The skilful montage of fragments from the medical records of patients at the psychiatric clinic of Heidelberg University paints a painful collective portrait of women artists who were locked away as mentally “ill”. The intimate narrative, the soundtrack of waterphone improvisations and the use of historical Laterna Magica films make up the oppressive atmosphere of this found-footage Animadok film.
Wegzaubern – Spirit Away
Animated documentary, Animated Found Footage, 7 min.
WEGZAUBERN emerged from the preoccupation with the biographies of female patients whose artistic works are represented in the Prinzhorn Collection. I am impressed by how the women tried to reassure themselves in an existential emergency situation through artistic work.
WEGZAUBERN works with original 35mm continuous films for Laterna Magica from around 1900 – in other words, drawn, often rotoscoped films from the artists’ lifetime. I have collected these film loops for Laterna Magica film projectors over the last few years and scanned them frame by frame. From the material I chose everyday scenes with women – often funny situations with dancers, sorceresses, laundresses. I reconstruct a fictional biography from the animated film scenes and a collage of text fragments from the medical records.
WEGZAUBERN is perhaps the first animated found footage film in film history.
They are born as daughters of middle-class families or the working class. They grow up as introverted or extroverted girls. They marry early, they marry late, they have many children, no children, lose children. They learn a profession, they are a housewife. They are all different. But they have two things in common. They are all women artists. And are locked up in psychiatric hospitals as “mentally ill”. For WEGZAUBERN, filmmaker and artist Betina Kuntzsch looked through the medical records of female patients at the psychiatric clinic of Heidelberg University. Fragments of these files form the textual basis of her six-minute film. The diagnoses are read out objectively, concisely and in protocol style. On a visual level, Kuntzsch uses historical Laterna Magica films that repeatedly take up the theme of conjuring. Often, young women can be seen working magic in the household, setting the table. Or little children playing with each other. Acoustically, the film is accompanied by Waterphone improvisations. Together, the almost detached text, the innocent impressions and the subtle tapestry of sound create an incredibly dense and almost eerie atmosphere that seems absurd and yet reveals so much ruthless cruelty towards the women who simply wanted to be artists. And that is exactly what the society of a bygone era did not want to allow. A cleverly constructed found-footage film that lingers in the viewer for a long time. And who pays great respect to the nameless women he talks about.
Press release of the German Film and Media Rating (FBW)
WEGZAUBERN (Deutsche Fassung) / SPIRIT AWAY (English version)
36 Laterna Magica Films from around 1900
Text Fragments from Biographies of the Women Artists in the Prinzhorn Collection
Director: Betina Kuntzsch
Music: Joachim Gies
Voice (Engl. version): Merrily Jones
DOK Leipzig, 2015
Tricky Women Wien, 2016
2FICAE Valencia, 2016
Monstra Lissabon, 2016
IFFF Köln, 2016
EMAF Osnabrück, 2016
IKFF Hamburg, 2016
MIAF Melbourne, 2016
ANIMASIVO, Mexico City, 2016
Fantoche | Baden/CH, 2016
Festival de cinéma de la ville de Québec, 2016
Animasivo | Mexico City, 2016
The Factual Animation Film Fuss | London, 2016
Women Over 50 Film Festival | Brighton, 2016
Animatou | Genf, 2016
Uppsala International Short Film Festival, 2016
Kasseler Dokfest, 2016
ISFF ZUBROFFKA | Bialystok/POL, 2016
Sommets du cinéma d’animation, Québec, 2016
FRONTDOC Aosta, Italien, 2016
Filmfest Dresden, 2017
Independent Days International Filmfestival Karlsruhe, 2017
Nikozi Festival, Georgien, 2017
Barcelona International Short Film and Video Festival, 2017
Indie-Anifest, Seoul, 2017
The Animattikon Project, Zypern, 2017
Rencontres Internationales Sciences & Cinémas (RISC), Marseille, 2017
Awards & Prizes
Deutsche Film- und Medienbewertung FBW:
Prädikat besonders wertvoll – FBW-Rating ‟Special Commendation”
If you want to tell stories, historical data and file entries can help to fill these stories with interesting facts. But if you want to tell something about the context of the story beyond that, it is best to let the information speak for itself. This is exactly what filmmaker and artist Betina Kuntzsch does in her animated film WEGZAUBERN.
On the sound level we hear the file entries of patient records from a mental hospital. The patients mentioned (but not with names) are all female, but have different biographies and backgrounds, have even lived in different times. But they are all united by the pursuit of art, of self-realisation, of creativity. And what unites them is that this is precisely what they did not like. Kuntzsch contrasts the very cleverly chosen file fragments, which are spoken in a calm and matter-of-fact voice, with images of a bygone era. These are 35mm continuous films for a Laterna Magica, which take up motifs of magic in any form. The jury remarked how well thought out the concept of the film is. Not only do the films themselves create a sense of history. The material itself, marked with scratches and by inserted film strips, is also made tangible as something “past”. And although as a viewer you first have to settle into the speaker’s strangely detached delivery and cannot immediately recognise the connection with the animated characters, you let yourself fall into the film. The criticism Kuntzsch makes of the treatment of women artists is skilfully and cleverly hidden behind the cold truth of the written word. Automatically, one completes the anonymous biographies of the women in one’s head.
The only thing the jury could see as somewhat critical was the somewhat too brief insertion of background information that appears as an info panel at the end. Too short, but still very suitable as a prelude to interesting conversations and discussions. The jury awards the film, which in their eyes manages to tell history and stories at the same time, the highest rating of “especially valuable”.
DOK Leipzig 2015:
Goldene Taube Internationaler Wettbewerb animierter Dokumentarfilm
Jury statement: A visually stunning, contradictory, serious and funny, media-reflective examination of gender roles. The film presents itself as a brilliant symbiosis of animation with found footage and a collage of accounts of women artists from mental institutions.
DOK Leipzig, 2015
Tricky Women Wien, 2016:
Special Mention of the Jury
Images that evoke the magical beginnings of cinema, when everything seemed possible, and a commentary that gradually unveils the impossibilities and limitations of women’s lives. A short film that highlights the past, but also our ongoing conflicts and struggles in the present.