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STAGING DEATH

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by Jan Soldat

grade: 7.5

A series of falls from height, but also splatter scenes, close-ups of bloody faces, screams, screams and more screams. Staging Death – ironic, clever, but also incredibly reverent towards the great Udo Kier – represents a milestone in Jan Soldat’s filmography. At the Cannes Film Festival 2022, section Quinzaine des Réalisateurs.

“I made my own movie”

The famous German actor Udo Kier has taken part, in a career spanning over more than fifty years, in more than three hundred films, series and short films. A face, his, that is difficult to forget and a series of antagonists and secondary characters who have died on screen in the most ‘imaginative’ ways. The young director and documentary filmmaker Jan Soldat has been able to make a name for himself for several years now thanks to his unmistakable approach – capable of mixing essential direction, deep empathy and subtle but never exaggerated irony in stories about characters totally outside the box – which in some ways almost recalls the cinema of Ulrich Seidl. What would happen, then, if these two important personalities ‘met’? Soon said. Premiered at the Cannes Film Festival 2022, in the section Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, the short film Staging Death – Jan Soldat’s newest work – presents itself, precisely, as an original homage to the great Udo Kier.

Many, many film clips featuring the actor from Cologne. But not just ordinary clips. As the title suggests, in fact, in Staging Death we can see all the clips in which Udo Kier dies on screen. Scenes from Shameless (Eddy Saller, 1968), Flesh for Frankenstein (Paul Morrissey, Andy Warhol and Antonio Margheriti, 1973), Spermula (Charles Matton, 1976), but also Europa (Lars von Trier, 1991), Cigarette Burns (John Carpenter, 2005) and Mother of Tears (Dario Argento, 2007) – just to give a few examples – follow one another on the screen and, skilfully edited by Jan Soldat himself, give life to a unique, bizarre work of art, thanks also to a sophisticated sound design by Lorenz Fischer.

Ironic, clever, but also incredibly reverent towards the actor, Staging Death represents a milestone in Soldat’s filmography. On this particular occasion, in fact, the director has (momentarily?) abandoned his usual approach to take a totally different direction. No longer documentary cinema, but a new experimental language to pay homage not only to Kier’s talent and career, but also some fifty years of film history.

A series of falls from height, but also splatter scenes, close-ups of bloody faces, screaming, screaming and more screaming. Semantically interconnected scenes create an unusual, amusing work. “I made my own movie,” says Udo Kier before passing away for the umpteenth time. In the same way, Jan Soldat has created something totally new, both in terms of what is happening in the contemporary film scene and in terms of his own filmography, without being afraid to break the rules, to find his own language, in which editing and sound play a central role. With Staging Death, therefore, the director has once again confirmed his extraordinary talent for making pure cinema out of any element he decides to ‘play’ with. What direction will his cinema take from now on? To find this out, all we have to do is wait.

Original title: Staging Death
Directed by: Jan Soldat
Country/year: Germany, Austria / 2022
Running time: 8’
Genre: experimental
Cast: Udo Kier
Screenplay: Jan Soldat
Cinematography: Jan Soldat
Produced by: Jan Soldat, sixpackfilm

Info: the page of Staging Death on iMDb; the page of Staging Death on the website of the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs; the page of Staging Death on the website of Jan Soldat; the page of Jan Soldat on the website of the sixpackfilm