Die Pferde des Rittmeisters


2015, 00:10:27, 1080i50, Farbe, Ton, W013 01

In his video works and multi-channel installations, Clemens von Wedemeyer examines the conditions of historical narratives and looks into the role of collective and private memory, as well as the role that the moving image assumes in these contexts. Often, his starting points are issues of recent German history, which he deals with anew in his films that are located between the genres of fiction film and documentary. With this shift in the boundaries between reality and fiction von Wedemeyer offers alternative perspectives on historical and political events. Die Pferde des Rittmeisters come from the seven-part series of works Point of View, based on documentary footage by von Wedemeyer’s grandfather, Captain Freiherr Harald von Vietinghoff-Riesch. Between 1938 and 1942, the amateur filmmaker recorded scenes behind the front line, which aside from impressions of destroyed cities and prisoners of war mainly show idyllic landscapes and architectures as well as the comradely contact among German army officers. The 16mm films, partly in color, partly in black and white, were not intended as propaganda for the masses, but for screenings in a private setting. Thus, the 180-minute footage had been stored in the family home for several decades, until it was handed over to the German Federal Archives / Dept. Film Archives by Vietinghoff-Riesch’s daughter in 1981. For Die Pferde des Rittmeisters, von Wedemeyer cuts up the footage based on the criterion of picture content: he extracts those sequences, which show shots of horses, strings them together, indicating their year and place of origin and adds an analytical voice-over to them. There are horses in various roles and situations: as status objects, as riding animals for officers or as working animals, pulling refugees on hay carts or war material – but also as animal carcasses on the roadside. Von Wedemeyer explains, “there is rather a perished horse in the picture than dead civilians. They become a reference to the death of others, which the filmmaker refrains from showing.” The compilation suggests the constructedness of the cinematic medium, which by the selection of the excerpts not only presents certain aspects, but invariably also excludes others. In this sense von Wedemeyer comments: “The actual battles are between the images.”