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In Absentia

The Quay Brothers
UK 2000 / 21’

The film was made as an illustration of the music by that outstanding avant-garde composer of the 20th century, Karlheinz Stockhausen. The Quays, great fans of Stockhausen (in 1973, as one of their first commissions, they designed a cover for a collection of interviews with the composer), they accepted the offer without reflection. The composition, which can be heard in the film, is Zwei Paare (written in 1991 for the opera Freitag). The main character of In Absentia is Emma Hauck (1878–1920), a patient of the psychiatric hospital in Heidelberg. The Quays came across her letters in the collection of Hans Prinzhorn. In her letters to her husband Hauck wrote obsessively, densely, time after time, a single sentence – “Herzenschatzi komm” (“my darling, come”). With Stockhausen’s music, compositions of light, editing, impressive close-ups, the Quays managed – as far as it’s possible – to reflect the psyche of the character. The montage for In Absentia “was entirely proposed by Stockhausen’s own dynamic shifts in tempi. We were totally faithful to every note. Stockhausen’s music marshalled every aspect of a scenario that was literally unfolding before us daily on a completely improvisory level.”


Jakub Mikurda

Bracia Quay

Twins, born in 1947. They studied in Philadelphia and continued their education at the Royal College of Art in London, where in the 1970s they directed their first short films. In the 1980s, they made commercials (for Honeywell, Walkers Crisps, and Dulux Wood Protection), music videos (the most famous one - for Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer), and animations which made them popular – The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, Street of Crocodiles. In 1995, their first feature film premiered: Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream That One Calls Human Life, winner of the Bronze Horse in Stockholm and the jury’s award at the Fantasporto festival. Another full-length live acting film by the brothers is The PianoTuner of EarthQuakes. Their art is inspired by literature, especially by prose by Bruno Schulz and lately - Stanisław Lem.