On ‘Zero Killed’, a film by Michal Kosakowski
by Prof. Dr. Bernd Scheffer | Professor of literature and media sciences
There can be very few films internationally, and from whatever genre, that induce viewers to ponder – or even discuss – virtually every single scene with equal intensity as Michal Kosakowski’s ‘Zero Killed’ does.
In clips and interviews, this astonishing film presents the murder fantasies of a group of highly diverse men and women, whose professions range from artist to English teacher, from radiologist to miner, from actor to lorry driver – in short, of ‘normal’ people, the likes of whom we encounter every day. People whose murder fantasies Michal Kosakowski already managed to elicit and visualize for his ‘Fortynine’ project more than ten years ago. A decade later, Kosakowski has reassembled his former cast and prompted them to explore and probe their hidden depths, to comment on and elucidate their very private views on murder, torture, and the death penalty. Reopening the case has resulted in a series of extraordinarily remarkable and often thoroughly discomforting portraits of a rare stylistic and formal radicalism that range from commendable sober-mindedness to alarming self-disclosure, from ominously sweeping statements such as ‘I’m certain there is a killer in every one of us’ to topical and tough viewpoints such as ‘I believe it is all a matter of cultural conditioning, the entire military affectation. And many people need this kind of conditioning as they get along so badly with themselves, have no self-esteem, and only recognize value in what they do, but not in what they are.’
The way the protagonists are presented and present themselves in the interviews naturally encompasses a wide area that includes anything from exhibitionism to voyeurism and from sadism to masochism; yet one remains constantly aware of dealing with a situation determined by the (filmic) context and the aesthetic considerations that go with it. The film itself can be interpreted as an act of trespass, of violence even, a cruel prank. Yet cruel conceits, such as Kosakowski’s equally discreet and cavalier approach, images that tend to offend our views and feelings, are a – or even the — central attribute of much good art. As a matter of principle, all great art has something to do with aggression and violence.
Anyone watching ‘Zero Killed’ – and listening to it, courtesy of Paolo Marzocchi’s intense and complex score – will be compelled to ask himself about his own fantasies of murder and mayhem. Are there any gender-specific distinctions? Do women have different visions of vengeance? Do they prefer different methods of murder from men? Do men really tend to almost celebrate their acts of murder? These are the questions the film asks and that demand answering long after its 82 minutes have played out. There is no other way, really – fraught with one’s own impressions, the discourse demands to be continued.
Prof. Dr. Bernd Scheffer
Born in 1947. Professor of Literature and Media Sciences at the LMU München. Studies of German language and literature, history, sociology, and philosophy. Graduation in 1976, habilitation in 1985. Supplementary studies of psychology, psychotherapy training. Numerous publications on 20th and 21st century art and literature and on media and violence; latest publication: ‘Schriftfilme – Schrift als Bild in Bewegung’, ed. with Christine Stenzer, Bielefeld (Aisthesis) 2009.
by Goran Mimica | Writer
‘Aware that her result is always the same, Death puts all her creativity in her arrival. She takes numerous faces, forms, robes and shapes. She uses every available tool that man, or nature, puts at her disposal. She twists the meaning of time. She is now sloppy, now striving for perfection, but all the time aware that the pomp is not for the sake of the victim but of those who remain. And their imagination. It is we who re-enact her theatre and translate it into the language of the living.’ [Indium]
This is a quote from the book I’ve been working on for a while now. Months after I wrote this paragraph it occurred to me that this is how I see ‘Zero Killed’. What fascinates me is not that much that ‘normal’ people showed strong enthusiasm in participating in this project, but rather the incredible variety and colour of the main protagonist of Kosakowski’s latest film – death. My experience of working on ‘Zero Killed’ – I was privileged to have been perpetrator, victim and innocent bystander – (can a Bible-wielding priest be an innocent bystander?), helped me explore this theatre, its mise en scène and its rich language.
was born in ex-Yugoslavia. He has taught and worked at universities in Poland (Silesia), the USA (Yale), Italy and England. He has published short stories, literary reviews, a book of short stories ‘Kratka Motka za Neposlusne’, (Serkl, Novi Sad, 2000) and two novels ‘Chorografia’ (Stylos, Novi Sad, 2002), ‘Svinado’ (Futura, Novi Sad, 2004). In addition, he has collaborated with Kosakowski on many projects in various roles: as an actor, scriptwriter and researcher. He writes in Serbian and English. He lives in Italy.
On ‘Zero Killed’, a film by Michal Kosakowski
by Claudia Engl | Executive producer, editor, post production
I still remember how I came into contact with the movie ‘Zero Killed’ and Michal Kosakowski as well. In the summer of 2008, Michal Kosakowski was my lecturer at the MD.H (Media Design Hochschule) in Munich. In one of his courses that I attended, he showed us students several examples of experimental films, including parts of the art project ‘Fortynine’, from which some time later ‘Zero Killed’ would emerge. I have to add that we students had never seen anything from our lecturers before that had been even close to what we saw in this film. Among other things, it showed a gun rampage in every shocking detail and I thought to myself: ‘He can’t do that. He can’t just show a gun rampage as a murder fantasy.’ Nevertheless, this work had interested me so much that at the end of this day’s class, I asked Michal Kosakowski for a DVD edition of all 49 murders. After watching the DVD carefully, I fully understood the meaning and the idea of this extremely fascinating project and had to revise my first thoughts: ‘Oh yes, he can show murder fantasies that way.’
The first meeting with Michal Kosakowski and ‘Zero Killed’ was the beginning of a long-term cooperation that has outlasted my time at university and become a good friendship. Shortly after my graduation, the idea to turn the ‘Fortynine’ video installation into the movie ‘Zero Killed’ came about. We made several attempts and had to clarify legal issues and get hold of a few film scenes.
But, finally, in 2010 we sat in the editing room and created the first concept of ‘Zero Killed’, using the existing murder sequences and the interviews that had been conducted by Kosakowski. Several weeks of editing work went by, which had also been accompanied by doubts whether a wide audience would be able to handle the theme of this movie. Gradually the art project ‘Fortynine’ turned into the movie ‘Zero Killed’. We had the first test screenings and finally, in 2011, we were able to replace the layout music with the terrific music of Paolo Marzocchi. We had made it, the movie was finished!
In the next step we ‘simply’ had to make ‘Zero Killed’ suitable for the cinema and television. Colour-corrections, sound re-recording and other modifications were done by experienced professionals at Studio Funk Berlin, Postperfect Vision & Sound and Optical Art Film & Special Effects in Berlin and Hamburg. Thank you very much again to the entire team!
Because ‘Zero Killed’ was supposed to be presented at the Soundtrack Cologne (Cologne Congress for Music and Sound in Film and Media) in November 2011, we decided to build a website and to produce posters, flyers etc. We discussed content and design and soon both were created extremely quickly by graphic designer Rafal Kosakowski. We also produced the trailer and created an account on Facebook. The website went online on November 4th, 2011 and the overall reactions have been and still are very positive. Since then, we constantly submit the movie to festivals and hope that it will be discovered in one or another, that it finds a distributor and will soon be available on DVD or will even be shown in some cinemas. Keep your fingers crossed for us and ‘Zero Killed’!