Hans Schifferle, the wonderful film critic and essayist, died much too early, at the age of 63. And because for everyone who knew him, the end of this life is now the beginning of the memory of him who led this life – that’s why you see him again, maybe as he was in the eighties: big and dark, Clad entirely in leather because he had come on a motorcycle, he stood in the foyer of the Munich Film Museum or on the stairs of the workshop cinema and was astonishingly similar to the young Mel Gibson, the one from the first “Mad Max”. And then he sat in the cinema looking like if something went wrong with the film, he could immediately take over the lead role.
Such an appearance and appearance is not necessarily the prerequisite for that clear view of the pictures that Hans Schifferle always had and described in a wonderfully unpretentious way – but it may help when the cinema is about feeling looked at by a film, addressed, meant. And when Hans Schifferle, who hated playing films against each other, went so far as to highlight certain films, scenes, images, then it was those that he not only watched, but with whom he, as it were, exchanged glances.
Hans Schifferle, born 1957 in Munich, wrote for the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, for the fan and trade magazine “Steadycam”, articles for books and catalogs. And like so many cinéphiles of his generation, when he started writing, he owed some essential knowledge about cinema to Frieda Grafe’s writings: that the scenes on the screen are something different and mostly more than what a genius director thought up Has. That it would be pointless to believe that a production can be completely controlled. And that the cameras, with their unobstructed view of preferences and hierarchies, see something different from what humans can see with the naked eye. But Hans Schifferle, more radical than everyone else, drew the conclusion that the view of the moviegoer must also free itself from the hierarchies of the ancient arts. The category of the masterpiece did not exist for him. And he would never have allowed the illegal, the trivial, the maudlin or the kitschy as an argument against a film.
In the forbidden spaces of film history
Oh, if you’re not yet thirty, it’s easy to stage life as a continuation of the cinema. Schifferle tore off the tickets in the Munich Film Museum before he went to the screening himself. And then you stood together, drank beer and listened to the lovable Schifferle rave about. If cinema is the school of life, you need a few classmates you can rely on so that you don’t become a nerd or a failure.
Only that Hans Schifferle, freed from the compulsion to earn money through an inheritance, was able to save this lifestyle into the adult years. Anyone who had ever visited him in his apartment came back with amazing news about how many film books, video cassettes and DVDs Hans Schifferle owned. And that he had really read and looked at it all. So he became a trust teacher in the school of vision.
Of course he was tempted to enter and describe the forbidden, frowned upon, forgotten spaces of film history. Of course, sometimes he found a particularly innocent look in a porno. And in a B-movie a directness that the mainstream was too sluggish for. Schifferle knew earlier than most of the others that the more someone knows about cinema, the more likely they are to recognize and praise moments of beauty in a mediocre film. But he was never a specialist in the out-of-the-way, a specialist only in niche films. In a poll by “Steadycam” for his 30 favorite films, he also named “Vertigo” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in all seriousness. No proof of specialty, just taste and connoisseurship. This connoisseurship was by no means exclusive – in its casualness and generosity it was a polite invitation to the reader to take a closer look, to discover, to rave about. Hans Schifferle died last week.