Moving Image (0c)

Jun 3, 2020

 

Moving Image (0c)

At the beginning of Nikola’s employment as ‘Gastarbeiter’, the Yugoslavian filmmaker Želimir Žilnik is in Berlin to receive the Golden Bear award. Four years later, in 1973, the severe ‘communist’ censorship shifts Žilnik back to Germany. In exile, he produces a series of films concerning ‘Gastarbeiter’ existence. He gets also noticed by the ‘liberal’ censorship. In 1976 he was denied the visa extension.

Nikola’s mind, I guess, was not on the spot to catch these ‘fancy’ cultural-politics.

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The husband of mom’s sister has recently sent me a bunch of old snapshots. He is an unofficial family photographer now busy with digitalizing old photos. Among the pictures, I have detected an unknown face. Nikola was not a part of our old family album. I was told his eyes were of a different color, something evident in two ID photos. The portrait of a young soldier, in particular, resembled the face of Nikola’s oldest son.

In Berlin, my work table is covered with dark green leather-like material. It looks like a school board. It is the table to make a chalk drawing. To refamiliarise myself with Nikola’s face, I drew first his son’s face. The result is not great. Anyhow, a forensic sketch is always an attempt. I have erased it and drew over the traces. It was another failure. A part of an effort to animate the memory that escapes the limits of ‘my tribe’.

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I tend to forget that for many years I did not drink coffee. Anything that would resemble coffee would remind me of cultural rituals to which I wished not to belong. After escaping from family and the collapsing ‘communist’ state, life was supposed to feel free.

Nikola’s son is holding ‘fincan’ (or ‘fildžan’). The little cup with coffee resonates some of the Byzantine pasts and other locally related empires: Ottoman and Habsburg. His Paris and Berlin times are behind, and he does not have plans to revisit these places.

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Two additional coffee statements from a diary of person revisiting Paris and Berlin:

1. After Paris, nothing is more reassuring than the sight of a Berliner enjoying a coffee on a terrace on a beautiful summer day – he and his coffee, that’s the absolute!

2. Whether in Paris or Berlin, I have not had a single cup of coffee, however small, that was ‘real’, ‘ordinary’ – and that did not emerge from the abyss in an infinite Void.

(From Witold Gombrowicz’s “Paris-Berlin Diary”, 1966)