Schindlers Houses

a film by Heinz Emigholz

Schindlers Häuser
DOCUMENTARY | 2007 | Austria | 99 min | Deutsch | Color | 35mm | 1:1,37

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"Schindler's Houses" shows forty buildings by the Austro-American architect Rudolph Schindler from the years 1931 to 1952. Schindler's pioneering work in Southern California is the cornerstone of a branch of modern architecture. All the material for the film was shot in May 2006. The film is thus also an up-to-date portrait of urban life in Los Angeles that has never been documented in this form before.

 "Architecture projects space into this world. Cinemaphotography translates that space into pictures projected in time. Cinema then is used in a completely new way: as a space to meditate on buildungs."    Heinz Emigholz

Schindlers Houses is part twelve from the series  Photography and Beyond

Photography and Beyond - Part 12

Director: Heinz EmigholzCamera: Heinz EmigholzEditing: Heinz EmigholzSound: May Rigler, Jochen Jezussek, Christian Obermaier, Eckard GoebelProduction Management: Alexander Glehr
Production: Gabriele Kranzelbinder, Alexander Dumreicher-Ivanceanu
Funding: Filmfonds Wien, Innovative Film Austria, ORF Film-/Fernsehabkommen, WDR / 3sat, Niederösterreich Kultur

Worldsales: AUTLOOK Filmsales,

Distribution: Poool Filmverleih / Filmgalerie 451
by Marc Ries

Heinz Emigholz makes portraits of houses that can be ascribed to one architect, Rudolph M. Schindler. With that Schindler as a person becomes part of the house portraits though what we learn through the filmic description is, however, is something different and more. The portraits of the 40 houses allow one to discern their form, the construction of their interiors, their life together with their surroundings and society, the way they can be used and, therefore, the marks left by their lives of those inhabiting them and their history. The excitement deriving from the fascination with Schindler's buildings is combined with views of the idiom of everyday Californian life, with depictions of the obscene coupling of plants and houses and with the force of an "authorship related to society as a whole" (Emigholz), with what is called architecture.

But what possibilities does the film have to produce a portrait that is understood in this way? It is apparent that success can only come to pass when questions of space become questions of image, when questions of building and living become questions about the filmic gaze. I would like to try and reconstruct these movements. The take is, technically, the smallest unit of the film. For Emigholz however, it is simultaneously the centre of the power of a location in space. This one place – in its immobility, in its constant view of the architecture – allows all the elements from within the chosen framing to flow into it and compressed in it is the resonance of the building, the greenery, life. The gaze has the leisure of allowing this to take effect, it is able to let the mind move around in the frame. The intentional intransigence of the camera position evokes mental movement. Viewers are able to use their imagination to put themselves into the room in place of the camera and, therefore, to appropriate and transform living in this place. This undertaking is assisted by the slight vertical tilt to the frame offering the gaze a "lopsided" way into the picture since filmic illusionism too can only be overturned like this. Perhaps the sound  also has an essential part in this movement because it is through it that "a lot that cannot be seen in the picture is brought into it" (Emigholz); the vibrations of urban existence, everyday melodies, the sounds of activity. The acoustics which are simultaneously concentrated and diffuse programme a kind of subversive animation of the buildings that are themselves located in quiet places. In this evocation of single camera positions it is possible to discern a position attributable to a pragmatic aesthetic: that an image opens up proportional to the desire behind the gaze to visualise the experience of this other house, this other city, this other country, to comprehend it and perhaps to add it to one's own image of living.

