TSP1990: Das offene Universum

One of the reasons for doing this blog series was to poke at the “well, everything is available now” thing (spoiler warning: it’s not), but then you have things like this movie: Made in 1990, and then largely unavailable for three decades, before suddenly becoming available on Vimeo. That’s a hopeful sign, perhaps: A couple decades ago, people were talking about “the long tail”, where the idea was that if you’d just make things available, there would be a sufficient number of weirdos I mean people interested to make it worthwhile financially. I.e., with the Internet, surely there are enough people among the eight billion people on Earth (and probably some UFOs) to finance basically anything?

This turns out not to be true — I’ve bought many an album on Bandcamp where they’d only sold two copies before me.

The long tail turns out to be very thin indeed, and not fat and sustainable as people imagined.

But then there’s Vimeo, where you can pay Vimeo some money and then charge people eight Euros, and perhaps some people will buy the films?

This is very strange, even for a 1990 English language German TV movie. So far, it’s been hard cosmology stuff on the voiceover, but with these absurd graphics…

The guy doing the English voiceover is slightly difficult to understand… “density of meta”… Very German pronunciation.

Even on an art movie scale, this is very odd. That is, it doesn’t really use the normal art movie tropes? It’s just very strange.

I mean, I like it, but it’s very strange, and I’m not sure that it’s this strange because the filmmaker wanted it to be, or just because this is how it turned out.

But there’s some very common elements — it’s about an old guy and a young woman, directed by an old guy. OOPS!

The white balance seems to be kinda… off… in most of the outdoor scenes. Did they only have tungsten film?


Did I mention that this is a very odd film?

“The sea… caricature of infinity.”

You know, I didn’t have this pegged as a comedy, but is this, like, a parody of art films? Or perhaps just a really hilarious movie that’s not actually funny?

This movie feels like student work, but not in a good way.


Robert, a young Dane, is shanghaied in Marseille, and via Acapulco he is abducted into the South Pacific. There he kills his father and seduces his mother. Then he explores the changing world. The end finds him in a Polynesian village, where the chief bestows him with a girl of his age-class. A novel of adventure, a novel of love, also an oratory of some sort.

We’re an hour into the movie, and I don’t think any of that has happened yet? So is that another joke? Or was Robert supposed to be Tilda’s son, even though he’s older than her? Or perhaps he’s mean to play a … five-year-old?

I mean, it’s possible. I may have zoned out at points.

The only interesting thing in this movie are these sequences. The editing is timed to the soundtrack (which is a piano thing), so the shot changes whenever a piano key is hit. That must have been so much work! This was presumably edited on film, and that’s a lot of cuts.

But! It’s not done perfectly — I’d say about 70% of the cuts are done on a note, and the rest are flubbed — too early, too late, not done at all, done when there’s no notes happening. It’s still interesting, but it’s more… “yes, I can see what you tried to do… and then failed to do…”

And the images in these sequences (and they do go on for a while) don’t seem to have anything to do — at all — with the rest of the movie. So they’re just a thing the director had been working on while doing a lot of coke over the years and then shoehorned into this film?

I think they were aiming for a Jarman-like art movie, but it’s really… kinda uniquely bad.

The Open Universe. Klaus Wyborny. 1990.

This post is part of The Tilda Swinton Project.

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