German music video director Jan Schulze Beckendorf describes his company Arche Noir as a “no-budget production company”, but his polished, wonderfully-shot videos certainly wouldn’t give away these limited budgets. Most recently he’s been working with Umberto; the Kansas City-based electronic musician who composes music in the style of horror soundtracks of the late 70s and early 80s, and their two complimentary styles have resulted in incredible videos for “The Locker Room” and “Dead Silent Morning”. I was able to chat with him about how he emulates the style of grindhouse horror, his influences, and why he prefers working in the music video field.
Sweetback (SB): Umberto (aka Kansas City musician Matt Hill) has described his work as “soundtracks to films that don’t exist”. What about the idea of providing images to these “soundtracks” appealed to you?
Jan Beckendorf (JB): When I heard Umberto’s songs I automatically had this images in my mind. Hearing his songs was to me like a memory of all the giallo and slasher films i had seen when I was young. It may sound a little odd, but I was feeling at home.
SB: Did you collaborate with Hill on the concepts of these two videos? Or were you given free reign?
JB: I send him some test footage and he liked it, so we had carte blanche and this resulted in “The Locker Room”.
SB: Umberto wears many of his own influences on his sleeve – you can hear echoes of Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti and Fabio Frizzi in these pieces. What were some of your own influences for assembling the look of these two videos
JB: Mostly the look and atmosphere of early 80s slasher movies mixed with some euro exploitation. Like most obvious DEMONS and ZARDOZ. And I also loved the slow, doom pacing of those 80s slashers. I absolutely love the pacing of the opening sequence in HALLOWEEN 3. Other favorites are THE FOG, HALLOWEEN, THE BURNING and giallos like TORSO by Martino and TENEBRAE by Argento. As I am German, there wasn’t much interesting horror filmmaking for me in the 80s in Germany, so let me mention two films by Eckhardt Schmidt I really like for its apocalyptic mood: LOFT and THE FAN. Very important for me was to have an iconic killer figure like Jason or Freddy, and this resulted in the Zardozman and the Mirrorman which is inspired by the experimental short MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON. Also, “Dead Silent Morning” was inspired by the opening sequence of the french giallo PEUR SUR LA VILLE (aka FEAR OVER THE CITY/THE NIGHT CALLER).
SB: “Dead Silent Morning” is much more reminiscent of 80s exploitation, with its aerobics, film damage and slasher elements. There’s even a shower scene! How did you go about achieving the look and feel of 1980s cinema?
JB: I shot with a Canon 7d with flat picture style, means less contrast and less sharpness. Also I used some cheap dusted vintage lenses and the font was transferred to VHS and then back. The font type is very important to me. It gives some kind of promise of what to come. Also I used filming techniques that are not common anymore like zooming and panning.
SB: “The Locker Room” is almost like a short film – with even an opening credits sequence. There are some visual nods to ZARDOZ and Lamberto Bava’s DEMONS.. but the tone is very unique. How do you want the audience to feel when watching the video?
JB: I want them to feel home. That’s the way I feel watching horror movies from the 80s. I try to create a world of its own. These two videos are set in an imaginary West-Germany in the early 80s. A little bit doomsday atmosphere going on. I like the way Germany looked back then: shabby, gritty, neon lit. You can see it for example in movies like CHRISTIANE F. – WIR KINDER BOM BAHNHOF ZOO. I definitely don’t like this glossy, perfect HD filmmaking. Maybe the next project will be an homage to SOV Slashers like the fantastic SLEDGEHAMMER, shot on VHS.
JB: Fortunately a friend of mine lives in this apartement, so we could use it. With all the other locations it was guerrilla shooting. The Locker Room was shot in a famous tunnel in Duisburg. James Benning recently shot there a part of his experimental film RUHR.
SB: What makes you interested in directing music videos rather than longer pieces or feature films?
JB: I don’t have much interest in dialogues and complex story-lines. For me the most important thing is to generate atmosphere. I think music videos are just perfect for this.
SB: For people who want to check out more of your work – or follow what you’ll be doing in the future – what’s the best way to do so?
JB: They can follow our Facebook Account and maybe in the future there will be an kickstarter campaign for an arche noir feature. Who knows?
SB: Thanks for your time, Jan. Can’t wait to see what’s coming next from Arche Noir.
Latest posts by Doug Tilley (see all)
- [NO-BUDGET NIGHTMARES] PODCAST #80: PLAGA ZOMBIE (1997) - July 25, 2016