with such long music... however he was thrilled to work on the Songlines project due to the absolute artistic freedom given to him.
Alexander Kaidanovsky

Alexander Kaidanovsky collaborated with director of photography Yuri Klimenko (known for his work with Soviet director Sergei Paradjanov) to create a sensuous, fantastic atmosphere. His film to the song For a Million is a luscious mirage of textures and shadows. A shy and beautiful woman appears to a monk in his closed, monastic life and instills great and tempting confusion in him, Ultimately he succeeds in determining the identity of his vision...

Romeos
directed by Ian Pringle
Australia

Ian Pringle. Screenplay writer and director of numerous documentaries. Made his first short feature film in 1977, The Cartographer and the Waiter. He won a gold ducat at the Mannheim film festival in 1982 for his first cinema film The Plains of Heaven. Wrong World (1984) was a surprise choice for the 1984 competition of the Berlin film festival. His latest feature Prisoners of Saint Petersburg won the audience prize in Rotterdam and was shown at Cannes, 1989.

One notes Ian Pringle's scriptwriter's background in his literary approach to his film and the Songlines concept: "Like the lyrics, the images tell a story. My images are my interpretation of the lyrics. How other people respond to the images and lyrics (and music) together is the interesting part now."
Ian Pringle

Ian Pringle shot a nocturnal excursion in Melbourne for the first Breathtaking Blue single Romeos. He captured the street-side mood of the song by shooting crowded city night-life, as well as the loneliness implicit in it by having his Protagonist criss-cross town, seeking and searching but not really making contact with anyone.

Middle of the Riddle
directed by Christoph & Wolfgang Lauenstein
F.R.G.

Christoph & Wolfgang Lauenstein are identical twins and were born in Hildesheim in 1964. They finished highschool in 1983 and went on to study film, Christoph at the University of Kassel, Wolf gang at the Hamburg Art Academy. Together they have made the films: "The Strangers" 1980, "Sidetrip" 1982, "Pthecanthropus Erectus" 1986, "Balance" 1988.

"It's the middle of the riddle...
We're livin' in a big boy's mind..."

"This poetic image is expressed in the many-faceted, image-filled lyrics of the song Middle of the Riddle. It was important to me that this symbolically charged text remain sovereign. Therefore its visualisation is not a literal illustration, which would be impossible in any case, but comprises a complete, autonomous story on its own."
Wolfgang Lauenstein

In a whimsical, animated film restricted to a few essential elements shot with blank-faced anonymous dolls, Christoph and Wolfgang Lauenstein have transported the absurd but serious Lewis Carroll-like lyrics of the song Middle of the Riddle to a strange, new realm. Their interpretation of the lyrics adds a new tragi-comic aspect to the associations one has from the words and tune.

Heaven or Hell
directed by Slobodan Pesic
Yugoslavia

Slobodan Pesic. Born in 1956 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. B.A. in Film Directing from American University, Washington. Worked many years directing programmes and videos for TV-Belgrade. His TV video drama Rianon (1984) won the Ljubljana Award for best visualisation in 1985 and was selected for the "The Arts for Television" exhibition shown in 12 major museums worldwide in 1987. His first feature film The Harms Case (1988) won the grand prize at the Mannheim film festival (1988) as well as the 1989 Prix Future (for radio and television productions) in Berlin.

"Heaven or hell?

"Well... The work we do is hell with bits and pieces of heaven. Making films is always a challenge - a sort of hysterical pregnancy, and definitely hell, but at the end there is always a piece of heaven for something we have done. Even dreams may be pleasant or nightmares. But then heaven could mean so many different things, and so could hell. Are we actually creating our own heaven and hell, or are we simply born with the idea? Nobody has ever said to me 'Go to Heaven!' As a matter of fact it could be equally horrible... So we should stick with our dreams and wait until death gives us the answer."
Slobodan Pesic

Slobodan Pesic transformed his favourite song from the album, Heaven or Hell, into a surrealist odyssey in his native Belgrade, He distilled elements of philosophy and sardonic wit from the song which also seem central to his own personality. The film exemplifies the title with grace and charm corresponding to the weightlessness of the music.

Ariana
directed by Ricky Echolette & Olaf Bessenbacher
West Berlin

Olaf Bessenbacher. Born in Bamberg in 1962. Has worked in film from zero up since 1980. Unit Manager since 1983. Assistant director to Klaus Lemke for Zockerexpress (1987); Ein Verhexter Sommer (1988). Ariana is his first film as co-director.

