A Film a Week - Making Judith!

previously published on Cineuropa

In the prologue to Making Judith!, and more specifically on a title card featuring one of his own quotes (“The only way for films to feel true is to fill them with lies”), veteran German filmmaker Klaus Lemke, dubbed “The Pope of Kitsch”, not only gives his educated opinion on low- to no-budget filmmaking, but also offers the key to the interpretation of the film and his intentions behind it. It is not about the plot itself; it is about Lemke, his persona, his ideas on contemporary filmmaking and turning the title character into his new muse. The film has just had its international premiere at the Viennale, where Lemke enjoys something of a cult following, just a few months after the world premiere at the Munich Film Festival.

Lemke is a unique figure in German-language cinema, as he is the only one of the “New Munich Group” who stayed faithful to his low-budget roots, making a number of trivial genre- and subculture-themed and trash films in dialect, rather than in standard German, with non-professional, almost randomly chosen cast and crew members. Earlier in his career, Lemke acted in his own films, but he has not done so recently, which makes Making Judith! his big acting comeback. His trademark pimp-style hats, torn jeans and Air Max Nikes are an integral part of his style and persona that he plays both on and off screen. For him, filmmaking is a chance for anyone to be someone – or something – else: he would rather be his films than himself.

But not all movies are destined to be finished, which is the lesson that Lemke has to learn the hard way when the noir-like family mystery surrounding his alleged daughter Caroline (Mela Feigenbaum), set under the blazing sun of the Canary Islands, solves itself too quickly and leads nowhere. Lemke needs his new film, and his secretary Judith (Judith Paus) is ready to do anything to secure her big role in it. However, the director will intentionally test her patience by spending the money she stole and the money they both swindled out of an investor (Murat Mermer) on his own carnal pleasures. He evidently has no idea what to make a film about, and Judith is no actress or producer. Will he make her an actress? A producer? His muse? The new Saralisa Volm from Finale, Dancing with Devils and Berlin für Helden?

One cannot say that Making Judith! is a stellar example of exceptional filmmaking, because it is not. It is deliberately bad to the bone, filmed on a seemingly home-video level of equipment, with Paulo de Silva handling both the cinematography and the sound, and lit so poorly that the actors stay in the shadows for most of their time on screen. But Making Judith! is mind-blowingly funny and takes much pride in its trashiness. It actually serves as a bold statement against gentrification in cinema. With his latest production, Lemke has remained loyal both to his style and to his persona, and hopefully, he has secured a muse for his next few projects.

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