This article was originally published on THUMP Germany
It's a rare occurence to watch a dance music video could be mistaken for an independent short film—and vice versa. Berlin-based director Parker Ellerman has teamed up with producer and Berghain resident DJ Marcel Dettmann to change this. The result is a nine-minute-long film illustrating Dettmann's new single, the semi-ambient track "Seduction," featuring Emika on vocals. It's not your typical music short, but a rather dark, twisted story about lust, fetish, loss of control, fear, and madness—reflecting all the elements and moods that can be found in Dettmann's music.
Read our full interview with Ellerman and Dettmann below:
Director Parker Ellerman (picture left) and Berghain resident Marcel Dettmann
Photo: © Gergana Petrova / VICE
THUMP: How did the two of you meet and how did you approach this movie?
Marcel Dettmann: We've known each other for six years. My wife and Parker are very good friends. That's why the families Ellerman and Dettmann are good friends, too. When I was working on my album Dettmann II, I had the idea to start collaborating with Parker.
Parker Ellerman: The whole idea was born last summer. We spent the holidays together—Marcel had to work, I was on vacation.
MD: Two families inside one lodge; that was great.
PE: The sun was shining most of the time, then Marcel played me the album he was working on. And then it all got very dark.
Did you agree on working specifically on "Seduction" at that point?
PE: It just happened. I liked that the track already sounded like a piece of a musical score, but the corresponding movie was missing. Emika's vocals add so much emotionality to "Seduction" and feel very surreal overall—they could have worked in a movie context. It already felt like a soundtrack.
MD: I like the term "soundtrack" a lot. You listen to a piece of music, and the brain starts playing an imaginary movie. In this case it wasn't just a growing idea, but the movie actually happened. I find that incredibly exciting—I've never been involved in this kind of process before.
PE: I've already approached Marcel in the past about contributing a soundtrack for one of my past short movies. But because of his travels that was difficult to piece together. So this time we've done it the other way around.
Is this a music video or short film?
PE: I think that every music video with a narrative is a short film, too. At the end of the day this isn't a classic short film that would be presented at film festivals and sink into obscurity afterwards. I also like that this film's being presented on VICE and THUMP and that hopefully many people will see it—together with the music of an artist who has his own fans that mostly know him as a DJ and producer.
It would work as a short film in regards to length, set design, cinematography, and the storyline itself. How did you develop the movie script—especially since the pictures tell their own story, rather than simply illustrating the music?
PE: I had the initial idea ready within a day. I tried to avoid those typical Berlin clichés that are connected to the city and Marcel… Berghain and all that.
Movies about Berlin usually use at least one shot from Warschauer Bridge…
PE: I wanted to dig deeper: The golden 20s and expressionism, black and white—I wanted to pick up on all of that. And I knew that it would be enacted just as a short film with a cast of actors. We shot most of the film in West-Berlin: Ku'damm, Fasanenstraße, Kranzler Eck. The movie also shows the entrance of Hotel Atlanta, but the inside shots took place at Pension Funk. The famous silent movie star Asta Nielsen lived there during the 20s. The room's interior is still in the style of that time. The same was true of the costumes, they also dipped into the 1920s. But at the same time modern cars were driving around town. That wasn't a matter of budget, but a conscious stylistic inconsistency, to carry the surreal feel and to make a connection to the present day.
The film also shows a record player, and next to it there's not only the Dettmann II album, but also a vintage shellac record…
PE: That's a detail from our set designer Isabella Ott. And there are even more references: The dancers in the roof top scene are wearing costumes inspired by expressionist mask dancer Lavinia Schulz, she was living in Berlin until the 1920s. Schulz first killed her husband in an Absinthe frenzy and then later shot herself. Her costumes are being shown at Hamburg's Museum of Arts and Crafts, and we've recreated them one-to-one.
Another central element of the movie is the loss of control—on one side as there's the sexual play, later on as an accident and the fall from the roof.
PE: It's not just an accident. The defining scene shows an epileptic seizure. I've talked to a friendly neurologist in advance, initially I just wanted to learn more about delusions of persecution. But that itself was pretty disillusioning, as he just told me: "Such complex things as in A Beautiful Mind, that's all Hollywood bullshit. Those people are rather hearing voices. Just take your pick…" We then got talking about temporal lobe epilepsy. Patients usually experience badass religious visions.
And that's why there's an angel in the room.
PE: Precisely. The trigger is the epilepsy. That death isn't because of an accident—that's what you hear a lot: Somebody lost the keys to the handcuffs and stuff like that. But you still won't understand what the angel stands for, that's the story behind the story. And contrary to most times in German movies, you don't need to explain every little thing.
Marcel, how did you like the plot to go with your music?
MD: Well, of course we talked about Parker's ideas in advance…
PE: Our wives were shocked, we liked it…
MD: We liked it! To me it was fitting. I had no precise visual imagination of the track, but Parker's script worked like a piece of a jigsaw to me. I liked the idea until I saw the first edit of the shoot. And then I thought: „Wow!" Nine minutes without much of a dialogue, that might be lengthy. And we've even stretched the original version of "Seduction" for about two more minutes. But being capable to absorb such lengths, that's what makes a good movie for me.
Marcel Dettmann, "Seduction" feat. Emika, Ostgut Ton
Written & directed by: Parker Ellerman | Producer: Munir Abbar | Cinematography: Albrecht Silberberger | Film Editor: Rob Myers
Casting: Eva Vollmar | Starring: Cleo von Adelsheim, Sven Gerhardt, Stefano Cassetti
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