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Flicker (1991)

de Theodore Roszak

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5721142,804 (3.94)4
From the golden age of art movies and underground cinema to X-rated porn, splatter films, and midnight movies, this breathtaking thriller is a tour de force of cinematic fact and fantasy, full of metaphysical mysteries that will haunt the dreams of every moviegoer. Jonathan Gates could not have anticipated that his student studies would lead him to uncover the secret history of the movies--a tale of intrigue, deception, and death that stretches back to the 14th century. But he succumbs to what will be a lifelong obsession with the mysterious Max Castle, a nearly forgotten genius of the silent screen who later became the greatest director of horror films, only to vanish in the 1940s, at the height of his talent. Now, 20 years later, as Jonathan seeks the truth behind Castle's disappearance, the innocent entertainments of his youth--the sexy sirens, the screwball comedies, the high romance--take on a sinister appearance. His tortured quest takes him from Hollywood's Poverty Row into the shadowy lore of ancient religious heresies. He encounters a cast of exotic characters, including Orson Welles and John Huston, who teach him that there's more to film than meets the eye, and journeys through the dark side of nostalgia, where the Three Stooges and Shirley Temple join company with an alien god whose purposes are anything but entertainment.… (mais)
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https://fromtheheartofeurope.eu/flicker-by-theodore-roszak/

I’d previously read the author’s Tiptree-winning Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, so I was prepared for some fairly dense prose. I wasn’t expecting to be left until quite a late stage before being able to decide if this was really an sfnal book or not; in the end, I decided that it is – the plot is about an obscure religious cult with cinematic ambitions, and the author’s gradual entanglement therewith. The blurb suggests that it’s a cross between Sunset Boulevard and The Name of the Rose, and I think that is probably fair, though I have not seen Sunset Boulevard.

I’m not a film buff, and my Oscar-winners project has been in part a journey to try and get into the minds of those who are. There are lots of other areas of human endeavour that leave me cold – I cannot get excited about makes of car, for instance, and sports events outside the major championships don’t do all that much for me. Roszak did in fact manage to convey to me what it is to care about films. The book dates from 1991, still a time when films physically existed entirely on celluloid; it’s weird to reflect how thoroughly the practice of digital storage has affected our experience of the cinema.

Anyway, it’s a bit rambling, but I liked the sense of geography (mostly California but with a bit of Europe and elsewhere) and the cult itself was an interesting concept. ( )
  nwhyte | Jul 23, 2022 |
The Tale of Two Different Books

I was first given a copy of this book in the summer of 1993 by one of my good friends that had an interest in film-making as I did. I probably read about 150 pages of it before I went off to college at the University of North Texas in Denton to study in their Radio-Television-Film department.

Unfortunately, being off at college I never got around to finishing the book. So, 27 years later, I found another copy of it and decided to re-read and finish it like my friend (who passed away a few years ago from Lupus) had hoped.

I loved the first 2/3 of it. It was quickly becoming one of my favorite books of all-time. The mystery of Max Castle and his unique film-making abilities, really intrigued me. Then, I felt with the last 1/3, it became a completely different book. The introduction of the Cathars and Simon Dunkle felt like a left-turn that wasn't anywhere as interesting as the first 2/3 of the book. Max Castle became an afterthought, until the final few chapters.

Finally, I really didn't care for the ending, it had no real conclusion in my eyes. ( )
  chard69 | Oct 20, 2020 |
„Eines Nachts vor dem Einschlafen hörte ich, wie Claire neben mir über ihrer letzten Zigarette sinnierte: „Seit das Kino zu einer ernsten Sache für mich geworden ist – seit dem Abend, an dem ich mit meiner Mutter Les Enfants du Paradis gesehen habe -, weiß ich, da ist was, ganz tief drin. Etwas, was mehr ist als der Glamour und der Zauber. Eine Kraft. Wenn dich etwas so berühren, dich so packen kann … Ich bin immer wieder hingegangen, siebenmal habe ich mir den Film angesehen. Ich war noch jung, aber ich wusste, dass die zivilisierte Welt in Schutt und Asche lag. Und da war dieses Werk, so rein, so zart, so unvergleichlich schön. Wie eine Blume auf einem Schlachtfeld. Für mich war es eine Art intellektueller Ekstase. Doch schon damals habe ich gespürt, dass man diese Macht auch missbrauchen kann…“ Langes Schweigen, dann: „Stell dir vor, Jonny, du bist dabei, wie das Feuer erfunden wird. Stell dir vor, irgendein Genie bringt dir die erste lodernde Fackel! Was für ein Geschenk! Und dann, stell dir vor, du siehst – im selben Augenblick – die zerstörten Städte, die verkohlten Leichen, die brennenden Schlachtfelder. Was würdest du tun, Jonny, was würdet du tun? Du würdest das Feuer löschen. Und den Erfinder töten.“



