JEAN PAUL: PHANTASIESTÜCK ÜBER EIN FRÄNKISCHES GENIE
(Jean Paul: Fantasy Piece about a Franconian Genius)
A film by Percy Adlon
Produced by Eleonore Adlon
TV Producer – Benigna von Keyserlingk
Director of Photography – Paul Teufl
Editor – Manja Rock
1975, 16mm, in German with English subtitles, 43 minutes
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, "modern" artists and audiences went mad for a series of works for piano by composer Robert Schumann, who called them his “Fantasiestücke” ("fantasy pieces"). Suddenly, Goethe’s classical style was out. Romantic ruins, drugs, death wishes, and unrestricted, unstructured artistic expression and lifestyle became the new, hip thing to do. It was in the midst of this exciting cultural stew that Jean Paul's early novels became a best-selling sensation in the salons, among both young and old.
I used just one of Schumann's "fantasies" for this film, repeating it over and over (a trick I returned to with Calling You in Bagdad Cafe some 10 years later), in order to make the people in the audience feel what they see. The musical theme ties together a disparate collage of objects and landscapes: a drive-by shot of the barbed wire forming the border between the communist and the democratic Germanies; a real-life artist in Jean Paul’s garden in Bayreuth, drawing an imagined scene of the beer-drinking genius and his messy living room. For Jean Paul’s most famous chapter, called "Speech of the dead Christ, from the world’s top, that there is no god," we take a walk through a gallery of utopian religious works.
This is a wild and rich portrait capturing both old and new. In our times, Jean Paul has been forgotten by all but a few students and lovers of German literature. My hope is to introduce more people to the delights of his unique poetic signature and humor, which come across in every sentence.