Art and Experience: Michael Pilz is one of the outstanding figures of modern cinema, yet he is also one of its best-kept secrets, as he has remained virtually unknown and unseen. Pilz, born in a small town in Lower Austria, has realized over 100 works since the 1960s; of these, only two, Himmel und Erde (Heaven and Earth, 1979-82) and Feldberg (1987-90) ever had a regular run in Austrian cinemas. A further handful, including Franz Grimus, Bridge to Monticello and Indian Diary have been registered by critics and cinephiles, but are far from familiar even to the Austrian film public.
Can you first introduce yourself?
I am Michael Pilz. I am an Austrian filmmaker. Some of my films are being shown throughout the country in Isfahan, Tehran, and Shahrekord. My films are a bit different from typical films. Mr. Khosrow Sinayi has invited me to show those films because he believed that these are the kind of movies that Iranian do not know how to make. They are in a way kind of experimental poetic abstract cinematographic films that use tools of cinematography like images. I am not looking for a story or theme. My films are like poetry. If you ask me what my films are about, I cannot tell you. It is up to you, you have to decide what it is about. You are free to choose for yourself.
Are you with familiar with Iran’s cinema?
I have watched all Khosrow Sinaiy’s movies. Not many Iranian films are shown in Austria. There is a private network run by an Iranian woman who screens Iranian films mainly for Iranian in Vienna.
What about Fajr Film Festival? Have you ever attended the festival or is it your first time?
This is the first time I am here. I’ve known about the festival for many years. In the 80s I tried to come, because Sinayi told me about it. But unfortunately it did not happen.
What is the main reason you decided to come to the festival?
For cultural exchange. I am the President of the Artists House in Vienna, and we are looking for some long-term collaborations with the Artists House based in Tehran. Also I am trying to help the Art and Experience Group to hold an Austrian films week. As a place with many different sections, we are trying to exchange projects or hold exhibitions. I myself am interested in screening my movies in Iran. I gave some of my films like “Windows, Dogs and Horses”, ”Pieces of Dreams”, and “Rose and Jasmine” to Art and Experience Group.
Now that you are familiar with Sinayi’s movies, can you tell us what you have learned from his movies about Iran?
All I know from Iran and its culture is because of his films. His films are mainly about Iranian issues. He is deeply connected to the culture of his country. He is not much interested in showing his films abroad. His main interest is to talk about these issues with Iranian people. Actually, it is my tenth time being in Iran. Khosrow Sinayi was the first person who invited me to Iran. I know that it is not easy to send films abroad for festivals. Also, when people watch Iranian films without having much background cultural knowledge, it cannot be much appreciated. Only the best films are internationally accepted.
So you believe focusing on local issues leads to having less audience. Obviously your abstract movies are quite different from sinayi’s. His have a more of a social undertone. It seems like he has this responsibility to show issues to audience to raise awareness, while your films are pure art. How do you think they are different in attracting the audience?
Well, I try to catch the audience by their personal inner feelings. Therefore, the language of my films are international. There are no words like music so that everyone can understand. The way I develop my ideas are from experimental films in the 60’s to big production films, yet they are always on the level of experimenting. And also documentary making and widening the perspective of a film and making it more personal. To make it in way that expresses “I see that I see”, to raise this consciousness about myself. Thus, the audience are able to come closer to themselves as well. They are not engaged by themes or social issues. It is simply by language, sound, or images.
But the difference is that your movies need an audience to be whole. Is that true?
I am the first audience member. There were times that I was not happy with my films being shown in festivals, but I was invited and forced to attend them. Finally I found out that my problem was with the tactics and advertisements they made to get the attention of the audience.
How can this problem be solved?
It is a long process. It is a question of the will of individuals. You have to find a way to use any topic that you have like family matters, social issues in order to come to realize yourself and your subconscious better. I am really interested in psychoanalysis. In this country I think it is really important to know yourself better, especially women. It is good to open up. In cinema it might be hard for women, but of course there are women who conduct social and political deeds. But things will eventually get better.
I have done art since my early twenties, because I realized arts is how I can find an answer to the question “who am I?”. Looking back at my early works, I was really inspired by the 60’s new wave. I was experimenting. I did it for my own enjoyment. When I saw those movies I got the courage to find my own voice and make films. That’s why I’m here, to screen my films to give courage to others to think differently in using tools, to try. Even if their movies are not shown in festivals, it is not a problem. They can show it to their inner circle of friends. Share it on social media. No need to be nominated for Oscars. Because sometimes festivals are not the best place for experimental works. They are not appreciated there. It is all related to the director of the festival. He should be an open-minded person with a strong character and wide perspective.
Even I myself did not send films to festivals for many years, and even if was invited I would check the politics of the festival to make sure what their intentions are. Because nowadays I believe festivals are misusing the films and directors. But after all I worked for many years to be a free person, and that is why I make films. I am not going to lose my freedom only to get my movie in a festival.