PETER LIECHTI (1951-2014)
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MARTHA'S GARDEN (1997, Fiction, 35mm 1:1,66 schwarz-weiss, Dolby SR, 89')
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«I love the crackling of my old records. I'm at home up here, if s warm. Days melt away in the warmth. There's hardly a trace of winter. The heater heats and left and right ice falls off the roof.»

Since weeks it is grey and wet, the climate gets to the people. However in the cold gardens of this town, a different kind of life thrives …
Karl lives a secluded life in his apartment. He loves the domestic order. the quiet hours in the café, the sleep.
One evening under rather dark circumstances, he accidentally meets Martha, a woman of mysterious fascination. That is how a love story of fatal dynamics begins. Karl won't be able to tell till the end, what really happened and how it came about.

Karl experiences the encounter with Martha as a breakdown, a fall. The thin layers of his self assurance break under the force of his feelings; he falls into unknown depths. Soon he realizes that as well as love, uncanniness has also entered his life. The most hidden demons in him are set free one after the other. Even the pleasurable «batchelorexcursions» with his old friend Uwe no longer relax him.
Eventually he finds that even his surroundings are a macabre back drop to his own downfall. Convinced that the whole town was interspersed by «undead» he barricades himself in at home. But that's exactly where the two pale neighbours are and above all there is Mr Tepesch, the old vampire a very precisely set plot. At the same time Marthas relations with these neighbours become more familiar … Karl finds himself in the middle of a murderous maelstrom, which has to lead to a bloody end.

«The sleep of reason gives birth to monsters»
The quote from Goya has a brilliant double meaning. On the one hand it points to the creative power of the dream, to the fantasy that is liberated from all confined reason, which at night plagues the person who represses all memory. On the other hand it denounces the society of that time (the corrupted Spanish Monarchy and the Inquisition), which can only function by using threat and deception a society which oppresses and persecutes reasonable thinking. Amazingly enough Goya has in his etchings given these fantasy monsters the shape of the vampire.
Who doesn't know about Count Dracula, Nosferatu, the Undead …? Already as a child I devoured these dark stories. The tingling tremor under the spell of the uncanny, the inexplicable fascination with the evil. 1 reread Bram Stoker's «Dracula»' with great pleasure, completing it with further literature about vampirism.
I now started looking for the subliminal relevance to the present situation in Stocker's background description, which is characterized by Victorian prudery, in an era of intimidation through epidemics and violent intrigues of power.
Above all I found the topics «angst and oppressed sensuality». Vampire's bite as an image stands for the fear of sex, for death wish and for the demonization of eroticism. Only as «undead» are people allowed to unrestrictedly live out their desires.

As further sourcematerial I was using my old «Winter-Notes» (Texts and polemics from the murderous every day life of a small town). In his dreams the bourgeois thirsts for blood, this drives him to run amok. During the day he tries carefully at all price not to be noticed; fear of the neighbours, their hatred for any form of vitality, which they express with morbid calm and orderliness, finally the isolation, the creeping process of slowly going insane in a climate of obstinately defended stupidity these are the topics of these notes the matter that the demons are made of who inhabit our film.

Insanity lies dormant right under the surface of well ordered securities and suddenly breaks through out of the grey everyday routine announced only through disturbing signs. The scenes are all characterized by a somnambulary prevailing mood. The town remains at a shadowy distance, anonimous and exchangeable. The population: a weakwilled and powerless mass full of latent aggressivity without any resistance against the destroying powers of fear. Dull and aimless business is omnipresent, productive work isn't anywhere. Grotesque games and distractions replace genuine adventure. People are only presented in their private spaces and nearest surroundings. The working world is almost completely omitted fantomes don't work, they wander around like ghosts.

«MARTHAS GARTEN» is the story of a man (Karl Winter) who slowly loses the ground from under Ifis feet and finally also his mind. This process is supported and accelerated due to a meeting with a woman who herself has lost her emotional stability, and who tries to regain it, with this man: a love of fatal dynamics, a nightmare and finally a compelling course towards a frighteningly open ending.
The story is told in a chronologically and linear manner without any flash forwards or flash backs, sustained by Karl's inner voice. The simple main storyline allows for orientation within the ever increasing blurred realitylevels. This structural attitude is stretched so far during the film that it eventually becomes obsolete in resolving every inconsistency: up to a certain degree the inexplicable stays inexplicable, the cryptic remains in the dark.

I doubt whether at the begining one is always clear where one is going to end with a film. Often it's only the end result which shows me the meaning of the film. It seems to me, that the main motivation in making a film, is the wish to find out more through the work, to reach the deeper «sources», to bring something to an end. Naturally one never quite succeeds in this. Accordingly, in this procedure no fully completed stories can emerge, something will always remain open. On the other hand one can go much further in developing the moods, and get nearer to the conditions under which a story can begin to ferment, to approach that which is quietly rampant in humans and which pushes them to act. To explain and justify everything to the last detail would be anticipating and probably also too slick. At the most, I can find a form of expression for that, may be touch it, and for that I don't need to understand it thoroughly. By finding a form for it however, it loses its horror, fear obtains a face, perhaps there is an insight …
After many detours and going astray in search of motives and locations (Eastern Europe, East Berlin, La Chaux de Fonds) we finally landed in Eastern Switzerland - one of the «inevitabilities» of this project as the «Winter-Notes» were written here. It is only just, to look there, where something has been lost …
Karl Winter is the fictional character whom I send off to immerse himself completely into the squalor of Paranoia-City, fascinated I followed his story on the monitor of the editing table …
Peter Liechti

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