A film by Michal Kosakowski

Origin / Fortynine

How the art project ‘Fortynine’ became the film ‘Zero Killed’

by Uli Aigner | Executive producer

When watching TV as a child and adolescent in the late 80s Michal Kosakowski always had the sneaking suspicion that all those movies didn’t show what they were really about. The subjects and themes around which so many of these films were constructed only seemed to be hinted at or shown merely obliquely. Acts of violence, especially, constituted parts of the plot of thrillers, family dramas, or action movies, yet were often only suggested or – through the judicious positioning of cameras – hidden behind the evildoer’s back; as were the victims, generally speaking. In direct opposition to porno movies, in which long and repetitive sexual acts were joined together by the briefest and flimsiest of plots, these TV films presented Kosakowski with long and repetitive plots that were only briefly interrupted by acts of violence that were shown – if at all – only in their brief climaxes.

In 1995 Michal Kosakowski began to realize his ideas on the subject of the filmic representation of violence in his own video project, ‘Fortynine’. From 1996 to 2006 he interviewed people from his circle of acquaintances about their murder fantasies and offered to turn these into short films in which the interviewees themselves would be able to act out their dark fantasies. The moment everyone plays himself all questions of amateur acting vanish, as no one else could possibly play oneself more realistically. Incidentally, the short films also showed vividly to just what an extent everybody’s fantasies of violence are shaped by the images from cinema and TV they had absorbed.

Thus, over 10 years, 49 short movies were created.

Right from the start it was determined that these films could only be shown and watched in a space and context specially constructed for the purpose. A fully mirror-coated walk-in cube would lay bare the closed circuit between image and viewer. This mirror cube was first built and exhibited in Munich in 2007.

The fierce and intense reactions to ‘Fortynine’ led to the next step, namely to confront a large and international audience with the project. A website was created, complete with a trailer based on the following concept: between 2008 and 2010 Michal Kosakowski re-contacted the protagonists of the short films and interviewed them about current topics such as torture, war, killing sprees, religion and parenting. These interviews included both statements on personal attitudes towards violence (with reference to the above-stated subjects) and reflections on the nature of the experiences of violence the protagonists had been exposed to in the short films, in which they had acted out their murder fantasies. These interviews featured declarations so controversial in their content and scale that the original concept was shifted from creating a mere trailer to making it Kosakowski’s first long film: massively disturbing images, bristling with direct or subtle violence, were evoked by a highly diverse group of people, none of whom were experts in the field, let alone actual delinquents. The participants had clearly used the occasion to rid themselves of their private fantasies of violence and were ready and willing to discuss their attitude towards violence and its many manifestations in our present days.

In equal parts, ‘Zero Killed’ both generates and reflects (on) images of violence.

Watch the ‘Fortynine’ video-installation on YouTube
Watch the ‘Fortynine’ video-installation on Vimeo