Dans la Vision Peripherique du Termoins or In the Peripheral Vision of the Witness

Marcel Odenbach is one of the most important video artists from Germany and one of the first Video pioneers in all of Europe. When Odenbach was young he studied art history, architecture and semiotics. Ever since the mid 70's Odenbach has created tapes, drawings, performances and installations. He has always been committed to voicing his political and social views. His films often express the tension between individual spiritual freedom and transportation of mass media to a culture. Odenbach's style of film fuses a mix of film that he has shot, with addition to excerpts from news reels and classic movies. When his films have sound, the soundtracks are usually very dense.

Dans la Vision Peripherique du Termoins or In the Peripheral Vision of the Witness is a thirteen minute film that Odenbach composed in 1986. The film contains scenes in color as well as black and white. He unites classic, patriotic images with commercial images from the media. The soundtrack features various classical music songs. He uses a technique often used in his films. He divides the spaces and images on the screen. In this film, Odenbach explores the conflict of how humans try to carry culture and tradition and run away from it all at once.

The film begins with a single moving shot filming everyday people from behind as the walk the halls of the palace of Versailles in France. Classical music is played on the soundtrack to depict "tradition". Slowly the "everyday" people are replaced by those wearing Renaissance & Baroque style clothing. Before Odenbach's name is displayed on the screen, a modern French song is played to show the conflict of tradition and modern ways of life. Before the title of the film is shown, there is a shot of a double set of doors at Versailles closing. This represents trying to hide or hinder traditions and old ways of thought because after the title is shown, there is a shot of modern doors. When the modern door closes, the words "Paris 1986" appear and the screen splits into three vertical columns.

The columns on the right and left travel through the halls of Palace of Versailles similar to scene before the title appeared as if the viewer were the camera and walking. This shot is in color. The column in the center, however, shows a black and white shot of a man (Odenbach) running in slow motion through the streets of France. The soundtrack during this scene features classical music with the sound of heavy breathing. The color shot of Versailles and with the black and white shot of the man blended with the sound is a clear and powerful way of showing the struggle between tradition and modern ways. As this scene continues, the black and white column seems get smaller as it is invaded by the Versailles shot. This can possibly be showing that the character is so burdened with the trying to keep old ways of life that it is the new ways that the man is running from or maybe he is running to traditional ways of life from new ways which can be seen more in the following scene.

In the next scene, the shots are then filp-flopped. The outer columns become modern black and white images of automobiles while the center column shows modern people again walking in the Versailles, in color. About thirty seconds later, the shots change again but still have the three column framing. In the center column are two Noblemen, in color, in Baroque dress pacing back and forth while speaking French. The outer columns are now displaying Parisian architecture and modern people in black and white. It almost seems as if the Noblemen are trapped in time, being forced into small space by the hands of time and the power of persistence.

Around eleven minutes into the film, an image from what seems to be a classic Hollywood film gets superimposed over the columns and the soundtrack is from that film. After this occurs, the columns switch again placing the black and white image of a building in the center with shots of trees and sides fading in and out. The superimposed image is then replaced by a shot of sexual penetration between a man and a woman for about fifteen seconds. The last shot of the film is of a comforter from a bed that is blue with gold emblems as the credits roll.

I believe that Odenbach was successful at what he was trying to convey, which was the struggle between new and old ways of life and the affect they have on cultural identity. This can be shown clearly through the constantly changing soundtracks, the way the columns kept changing, the use of black and white and color images and the ways different shots were placed throughout the film.


Cameron, Dan. (2010, October 20). Marcel odenbach. Retrieved from www.newmuseum.org/exhibitions/321

Marcel odenbach. (2010, October 20). Retrieved from www.eai.org/artistTitles.htm?id=419

Marcel odenbach (b. 1953). (2010, October 20). Retrieved from http://ubu.com/film/odenbach.html

-- Stephen Bessette, 2010.

Marcel Odenbach