Night Sight 2011

Campfire Stories

(Markus Keuschnigg, curator)

Genre cinema is soothing. It arranges familiar elements into new, surprising, radical combinations: stories about what is monstrous and repressed, about what is pleasurable and painful, which are newly adapted again and again to the spirit of the times. The vampire mutates from the Strigoi of folklore into the horror gothic Vlad Dracula into an urban seducer into a pale, ascetically yearning heart-breaker. Cinema in general, but especially genre cinema, seems to be a continuation of all the stories, legends and myths passed on from one generation to the next.

The parallels are obvious. On the one hand both lead to an immediate reaction: we laugh, scream, reflect or are frightened. On the other hand they lead to insights, warn of dangers or immoral behavior. The surrounding space in the cinema is dark, almost like sitting by a campfire: as viewer, you only have to subordinate yourself to a narrator’s force of expression, surrender to the momentary flow of the plot and the curve of tension, unlike the long-distance dramaturgies in a book or a video game. For this reason too, cinema is a medium of concrete emotions. Even a tiny stumble is sufficient, and the fragile tension within the story collapses.

This year’s Night Sight selection reflects this eternal character of the genre cinema: the opening film Burke and Hare, for instance, deals with a historical case from Edinburgh in 1827/1828, where two Irish day-laborers became serial killers for financial reasons. This is an actual incident that has become increasingly fictionalized over the course of decades and centuries, which has seeped into the story pool of cultural memory. Finally, in 2010, the American John Landis remade the story of “Burke and Hare”, produced by the British Ealing Studios which only recently reopened a few years ago, and modeled after their famous “Ealing Comedies”, caustic and sometimes very black comedies.

The young Frenchman Franck Richard also furnishes his boldly crafted La meute with set pieces from several decades of horror film history, but his eclectic combination of recognizable ingredients, from remote motels to flesh-eating monsters, soon reveals a very personal signature.

The Norwegian fantasy film Trolljegeren tells in a contemporary verité style of a hunter wandering through the impressive fjord islands and forests of the North European country in search of creatures from Nordic mythology: trolls, of course. And they are meticulously recreated from historical sources.

This year’s “Night Sight” thus situates itself between past and present, seeks to be a campfire for five stories and many more, which will hopefully be retold until even the last person knows that trolls can smell the blood of a Christian from miles away, even against the wind. You never know.