Ricky Echolette. Born in Cologne in 1957. In 1982 he started painting, working in film and made his first short film The Matterhorn Effect. Musician in Alphaville since 1985. Co-directed Ariana.

"Our film borrows from the comic-strip feeling intrinsic to the music. As in science-fiction comics our hero has nifty equipment and lots of fantasy at his disposal. He just happens to run into a few technical problems... We don't want to disclose whether his transformation from a hairdresser into a daring spaceship pilot brings him closer to the object of his desire - yet.
We cast ingenues in all the roles in order to conserve the spontaneous and improvised character of the production. Long live slapstick!"
Olaf Bessenbacher & Ricky Echolette

The Alphaville musician and sometime filmmaker Ricky Echolette along with Olaf Bessenbacher and Fruit United Pictures let spaceships fly through bedrooms and the heavens to the music of Ariana creating a racing, high energy of the music, Working in conjunction with friends from the Berlin film industry they built the most detailed sets of heaven and earth and all that lies between, A super-heroic deed in tune with their concept.

She Fades Away
directed by Mao Kawaguchi
Japan

Mao Kawaguchi. Born in 1951 in Tokyo. Started working with 16 mm film and 1/4" video in 1969. 1975: Asst. Director of Rock Explosion. 1977-78: Member of Kigure Circus. 1980: Visual Creator for Stereo Ongakukan. Since 1981 he has produced many videos, had numerous exhibitions and created and performed FUJI AV LIVE video/music performance. In 1987 he entered Tyrell Corporation and became Director of AV Garden Studio.

Mao Kawaguchi provided a lyric vision of the Japanese metropolis for the song She Fades Away:

"There are magnetic fields in the city which attract me,
as a magnet draws sand with iron particles.
When I ramble through the city and decipher Tokyo's landscape
I find places in this homogenized, ultra-heated city
which haven't been 'disinfected' properly.
There the world's angles sway from the will to chaos
and then, the magnetic field arises."
Mao Kawaguchi

Mao Kawaguchi's approach to the visualisation of the music is quite a contrast to his Western colleagues, yet conforms to his tradition and roots. His film is an abstract and in a sense technical play of urban images. Yet it conveys the loss and estranged feeling which are incorporated in the music and lyrics of She Fades Away.

Summer Rain
directed by Susanne Bier
Denmark

Susanne Bier. Born in Copenhagen in 1960. Graduated from the National Film School in 1987. Has made video clips, theatre and other programmes for Danish television. Her first long film De Salges (The Island of the Blessed, 1988) won prizes at the Munich Student film Festival as well as a Baby Oscar.

Unable or unwilling to comment on her film work, Susanne Bier did comment on the basic concept of the Songlines project: "A video clip with a singer lip-seeking has never worked yet for me. Songlines is another approach to the marriage of image music which could make things move in a new direction. It be a positive provocation."
Susanne Bier

Using still photographs Susanne Bier created a very Scandinavian movie which recreates the sensual but stifling atmosphere of a beach resort at the turn of the century, An mysterious sexual encounter is at the heart of her short film. Like a thunder clap it is overpoweringly present and yet disappears without a trace once it has occurred.

Mysteries of Love
directed by Alex Proyas
Australia

Alex Proyas. Started studying cinematography at the Australian Film and Television School at the age of 17. Groping, a short about urban violence, won as Most Outstanding Short Film at the London film festival in 1982. Co-founder of Meaningful Eye Contact, which has won many Australian and American festival, television and music industry awards. Short Films: Groping, Strange Residues, Debris, Spineless. Feature Film: Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds. Music videos for: INXS, Fleetwood Mac, Mike Oldfield, Rick Springfield, The Other Ones...

"I am dealing with themes of physical isolation and mystical associations. Though now depicted in a series of evocative close-ups, concentrating on detail and texture - exploring an inner world, a symbolic landscape more so than a real one. It's almost as if the protagonists move through two identical copies of the same terrain, so they cross each other's paths and sometimes even occupy the same place but somehow remain isolated. Just as the Australian Aboriginals believe in mystical songlines covering the country... lines that merge and cross. Disconnected dreamlike images, intercutting past, present and future."
Alex Proyas

"A man and a woman isolated from each other and lost in an Australian outback setting, on a symbolic journey of discovery The protagonists each find remnants of the other separated by time and space."
A.P.