Das Kino. Auf die Leinwand gebannte Träume oder Alpträume. Visionen, die sich vor unseren Augen entfalten während wir im Dunkeln sitzend auf die hell erleuchtete Leinwand starren.

Für den jungen Martin Scorsese war der Besuch eines Kinos wie der Gang in die Kirche. Eine geradezu spirituelle Erfahrung.

Für die meisten Menschen bedeutet ein Film jedoch nicht viel mehr als ein paar Stunden (anspruchsloser) Unterhaltung.

Was genau sich dabei in unserem Gehirn abspielt während wir uns einen Film ansehen, damit beschäftigen wir uns kaum. Wie genau nimmt unser Denkorgan die gezeigten Bilder auf? Und worauf basiert eigentlich die Kunstform des Lichtspiels?

Vermutlich erinnern sich einige an die Szene aus Fight Club, wo Brad Pitt erklärt wie er Bilder aus Pornofilmen in Schneewittchen und ähnlicher Familienunterhaltung unterbringt.

Für Pitts anarchistischen Filmvorführer Tyler Durden ist dies ein bloßer Akt der Rebellion.

Für die düstere Sekte, mit denen uns Theodore Roszak in Schattenlichter bekannt macht, ist es viel mehr: eine Glaubensfrage.

Es steckt eine Energie in den Bildern, eine Kraft, die das Unterbewusste ansprechen kann. Leni Riefenstahl hat sich diese Macht in ihren Propagandafilmen zu Nutze gemacht ebenso wie heutige Werbefilmer. Insofern ist die Idee gar nicht so abwegig, dass auch religiöse Sekten sich der Macht der bewegten Bilder bedienen, um ihre Botschaften zu transportieren.

Der junge Filmstudent Jonathan Gates stößt durch Zufall auf das Werk des deutschen Experimentalfilmers Max Castle (eigentlich Max von Kastell). Auf den ersten Blick ist Castle nicht viel mehr als ein herkömmlicher Produzent billiger B-Filme, anspruchsloser Vampirfilme und auf oberflächlichen Schock abzielender Gruselstreifen. Doch das handwerkliche Können des Mannes ist dennoch beachtlich. Und bald findet Gates heraus, dass Castle über eine ganz außergewöhnliche Technik verfügte, die es ihm ermöglichte Filme innerhalb eines Filmes zu verstecken und dadurch geheime Botschaften zu transportieren. Offenbar war Castle Mitglied einer uralten Sekte, einer religiösen Vereinigung, älter als das Christentum, welche das Leben als unrein und abstoßend betrachtet und als ihre Waffe zur Manipulation der Menschen Filme gebraucht.

Bei seinen Recherchen findet Gates heraus, dass die Sekte auch heute (das heißt damals in den 1960-er, 70-er Jahren) existiert und ihren Propagandaauftrag nicht aufgegeben hat. Die irdische Existenz ist böse und schmerzhaft und ihr Ziel ist es, den Menschen einen Ekel vor dem Leben, einen tiefen Abscheu vor der physischen Existenz zu vermitteln.

Auch die mittelalterlichen Katharer, welche damals von der katholischen Kirche verfolgt und in Kreuzzügen ausgerottet wurden gehörten ihnen an, aber seitdem hat die "Glaubensgemeinschaft" wesentlich subtilere Methoden entwickelt.

Dass es diese Urchristen waren, die den Film erfanden und dass es schon im Mittelalter Daumnekino gab, das aber von der offiziellen Kirche als Teufelswerk verurteilt wurde - das sind nur einige faszinierende Elemente des Buches.

„Flicker“ (so der Originaltitel) genießt seit seinem Erscheinen 1991 einen gewissen Kultstatus; nicht umsonst plante kein geringerer als Regisseur Darren Aronofsky eine Zeit lang eine Verfilmung des Werks. Wie dieser Film ausgesehen hätte, darüber lässt sich nur spekulieren. Aber das Buch eignet sich nicht unbedingt für eine Adaption. Es ist eher wie eine interessante filmhistorische Dokumentation mit ein paar Einsprengseln von Horror und Thriller, welche weitgehend ineffektiv verpuffen.

