This hypnotic film from the solipsistic eye of Cecil Franck is part of a larger exercise in narrative and mind-mapping that the filmmaker returned to throughout his career. Essentially an internal monologue over the top of images of a boy walking the streets of suburban Stuttgart, it hints at the melancholy of Albert Lamorisse's Le Ballon Rouge (1956). The footage, featuring Franck's nephew Jens, was shot in 1955, and subsequently reused by Cecil in over 100 films, recut and combined with different voiceovers and swathes of musics, an ever-evolving exercise in film. From 1955's Light Line to 1984's Lazer, Franck's manipulation of just an hour of the same visuals, over and over, is an endless working towards the central questions of art and meaning(lessness).
Mathematische uses an English language voiceover. A boy speaks:
'When I was a child I would love to make games out of everyday activities. any walk was a race with imaginary opponents. Or I might consider cars to be my enemy, and attempt to pass a lamppost before they did. This worked fine on quieter streets, where the noise of the car in the distance would serve as a challenge; I'd pick a marker ahead of me, one which seemed to be far enough away to not be so easy for me to reach before the car. A truly satisfying judgement would result in me dipping slightly to take the tape mere feet before the car passed unknowingly. On busier streets it would be harder to pick out individual cars in the hubbub, so I would change the game. One might be to see the sections of grass between the pavement and the street as safe zones behind which passing cars were no threat. In this case, I could not pass between them across a driveway entrance at the the same time as a car went by. Again, I could not run or stop, but by adjusting the pace of my stride, I'd hope to navigate an entire street without being 'hit' by a passing car. I would spend a lot of time imagining lines, running from the edges of the grass through perpendicular angles across the road and across the pavement. I'd also imagine similar lines across the front and rear bumpers of cars fizzing at 90 degree angles across the pavement, shots of invisible laser or light that would be repelled by the grass but would otherwise continue across the unguarded pavements, burning all in their path. Imagining these lines became second nature; They'd spin out from parked cars (also designated as cover sometimes) and benches, walls and any vehicle. Geometric prettiness from unseen shapes, dealt with by checked strides and sudden spurts.'
As late as 2005, with the release of Luxuriant Jay, Franck was still making films with the same piece of footage he had shot of Jens in 1955. 'I have not lifted a camera or been on a set in fifty years,' he said, 'for the images I collected then contain endless possibility. There are a million films to be made from those sequences of Jens, and I will never be finished. I am like a musician composing using only one chord, on one instrument, and through this repetition I discover anew things that I could not with a wider palette.'(1)
Jens Franck died in the year 2000, aged fifty-one. His uncle continues to remake his image, combining it, in various constellations, with various music (self-composed minimalist electronics, or commissioned/borrowed works from (among many others) Klaus Schulze, Holger Czukay, Robert Wyatt, Francoise Hardy and Die Krupps) and snippets of broken words. 'Now Jens is gone, I feel like my mission has sharpened, my idea more correct. In these fifty-five minutes, over and over, I can reflect his life, his family, his loves, his passions, through the way in which I edit a small section of his life as a boy. It is all in there, his entire existence, if only I can reframe it, highlight it, show it. For him.'
Mathematische Directed by Cecil Franck Produced by Cecil Franck, Tomas Duhbyoose Written by Cecil Franck Starring Jens Franck Franck Filmproduktion 55 mins Release Date: UK/US: None (shown on German television in 1973, and at Stuttgart's ContemptArt since 1995) Tagline: 'Still Here.'
1. KINO magazine, April 2005