Alex Proyas transposed an East-West separation described in the song Mysteries of Love into an Australian interpretation and setting. He managed to incorporate symbolism in imagery kindred to that which is typical of the group Alphaville and expressive of the Songlines inspiration itself.

Patricia's Park
directed by Godfrey Reggio
U.S.A

Godfrey Reggio. Born in New Orleans, Reggio is a spiritually directed, socially committed activist filmmaker. He joined the Christian Brothers at 14 but after taking his vows at 25 and becoming a teacher in New Mexico he was asked to leave the order due to his political and social activities. He worked for 8 years with local street gangs. In the early 70s he conceived a multi-media campaign to spotlight social issues, whose success propelled him towards motion pictures - as a vehicle for raising public consciousness. His monumental films Koyanisqaatsi and Powaqqatsi, with sound-tracks by Phillip Glass, have won international acclaim.

"Two principal dramatic elements immediately suggested themselves: Patricia, the entity, ourselves; and her park, in fact our world... The baby, Patricia, is our human visage, suffering in her sleep tied to the machine. The park, a technological fantasy, is autonomous and out-of-control. The relationship that exists between these two entities is the vision of Patricia's Park."
Godfrey Reggio

Godfrey Reggio edited footage from his two masterful movies Koyanisquaatsi and Powaqqatsi to compose this beautiful and shocking movie about humanity's present, earthly situation. The vision which permeated Koyanisquaatsi: that the planet is rushing toward, aiding and abetting its own destruction is contrasted with the helplessness of a baby tied to the technological machine which the earth in our era appears to be.

Credits

Songlines
Inspired by the Alphaville Music
The Breathtaking Blue

Summer Rain
Denmark

Director: Susanne Bier
Producer: Peter Aalbak Jensen
Cameraman: Per Dreyer
Editor: Jacob Thuesen

Cast:
Sophie Craboll
Michael Bertelsen

Romeos
Australia

Director: Ian Pringle
Producer: Daniel Scharf
Cameraman: Brian Mckenzie
Editor: Catherine Birmingham

Cast:
Noah Taylor

She Fades Away
Japan

Director: Mao Kawaguchi
Cameraman: Yujirou Yajima
Editor: Tania Stocklin
Coordinator: Shinobu Nomura
Tokyo Production Manager: Tyrell Corporation
Berlin Production Manager: Frank Kunkel

Mysteries of Love
Australia

Director: Alex Proyas
Producer: Kit Quarry
Director Of Photography: Jeff Darling
Cameraman: Garry Phillips
Editor: Craig Wood

Cast:
Kristin Lyons
Terry Serio
Bart Willoughby

Ariana
West Berlin

Directed By: Wolfgang Neuhaus & Olaf Bessenbacher
Production: Fruit United Pictures
Editors: Giso Kakuschke & Karl T. Brandenburg
Cameraman: Joachim Thimm

Cast:
Mirian Winkels
Ty Halmschlag

Middle of the Riddle
F.R.G.

Directors: Wolfgang And Christoph Lauenstein
Camera: Christoph Lauenstein
Editor: Wolfgang Lauenstein

Heaven or Hell
Yugoslavia

Director: Slohodan Pesic
Producer: George Weiss
Cameraman: Milos Spasojevic
Editor: Neva Habic

Cast:
Frano Lasic
Damjana Luthar
Milica Tomic
Branko Cvejic
Mladen Andrejevic

For a Million
U.S.S.R

Director: Alexander Kaidanowsky
Producer: George Weiss
Director Of Photography: Yuri Klimenko
Editor: Sonya Stevanovic

Cast:
Zarko Lausevic
Mirjana Jokovic
Tanya Venchalovska

Patricia's Park
U.S.A.

Director: Godfrey Reggio
Producer: Lawrence Taub
Editor: Iris Cahn
Cinematrographers: Ron Fricke, Leo Zourdoumis, Graham Berry
An I.R.E. Production

Songlines produced by
Rose-Marie Couture & Ariane Mummert,
Luna Vision Film & Video
with the friendly assistance of
Budde Musikverlag and Alphaville
© & (P) Wea Musik & Neue Medien

See also:
  • Songlines
  • Songlines Press Release