«When I think of the films that are waiting for me at the studio, it seems a thousand times more real than anything that is to be seen from my hospital window. The images overlap more and more. They create a new vision of what still concerns me artistically. Whether I can keep step with the tempo is another question.»
Peter Liechti, diary entry, March 2014
In embarking on his last film project, Dedications, Peter Liechti wanted to fulfill a long cherished wish: the making of a trilogy. The most important companions along his path as filmmaker were painting, literature, and music—lifelong artistic frames of reference. To him, painting and literaure were embodied in the figures of Vincent van Gogh and Robert Walser, whose works and lives he studied time and again. The third part of the trilogy was to be devoted to the “unknown Dinka chief,” whom he had met in 1999 while doing research in today’s South Sudan. The painter, the writer, the tribal chief—the three protagonists could not be farther apart. But for Peter Liechti, who they were and what they did quintessentially represented what he called “the expression of being human.” He had planned three essays, three entirely different worlds—united in one piece of cinema.
Despite his inexorably advancing illness, he continued to work on Dedications, often to the point of exhaustion and often wondering whether he should give up the film project after all in order to devote the little time he had left to writing. The original trilogy led to a new concept, in which the three parts flow into each other in the film—and in which Peter Liechti wanted to address his illness as well. It was to be a dedication to life in general, to what it was that drove, enriched, and compelled him. Living, writing, and filming: an inseparable process.
He spent months studying and selecting images from the raw material of his extensive film archives, writing and revising texts, shooting new footage in Appenzell and Zurich, and finally starting to work on the montage with his editor Annette Brütsch. The outcome: a possible beginning, a rough cut, fifteen minutes long, unsecured and open, the way the author always worked.
Peter Liechti died on April 4, 2014. He was unable to fulfill the hope of producing a rough cut of the film that he wanted to hand over to his team for completion after his death.
He left a diverse legacy in addition to those fifteen minutes. For one thing, his Hospital Diary—notes, observations of himself, and thoughts recorded during countless stays in hospital. Already scarred by illness, the author himself reads this text before the camera. In addition there is footage from Triemli Hospital and research trips to Belgium and France, as well as a broad selection from his personal film archives. Pictures intended for Dedications.
Dedications—Peter Liechti was unable to complete his great trilogy. Having someone else do it was out of the question. And yet, with the combined help of friends and former coworkers, a project has come about. It is an attempt to do justice in three parts to this extensive legacy.
1. The Film Reading
Peter Liechti presents his Hospital Diary. It was to be the text that would underline his film essay Dedications. The author read it out loud in January 2014 in his studio apartment in Wald (Canton of Appenzell). He was filmed by Peter Guyer.
2. The Installation
The artist Yves Netzhammer has designed a presentation of Liechti’s extensive raw material. The installation can be shown at film festivals and in museums. It shows connections between the diversity of his material and also does justice to the fragmented, open-ended nature of the artist’s ongoing “construction site.”
3. The Book
In addition to selected film stills, this book contains the complete text of the Hospital Diary, excerpts from the treatment for Dedications and selected excerpts from the “logbooks,” as Peter Liechti called what he wrote when traveling. – Memories and encounters that he wanted to incorporate in Dedications.
A DVD of the existing, first fifteen minutes of the film will accompany the book: a first version, a fragment that the author would have reworked and revised several times over. Nonetheless, we have decided to move ahead with this limited form of publication. The DVD gives us a fifteen-minute insight into an unfinished “Liechti View.”
Dedications – My coworkers and I have tried to implement the unfinished project with the greatest care and respect for Peter Liechti’s artistic intentions. I hope we have succeeded. It is also our “dedication” to an extraordinary visual artist and extraordinarily eloquent friend.