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by Mara Mattuschka

grade: 7

Mara Mattuschka’s Ball-Head shows us the human body that has become a kind of ‘tool’, a victim of a society in which work, technology and capitalism seem to have forever forgotten the value of human beings themselves.

Near future

How has the world we live in changed after computers and technology in general have become an integral part of our daily lives? And, above all, how have we ourselves changed? While today one could hardly think of living and working without mobile phones or computers, there is someone who, as early as the mid-1980s, when such machines began to be used more and more frequently, immediately guessed what would become of them (and of ourselves). We are talking about the director Mara Mattuschka, who, with her highly experimental short film Ball-Head (with the eloquent subtitle ‘Ode an IBM’), made in 1985, somehow imagined a sort of dystopian future in which the human body would become to all intents and purposes a machine, merging almost indissolubly with technology and aimed solely at performing the work previously carried out exclusively by the aforementioned machines.

In a strict, high contrast black and white, we first see an old printing machine. The inscription ‘Ode an IBM’ immediately appears on white paper. Two hands try to grab some paper from said printer: who will be their ‘owner’? Soon told. Mimi Minus, alter ego of Mara Mattuschka, immediately makes her appearance on the movie screen and, looking at herself in the mirror, begins to shave her head with a razor. Suddenly something unexpected happens: Mimi Minus cuts herself, her head begins to bleed and, after having entirely wrapped her face in white paper, she starts to ‘print’ undefined characters using her own blood and her head, as if it were an integral part of a printing machine.

Ball-Head, therefore, shows us the human body that has become a sort of ‘tool’, a victim of a society in which work, technology and capitalism seem to have forever forgotten the value of human beings themselves. A frenetic and rhythmic montage through which the protagonist’s actions unfold repetitively, together with a rudimentary but well thought-out stop-motion animation, perfectly convey the idea of what our lives have become. And we immediately think of Charlie Chaplin and his Modern Times (1936), in which similarly repetitive actions made us laugh but also reflect at the same time.

When Mara Mattuschka made Ball-Head, almost fifty years had already passed since the making of Modern Times and things had changed a lot. Today, almost forty years after the making of Ball-Head, things have changed even more, but, at the same time, we sadly realise how far-sighted Mara Mattuschka (and Charlie Chaplin before her) was in imagining a future in which the human being is considered equal to a machine, totally at the service of an increasingly capitalist world. Just as shown, at the end of the short film, by some people observed through an open window, who – in fast motion – move through the streets without stopping and apparently without the possibility of a well-deserved rest.

Original title: Kugelkopf
Directed by: Mara Mattuschka
Country/year: Austria / 1985
Running time: 6’
Genre: experimental
Cast: Mimi Minus
Screenplay: Mara Mattuschka
Cinematography: Mara Mattuschka
Produced by: Mara Mattuschka

Info: the page of Ball-Head on iMDb; the page of Ball-Head on the website of the sixpackfilm