Irgendwo hier steckt eine fesselnde Geschichte über Religion, Fanatismus, Gut und Böse, menschliches Leiden und den Umgang damit. Aber sie ist begraben unter einem Wust redundanter Informationen.

Hätte Herr Roszak es verstanden, sich kurz zu fassen, wäre „Flicker“ vielleicht tatsächlich ein fesselnder Thriller geworden. Aber so wie es ist leidet das Buch an seiner ungeheuren Geschwätzigkeit. Hunderte Seiten müssen vergehen bis überhaupt etwas von Bedeutung geschieht. Zumindest die erste Hälfte ist, dank des filmhistorischen Wissens, welches der Autor ausbreitet, interessant. Aber spätestens ab der Mitte fragt man sich: Wann geht es denn endlich los?

Den Roman mit den Thrillern Dan Browns zu vergleichen, wie es der Klappentext tut, ist einfach nur lächerlich, denn in Schattenlichter passiert so gut wie gar nichts. Es wird lediglich eine vielversprechende Idee vorgestellt, aus der aber dann keine Geschichte, keine überzeugende Handlung entsteht.

Seiner faszinierenden Prämisse wird Schattenlichter kaum gerecht.

Gäbe es bei Büchern ähnlich wie bei Filmen Remakes, dann währe Schattenlichter ein erstklassiger Kandidat für eine Neuerzählung. ( )
  TheRavenking | Apr 4, 2017 |
A horror novel for pretentious film buffs. Unfortunately, I tend to dislike books about movies. (Or movies about movies for that matter, although somehow I like books (and movies) about books).
Anyway: A film critic rediscovers the lost work of an obscure German horror director who was lost at sea during WWII, and although his work is generally dismissed as pulp, he finds a plethora of mysterious techniques at use in the work, making use of subliminal techniques to accentuate the horror of the stories. He's fascinated, and makes the director the main subject of his academic studies - but to his lover, the films are nothing but evil.
Gradually, his research draws him into some strange circles, as he discovers unsavory details - and a weird cult descended from medieval heretics which may still be influential today...
Strangely (and I'm sure the author would be dismayed to hear) I found the book to be a lot like the imaginary subliminal movies he speaks of: it was undeniably compelling reading, but I'm not sure I liked it, and I definitely disagreed with it. It strongly condemns pop culture (movies, music, etc) that is dark, trashy and nihilistic and waxes nostalgic about the faux-innocent works of a 'golden' past as being 'Good.' ("Singin' In the Rain is the ultimate anti-fascist film.") Lots of random criticisms of stuff I like and lame cardboard stereotypes of punk rockers... which led to me both thinking that, for a so-called 'scholar' the author really lacks social understanding, and also just made me want to go find him, waggle my tongue at him and say, "I am what you hate and fear!" ( )
1 vote AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Not as much of a fan of this book as some people, but it did pull me in. A subtle horror novel about the technology behind making films. If you like books about conspiracies, you'll probably liike this one. Watch out for the subliminal messages - they're everywhere! ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
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From the golden age of art movies and underground cinema to X-rated porn, splatter films, and midnight movies, this breathtaking thriller is a tour de force of cinematic fact and fantasy, full of metaphysical mysteries that will haunt the dreams of every moviegoer. Jonathan Gates could not have anticipated that his student studies would lead him to uncover the secret history of the movies--a tale of intrigue, deception, and death that stretches back to the 14th century. But he succumbs to what will be a lifelong obsession with the mysterious Max Castle, a nearly forgotten genius of the silent screen who later became the greatest director of horror films, only to vanish in the 1940s, at the height of his talent. Now, 20 years later, as Jonathan seeks the truth behind Castle's disappearance, the innocent entertainments of his youth--the sexy sirens, the screwball comedies, the high romance--take on a sinister appearance. His tortured quest takes him from Hollywood's Poverty Row into the shadowy lore of ancient religious heresies. He encounters a cast of exotic characters, including Orson Welles and John Huston, who teach him that there's more to film than meets the eye, and journeys through the dark side of nostalgia, where the Three Stooges and Shirley Temple join company with an alien god whose purposes are anything but entertainment.

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