Interviewer: Mr. Mommartz, please describe your relationship to Cinema?
Lutz: I rarely go to the cinema; I don’t like westerns, nor dramas, nor comedies. Sometimes—out of curiosity—I enter a movie theatre, but even then with care. Sometimes it excites me, but I don’t have an explanation for that.
How did you begin filmmaking?
I never wanted to become a filmmaker. In 1963 I was in Uganda for six weeks. There was an 8mm camera around, and filming was a good way to kill boredom in Africa. I recorded things that were atypical for Africa. This satisfied me deeply. By way of example, I filmed a tablecloth hanging in the wind, long shot, full frame. For a few moments the wonderful landscape could be seen behind it—in colour. This material was unfortunately lost. I intend on giving up filming only when I have succeeded in recording such a beautiful setting again.
Did you make any more 8mm works?
Yes, with friends and acquaintances, as a game about recording behaviours, without ‘filmic’ ambitions. Alongside this, I considered the possibility of constructing a film by stringing together chosen situations from the visible reality of the camera, without any post-production. This process required that each sequence be memorised. The selection of each image was based on my personal notions of plausibility. The more I recorded, the more specific the film became. After a relatively arbitrary start, plausible possibilities were incrementally reduced. This process demanded tremendous concentration.
Initially, I wanted to carry out these experiments with individuals. I bought an old 8mm camera and exposed others to situations where they had to react to me and the camera. This test was very interesting for me, I wanted to find out what actions would develop from such a situation. However, when I decided to apply this practice to a group each individual had to cope firstly with their own presence, and then with that of others. It was clear to us that outsiders couldn’t understand this process through the film itself. Buying and using the camera therefore had little to do with the making of film.
It soon turned out that approaches to playing with subjects and consciousness differed. Despite a willingness to work together everyone had their own interests. My interest turned out to be stronger than the others’. For the most part, the others in this group didn’t continue with these provocations. This is why we never established a commune, for example. I still didn’t want to become a filmmaker, but the camera enticed me to explore its possibilities. As I didn’t want to be a loner and considered myself a social being, I decided to make my ideas of the world public. In 1967, I bought a 16mm camera and shot the first films for EXPRMNTL 4 Film Festival in Knokke-le-Zoute at the end of the year. I couldn’t be bothered with presenting fictions, instead I lived through the story.
Transcript of Lutz Mommartz, Erste Interviews (Early Interviews), 1963-68. The Lutz Mommartz Film Archive / Creative Commons.
Translated by Gabriele Weiß, edited by Marcus Jack.