THE HOUSE OF THE APE PAINTER GABRIEL MAX
IM HAUS DES AFFENMALERS GABRIEL MAX
(THE HOUSE OF THE APE PAINTER GABRIEL MAX)
The house was famous, or rather, infamous, because the people of the fishing village whispered that “sessions” took place there with a medium, from whose hands came drops of blood...
A film by Percy Adlon
Produced by Eleonore Adlon
TV Producer – Benigna von Keyserlingk
Director of Photography – Jürgen Martin
Editor – Clara Fabry
1980, 16mm, in German with English subtitles, 43 minutes
Born in Prague in 1840, it was his portraits of mediums with supernatural abilities that initially earned the painter Gabriel Max renown. But the true object of his art, and his heart, was a different kind of primate. Fascinated by monkeys, he acquired as many as he could. He saw himself in them, and wanted to be buried with his favorite on his chest. By the time of his death in Munich in 1914, he was known as "the ape painter", and one of the major German artists of his era.
The house still stands, abandoned, in the village where I grew up, Ammerland at the Starnberg Lake, with the Bavarian alps to the south. In my early thirties, I became friends with Gabriel Max's son, Colombo, who was then in his eighties. We went on trips on his small sailboat, and ate mushrooms that he collected on the vast wooded property inherited from his father.
After Colombo’s death, I made this memory piece about his eccentric father, based on the recollections he shared with me. This film is very close to me, not only because of my personal connection to the location, but also because it set the tone for Céleste, my first feature. I started shooting that film just a few months later, in 1981, with the same director of photography, my friend Jürgen Martin.