Skip to main content

Gerd Kroske "Geschichten in Schichten, der Film Vokzal-Bahnhof Brest" D 1994 90´

Organisational Units
Fine Arts
Location Description
Online via Zoom

Lecture by Gerd Kroske in the context of the IBK Lecture Series WS 21/22 organized by the studio Art and Film.


My film Terminus Brest was completed in 1994. That was 49 years after the end of WWII. How can history be captured on film today in 90 minutes without coming across as cataloguing and inventorying?

The film works with two opposing levels of place and time. The place is a train station and the time covers the upheavals of the 20th century. Several wars passed through this place and this is inscribed in the people there, as can be seen. In Brest this epoch could be told like an uncovering of layered deposits. How can this place of a railroad station be connected with the historically relevant moments as an example in the film?

When we began to search for historical film material in the Minsk State Archives, we noticed that film images were constantly being repurposed by re-commenting them on the occasion of anniversaries of the revolution or CPSU party congresses. This raises the questions: How should we be able to trust archival materials? Or even: how can we read today the current news pictures of the refugees from the Belarusian-Polish no man's land without the surviving archival materials?

It was more than a suggestion to consult Walter Benjamin's* "On the Concept of History" at that time, because it seemed to me the only suitable approach to make these epochal dislocations narratable in film. Nothing in this view is from one perspective, monolithic, and certainly not logical and consequential. History does not behave like that. How does one find a film structure for this - if one chooses this view?

Questions to the film in the seminar will be:

How can Walter Benjamin's text be used as an approach for a cinematic view that understands the "historical chock" as an opportunity?

How is archival footage used in film?

Are archival recordings evidence of historical events or their cinematic commentary, interpretations or propagation of an ideology? Can these inscriptions be "remounted"?

How do protagonists* come and go in the film?

Sources for preparation:

"On the Concept of History"; Walter Benjamin, in Werke und Nachlass , Suhrkamp Verlag, 2010

Vokzal-Bahnhof Brest OV, subtitles german PW: BB2022

*When Walter Benjamin, in the summer of 1940, wrote his text On the Concept of History , there had already been war in Europe for almost a year. Benjamin was on the run in Spain. Under the code name "Unternehmen Barbarossa" the German-Soviet war of aggression was planned from July 1940. This war began on June 22, 1941 - almost a year after Benjamin's suicide in Port Bou - with the invasion of the Soviet Union. It ended with the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht on May 8, 1945. The first place taken by the fascist Wehrmacht in the Soviet Union was Brest in Belarus. The 45th Infantry Division, which was rampaging there, was formed in Linz immediately after the annexation of Austria in 1938 and was in action from the first day of the war.