الظلّ الكبير ~ The big shadow

Der Große Schatten

Chantal Reikel

Photo-installation and research project with the German film museum archive (Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin), produced since 2009

The life of my grandfather, the screenwriter and playwright known under his pseudonym Harald Bratt (1897-1967), has always been enigmatic to me. The little I heard about him were vague mentions of his career during WWII in Vienna, and his love of writers such as Goethe. Occasionally I glanced into some of his diaries but struggled to decipher his handwriting. Their position on a high shelf in my father’s office marked them out them as holders of secrets…

Der große Schatten narrates this process of appropriating and questioning a hidden family past in a context shaped by the war circumstances. It features a visual exploration of what in French is termed ʻʼnon-ditʼʼ – the non-said: aspects that have remained unspoken of since, as Marianne Hirsch noticed, they “do not slot neatly into the flow of family narrative.”

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Herr Bratt

Prior to developing his career as a film and playwright, Bratt directed the Institute of Education studies at Braunschweig University. In 1931 he was however strategically removed from his position by the emerging National Socialist local government, because of his progressive ideas. Paradoxically, Bratt contributed to a number of propaganda scripts, and was sentenced to a three-month prison sentence in 1948 for co-authoring the propaganda script of Ohm Krueger (Hans Steinhoff, 1944). 

 

To counterbalance his position during the war further, in 1956 he was to be rehabilitated as a University Professor as an act of compensation for having been one of the first victims of the regime.

On the one hand, my images invite the viewer into the search for clues of the past through visual and textual fragments, as a means of questioning family secrets and the assured ‘authenticity’ of archival photographs and texts.

On the other hand, I wanted to relate to the difficulty of the choice between ideology and self-interest as experienced by a number of writers who for various reasons continued to develop their career under the National Socialist regime.

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