Simon Baumann on Alex Is still Alive
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Simon Baumann on Alex Is still Alive
Alex is still Alive, Simon Baumann

Alex is still Alive, Simon Baumann

Simon Baumann tells us about his film Alex is still Alive, made at London College of Communication, in response to A Clockwork Orange and The Stanley Kubrick Archives.

What was the brief for the project?

It was an elective on my course at LCC, to explore the Stanley Kubrick archive, and examine the archive’s materials to develop a concept that showed an entire process.

It was a great experience. Sarah Mahurter, Richard Daniels and Karyn Stuckey supported me during the whole research in the archive. Without their help it would have been impossible to find the real locations of A Clockwork Orange in London.

What did you find, and why did you decide to not use actual archive materials?

Kasia Prus and I spent a lot of time with the original A Clockwork Orange scripts. We tried to understand Kubrick’s decisions on the screenplay. He used an unusual writing technique, which was quite difficult to analyse, and there was also a very early script written by Anthony Burgess, who wrote the novel. Finally, I decided to concentrate on Kubrick’s script notes, which described the places in the film. I expected to get a close idea of his thinking process. Moreover, I didn’t want to interpret the film from my own point of view – it there’s a comment, it should be Kubrick’s own.

What is it about A Clockwork Orange that particularly interested you?

I am fascinated by the correlation of language and space in the film. There is a wonderful harmony between these two elements. And sure, I’m really fascinated by Malcolm McDowell’s performance. Last but not least, I loved the idea to go on a journey back in time, visiting these places. This was my very personal kind of sightseeing.

Is the voiceover for Alex is still Alive taken from the actual shooting script?

Except for the introduction, which was Anthony Burgess’ description of the scenery, I only used the notes written by Kubrick. But more important is their relation to the particular locations. Although I only took the notes relating to their correct scenes/locations in the film, their message is sometimes very abstract. For me, this kind of meta level is probably the key element in the film.

How would you describe your film – is it a documentary… an essay?

I wouldn’t like to decide. Perhaps it’s an experimental film. More importantly, Alex is still Alive is a study.

Where did you shoot it?

I shot at Putney Tunnel, Thamesmead Marina, Brunel University, Skybreak, Princess Alexandra Hospital…

Are those interiors on the estate in the film – how did you get to film in them?

The first interior is filmed in Skybreak house. It’s the writer’s house in A Clockwork Orange. The landlord, a wonderful old man, gave us access to his estate. Another one was ‘Alex Flat’. It looked untidy and was full of smoke. One of the three guys told us interesting stories about Kubrick, but I decided not to use them for the film. Nevertheless it was probably the most exciting visit.

The film touches on lots of things – architecture, public and domestic space – what did set out to explore?

First of all I wanted to explore Kubrick’s way of filmmaking. As a film student, I am truly fascinated by his work. All other elements, like architecture, public and domestic spaces are important in a way as they play a major role in A Clockwork Orange. Furthermore, they are a kind of natural archive – able to retain information about time, and in a way they are great storytellers.

And what did you discover along the way?

Beautiful British countryside on our way to the Cat Lady house, interesting landlords, lodgers, nurses, caretakers, and many other people who gave us helpful or surprising directions to the hidden places. Oh – and real snow in England during the springtime.

What are you doing now?

I’m writing a screenplay for my next film project, and I’m continuing my studies in Berlin.

Watch Alex is still Alive, Simon Baumann’s response to A Clockwork Orange and The Stanley Kubrick Archives.

Monday, September 14, 2009 | Tagged with , , , ,

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