Q&A with Director of the Munich Filmmuseum, Stefan Drössler
Published on October 27th, 2011 | by Cassady Dixon0
As part of the ‘MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation,’ MoMA has invited Stefan Drössler, director of the Munich Filmmuseum, to give an illustrated lecture on the history of 3-D called ‘3-D Is Coming to This Theater! An Illustrated History of Stereoscopic Cinema.’ The lecture will cover 3-D from the roots of the technology, going back to stereophotography and the magic lantern, while using examples from the early days of cinema such as Lumière and Skladanowsky, plus choice clips from countries around the world to illustrate the breadth of the use of the technology.
Cinespect had a chat with Stefan Drössler to inquire about some of his opinions on current uses of 3-D technology both in practical and artistic ways, which will be discussed in-depth at the lecture this Saturday.
3-D’s popularity seems to come in waves. Is there something about the current fascination with 3-D films and television that signals a greater longevity this time around?
I guess that in certain niches 3-D will survive – as it did in the past.
As director of the Munich Filmmuseum, you also do a lot of work with the films of Orson Welles. Hypothetically speaking, could you ever see someone like Welles utilizing 3-D? How long, if ever, before 3-D crosses over to art and independent cinema as opposed to big, tent-pole features?
Welles was interested in all the mass media of the 20th century (theater, magic shows, cinema, television, video) but not a technical freak for new ballyhoos like color film, CinemaScope, 3-D, multichannel soundtrack etc. In Europe we can already see 3-D films by independent filmmakers or film students. The films by Wim Wenders or Werner Herzog show that 3-D can be used outside of mainstream cinema.
We’re starting to see the emergence of 3-D ready television sets that are also autostereoscopic (glasses-free). Is this something that could be in movie theaters in the foreseeable future?
The principle of autostereoscopic TV sets cannot be used for cinema screens. The Russians worked on it for several years in the 1930s and1940s but had to give up.
James Cameron has talked of enabling a sort of official certification for directors of 3-D projects to ensure the highest quality operation of the medium. Where would you stand on something like this? Is 3-D mishandled a lot, such as the post-processed films of late?
I believe that only directors who know how to handle depth and space can do good 3-D movies. There are filmmakers like Orson Welles or Max Ophüls or Rainer Werner Fassbinder who know how to put depth into pictures, and there are others who don’t know how to use space. It’s the same problem in 2-D films.
Looking back in history, who were the true early pioneers of 3-D technology? I remember hearing that a couple of 3-D, Nazi propaganda films were discovered earlier this year.
Film pioneers like Louis Lumière or Max Skladanowsky were already working with 3-D.
As someone who works on restoring very old films, what is the level of difficulty in restoring some of these decades-old 3-D films? Are the 3-D elements quite subtle, or do they hold a candle to the 3-D works of today?
A lot of the old 3-D systems cannot be shown anymore. Today we have the possibility to transfer them into digital 3-D and make them viewable.
Speaking again of James Cameron, what is your opinion on the burgeoning trait amongst him, Disney and others in re-releasing their films in 3-D, such as “Titanic” and “The Lion King?” Obviously there is money to be made in their eyes, but could 3-D make a film, one that was not originally made with 3-D in mind, any better?
It depends on the audience if such re-releases will be made. In the whole film history we find filmmakers who did remakes of their own films, who varied only one theme again and again or who reworked their films again and again (like Orson Welles, Charles Chaplin or George Lucas). I don’t believe that the films become “better” – in the best case it is a “different” experience.
Is the evolution of 3-D limited, primarily, to film and television, or is this something that can be successfully adapted to other avenues? Moreover, is 3-D purely for entertainment, or is there something intrinsic to the technology that can be used for education or other real world applications?
Well, we will see. The main problem in the moment is that not the artists or the consumers are calling for 3-D but that the industry wants to push it for establishing the digital cinema and to sell their films.