But then there is another take and then another and yet another. These work together to pull the architecture out of its – unintentional – hideaway into a genuine filmic space. The composition of the takes make changes of viewpoint, examination and insights possible that the occupants themselves would probably miss. The hideaway here, in the case of SCHINDLERS  HÄUSER [SCHINDLER'S HOUSES], is always a double one. In the first place the architecture is hidden behind the vegetation, the enclosed space, the everyday signs. In the second place hiding is an inherently filmic process. One of these takes follows the logic of the hors-champs, that is, the simultaneous showing and not showing. The concealment of reality through the process of framing – what André Bazin called the operation of the cache – is, however, with the addition of a further point of view and yet another during the editing process, slightly eroded, the hidden is revealed – but not completely. That too, is impossible, there is always a remainer of what is unseen, a secret which is necessarily kept. One of the insights of this film is not to pretend that one is in the position of showing everything, the "whole" architecture, but rather to let the whole, with its with all its "shadings", reveal itself in only a few takes. When a portrait like this is finished – its duration certainly dependent on the relationship of house and author – in many respects one really does have the impression of having encountered the house and when one has seen all the portraits many of the questions about style, inhabitability, about the relationship between organic growth and structural alterations and ephemerality, about the meta-forming of buildings by society... a possible answer. The works its way from one portrait to the next and is thus, in sum total, a kind of album, a filmic whiteboard onto which a multiply-occupied white/pure modern architecture is projected with the white/pure light of the cinema.


International Forum of New Cinema, Berlinale (Germany) 08.02.2007 - 18.02.2007
22nd Mar del Plata International Film Festival (Argentine) 8.03.2007 - 18.03.2007
Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente (Argentine) 03.04.2007 - 15.04.2007
Toronto International Film Festival (Canada) 7.09.2007 16.09.2007

Festival ERA NEW HORIZONS (Poland) 19.07.2007 - 29.07.2007

Vancouver International Film Festival (Canada) 27.09.2007 - 12.10.2007

Viennale (Austria) 19.10.2007 - 31.10.2007

Heinz Emigholz was born near Bremen in 1948. Since  1973, he has worked in Germany and the United States  as a freelance filmmaker, visual artist, cameraman, author,  journalist, and producer. He has had many exhibitions,  retrospectives, lectures, and publications in Germany and  abroad. In 1974, he began the encyclopedic series of signs,  Die Basis des Make-Up, to which a major solo exhibition  will be devoted in Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof museum  starting in September 2007. In 1978, he founded the production company Pym Films. In 1984, he began the film  series Photography and beyond. Since 1993, he has held  the chair for Experimental Film Design at the University of  the Arts, Berlin. In 2003, he began releasing his films on  DVD (Filmgalerie 451). His publications include: Krieg der  Augen, Kreuz der Sinne; Seit Freud gesagt hat, der Künstler  heile seine Neurose selbst, heilen die Künstler ihre Neurosen selbst; Normalsatz – Siebzehn Filme; and Das schwarze  Schamquadrat (all published by Martin Schmitz), Die Basis  des Make-Up (I) and (II), Der Begnadete Meier, and Kleine  Enzyklopädie der Photographie (in Die Republik Nr. 68-71,  76-78, 89-91, 94-97). Two more films in the series Photography and beyond are  almost complete: Loos ornamental and Kieslers Projektionen  (each ca. 60 minutes). The feature films Tale of Five Cities  and Second Nature – Die zweite Natur are in preparation.


1972-73 Schenec-Tady I

1973 Schenec-Tady II

1973-74 Arrowplane 

1974 Tide

1972-75 Schenec-Tady III

1975-76 Hotel

1976-77 Demon - Die Übersetzung von Stéphane Mallarmés "Le Demon de l´Analogie"

1978-81 Normalsatz

1974-83 The Basis of Make-Up I 

1979-85 Die Basis des Make-Up

1974-87 Die Wiese der Sachen

1986-90 Der Zynische Körper

 1993-2000 Sullivans Banken

1983-2000 The Basis of Make-Up II

1995-2000 Maillarts Brücken

1988-2001 Miscellanea I

1988-2001 Miscellanea II

2000-2003 Goff in der Wueste

© Amour Fou Filmproduktion, Heinz Emigholz Filmproduktion, KGP Kranzelbinder Gabriele Production