S y n o p s i s of B ARTLEBY – Melville's “Story of Wall Street”
BARTLEBY is the filmed interpretation of Melville's “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street” (1853), that tells the story of a lonely legal scrivener. Because of its remarkable reduction and formal compression it has become a paradigm of the modern aesthetic and of resistance to the repressures.
The film is intended as a essay in both the “archeology of the cinema” and as an experimental “manifesto” with the characteristics of a film drama in which picture, text and sound autonomously intertwine in a Silentmovie-caleidoscope: a lawyer’s office, trick sequences, graphic scripts and overlays, imaginary tableaux and historical documentary material; an independent reflective surface with complex interpene-trations. It provides a manylayered commentary on the action, opening up an allegoric picture frame for a tightly focused small-stage confrontation between a lawyer (GEORGES CLAISSE) and his scrivener (JAMES THIERREE). It shows the historical background of this drama to be the dawn of a new age, and, incidentally, decisive for today’s problems of globalization and immigration.
In the background we hear the narrative voice of the lawyer telling of life in the legal offices of Wall Street, of his career as an investment adviser and about the appearance of the “strangest” lawyer’s clerk he ever knew, whose nonconformist actions and behavior he comments on together with his own emotional reactions. This new member of his staff immediately appears so trustworthy that, although he arrives without references, he is appointed to be personal assistant. On the other hand, despite his enormous capacity for work, he seems to be as dispassionate as a machine and without a trace of emotional invol-vement with his work. Furthermore, from his third day on he politely indicates his refusal to proofread his texts with the words: “I would prefer not to”, but otherwise he is so reliable, that he remains an indispen-sable employee. He enlivens the usual manner of conducting business, long established by daily routine and by the professional compliance of the other employees, by unexpected repetitions of his little phrase but with a dynamism resulting in grotesque comedy which increases at every turn in a spiral of command and disobedience: slapstick fisticuffs; the discovery, one Sunday, that Bartleby is homeless and perma-nently resident in the office; linguistic confusion when everyone else begins to use his polite phrase; and finally, when Bartleby stops work entirely, notice to quit, which he “prefers not to” accept. The only solu-tion for the lawyer himself is to leave his employee by opening a new office and leaving him in the old. Finally, a last encounter when the lawyer must appear in prison to provide an explanation in connection with the “Bartleby Case”; but all that remains for him to do is to close the eyes of a dying man. With Bartleby and his formula, the written word transcends its lowly role as reproduction medium and returns to life as a creative subversive force: Cinemato-GRAPHY
DIRECTOR BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE:
Andreas Honneth (Dr. phil.)
born 1952 in Boppard/Rhine- since 1971 comparative studies of European literatures, philosophy and religious studies in Marburg, Berlin, St. Louis, and Hanover under teachers who included Professors Schlaffer, Mattenklott, Abendroth, Holz, Schwarz, Lützeler, and Heinrich.- 1974: established the art, theory, and media Dingsda Productions art factory in a former butcher’s shop in Berlin; stagehand in the Schaubühne; various collaborations, among others with Die Jungen Wilden.- 1976: super 8 films; two of which were Picnic, a punk and underground film, and a US road movie, Winter journey (Winterreise, a documentary of a journey in the USA.- Work on the project Genuine Transparency. Object and Body Language in the Hollywood Star System and in Strasberg’s Actors Studio (Dingliche Transparenz. Objekt- und Körpersprache im Starsystem Hollywoods und in Strasbergs Actors Studio).- Research on the time problem in Nietzsche’s work; art criticism, in particular of graphic artists’ work; a range of work in advisory and ghost-writing capacities; teaching German to beginners and advanced students; and sitting in on theatrical productions by, among others, Wilfried Minx (Sartre’s The Flies at the Rotterdam Ro-Theater) and Hans Neuenfels (Verdi’s Aida at the Frankfurt Opera).- 1998: completion of doctoral thesis, The Paradox of the Moment: Zarathustra’s Prologue and Nietzsche’s Theorem of Eternal Recurrence (Das Paradox des Augenblicks: Zarathustras ‚Vorrede’ und Nietzsches Theorem der ‚ewigen Wiederkunft des Gleichen) under Professor Elisabeth Lenk in Hanover.- 2002: a number of documentations commissioned by the ZPS (Zentrum für Performance Studies, Darmstadt) which included Trash Art: a Performance Action by Helinä Hukkataival in the Darmstadt Pedestrian Area (shown in the Darmstadt Kunstverein, 2001); Forest Art Path (Waldkunstpfad), an art action by a group of artists organised by Ute Ritschel in Darmstadt (shown in the Darmstadt Stadttheater, 2002); Picnic Reloaded. 25 years on, a video production for From the desert to the Dschungel: Bar Dancing in the Seventies (Von der Wüste in den Dschungel. Thekentanz in den Siebzigern), an exhibition in the Galerie der Künste, Berlin, about the scene bar Dschungel.- 2003: film work experience with Professor Lothar Spree (Karlsruhe and Offenbach) during a ZDF production.
- Assistant to Lothar Spree and Joachim von Vietinghoff during a film course at the European Film School in Montone, Umbria, and the completion of my film Making of l’Alba about the making of the film students’ graduation work; both were shown at the Umbria Film Festival in Montone (Alternative Voices in European Cinema)- 2004-7 working up the concept and planning the film "BARTLEBY, Meliville's 'Story of Wall Street'", an experimental screen adaptation of the novel from 1853
- 2007-9 filming and completion of the experimental screen adaptation LETTERS by momentuMedia as author, director, and producer.