Obituary: Klaus Lemke, champagne supplier for the eyes


The director enriched German cinema with such cunning films as “Amore” and “Arabian Nights”. But he also understood the profound theses about filmmaking.

Now let’s just make a movie: no one dared to do it, neither before nor after. He had a rough plot line in mind. But nothing more. No text with static dialogues. The artists were allowed to improvise and speak as Bavarian Jochen was up to them.

Anyone who first encountered films like “Arabian Nights” or “Amore” and saw how Cleo Kretschmer and Wolfgang Vierek stumbled awkwardly and filled the scenes with a lackluster Bavarian accent, was regularly overcome with reactions of foreign shame at first. It took at least 20 minutes to get used to it. Then, little by little, the special magic of the films of Klaus Lemke unfolded, those spontaneous little strokes of genius fired from the hip, which he himself called “environmental studies”.

Klaus Lemke was a recognized rebel against state funding for films

He didn’t want more than that. Because he has already achieved his personal goals long ago: making cinema against the intellectual zeitgeist. “German state cinema is a subsidized coffee chatter to the point of impotence,” the man with a hooded flat shrugged his face on for his 80th birthday in October two years ago.

As long as all film subsidies are not removed from the “state dough”, German cinema will remain the “biggest digger all over the world”. He was convinced that without state funding, Germany could become Europe’s most innovative film-making country in just two years: “I swear!” For him, a great movie needs only three components: “a good chest, a bad director – and no script.”

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Klaus Lemke created many characters with youthful poses

This director, who has been a sore thorn in the back of German film his whole life, saw the light of day in 1940’s Landsberg an der Warth in what is now Poland. Key to his life’s work for nearly 50 films is this unique extravaganza that he and his characters have developed, this young status quo that has turned all doubt into an anti-compliance challenge.

The director in a privileged environment: Klaus Lemke 2019 at the Munich Film Festival.

Photo: Felix Hörhager, dpa

Thus Lemke established a stylistic device in German film that no one had previously known about. For example, when motorcycle gangster Gerd in the 1972 movie “Rocker” abused a truck driver for no reason: “Hey, you’re looking. Are you trying to hit me, or what?” Shortly thereafter, truck driver Jared Harley crashes. .

His figures were rowdy, schemers building their snot like a protective shield around themselves, realizing that sooner or later they would fall flat on their faces. Thus Lemke created a German version of the new French Nouvelle Vague, borrowed from the anti-heroes of Godard and Truffaut.

Cheap, unpolished, very original cinema, which he was the first to bring to Germany in this form and which markedly distinguished him from the political thought of other directors such as Alexander Kluge or Edgar Ritz.

Klaus Lemke provided a platform for young actors

Lemke makes the dialect socially acceptable on the big screen, gave young actors like Kretschmer, Fierek, Iris Berben, and Rolf Zacher a platform and became — a hit. The more money he made for his films, the more his artistic passion gave way to lifestyle. We have always become paranoid. All money was wasted on Coke, on Concorde flights to Rio, on films in Rio. So we all perished from this whole thing.”

credits? Not with Lemke! At the turn of the millennium, he took the opportunity to shoot cheap movies with new digital cameras, about 20 of them, all with amateur actors and without a big budget. The most productive phase of his life, even if one could argue about the quality of the works.

He presented his latest film “Champagne for the Eyes – Poison for the Rest” on June 24 at the Munich Film Festival, holding a hand-painted banner with the inscription “Art comes from kissing” in front of the cameras. After a short struggle with illness, Klaus Lemke died in his apartment in Schwabing at the age of 81.

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