BACKLIGHT. Searching for Paul Celan


All those curious about Paul Celan´s life and work will find it intricate and dark: “historically dark” because Paul Celan (1920 – 1970) experienced the atrocities of the Third Reich and its aftermath; “personally dark” because the poet constantly tried to close himself off to he outside world. As a result, Celan´s poetry remains enveloped in a deep and complex darkness, a puzzling source of creative wealth and scholarly interpretation.

My work centers on the following question: How can film, a medium dedicated to capturing light, process so much darkness? How can a filmmaker access Paul Celan´s life and not destroy facets of his oeuvre by exposing them to light?

The documentary “Backlight. Searching for Paul Celan” observes present-day “reality”, yet makes its inherent past palpable. Rather than taking over biographical facts unquestioned, I have tried to relate Celan´s life and work to the our times. The question arises, however, to what extent these facts actually reflect Paul Celan´s life. As a result, “Backlight. Searching for Paul Celan” ventures on a cinematic quest for the few things that can be said and shown about Paul Celan, an artist whom we did not know in person. The film also attempts to carefully approach the content and style of his work, a fragmented and incomplete endeavor. It is left to the audience to further explore this darkness and access spaces the film cannot reach.