This project grew out of a series of wonderful encounters – with Naum and Vera Kleiman, Katrin Springer, Anna Luise Kiss, in 2020 with our remarkable team and, many times over, with Sergei Eisenstein.
In December 2009, I met Naum Kleiman and visited Eisenstein’s flat for the first time. Back then I wrote down my impressions: In the centre of Moscow, between McDonald’s and a monstrous skyscraper whose façade glows with rainbow-coloured lights, a dark gateway leads to grey apartment buildings. There is no sign on the door pointing the way. It is an address only known to insiders: the flat of one of the founding fathers of cinema. There is a shabby stairwell. On the second floor, Naum Kleiman opens the door. From one second to the next, I’m thrown back to the year 1935. Books, notes, and sketches for Eisenstein’s films, pictures, Mexican rugs and Japanese theatre masks cover the walls from the ceiling to the floor. The table is set between Bauhaus chairs. It seems as if Sergei Eisenstein is about to walk out of the kitchen. Over the past 40 years, filmmakers from all over the world have written entries in the guestbook: Douglas Sirk and Claude Chabrol, Wim Wenders and Volker Schlöndorff.
We sat on Eisenstein’s chairs and drank tea, and the outside world receded into the distance. We talked late into the night about film, society, Russia and, it seemed, about a cultural history spanning the entire globe.” This encounter resulted in Film Cinema: A Public Affair, which I made together with Katrin Springer as the producer. The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2015. We feared that the Eisenstein flat might be closed down, just like the Moscow Film Museum. I had shot a lot of material there which I hadn’t used, and I wondered how I might best take advantage of it. Katrin and I developed an idea that seemed completely crazy back then: to recreate the flat in VR using my film footage and to link it to a website about Sergei Eisenstein. But initially, we lacked funding and partners for the project. In 2018, Eisenstein’s flat really did close down. A universe disappeared.
Our meeting with Anna Luise Kiss unexpectedly opened a new door: The Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF joined us as a partner. This is how the concept for the Collisions research project was created. Thanks to funding from EFRE, we were able to start work in May 2020.
It was strange that this project began during the extreme conditions of the pandemic. Suddenly, for many of us the outside world receded into the distance. That is why we are all the happier that our project provides a way for people all over the world, hopefully in the near future, to visit Eisenstein’s flat virtually. A wide variety of discoveries await them there: about film, society, Russia and, perhaps, a cultural history spanning the entire globe.