VEGTERíS ABSOLUTE FILM
The article below is written by, and based on an interview by Matthijs van Klaveren
(Art historian, scriptwriter, propramme designer and active in the Holland Animation
Association). It reveals Bartís background and motives in filmmaking. First published
1994, at the occasion of the Holland Animation Film Festival in that year, where Bart
Vegter was Guest of Honour.
Bart Vegter (1940) once compared his way of film making to building a machine
which produces images. "I work from a structure I select in advance. Of course I
keep adjusting everything step-by-step during the process. Parts of my films I already
have in mind beforehand, but other parts originate while I am at work. Then I come across
something completely unknown, but which is still a result of the system and the working
method I selected. In that sense it is a mechanism which determines the film."
Vegterís method has been linked with his scientific background. After studying electrical
Engineering in Eindhoven, he was a technical engineer at Philips and Shell for about ten
And then he taught physics for another year. "I had my reasons for quitting. Of course such
a background gives you a different scope on things. But especially in the beginning I tried
to distance myself from it." Halfway through the seventies Vegter came in contact with a
group of people - he names Frans Zwartjes, Paul de Mol and Jacques Verbeek - round the
Free Academy Psychopolis in The Hague. "That was very inspiring. Not that I was immediately
influenced by their films. I was struck by the creative atmosphere, the encouragement
to do what you yourself consider important. That is how I started in experimental films."
During the festival earlier experiments will be shown too. "But HORIZONTALEN (Horizontals, 1981)
was the first film I named and released. I still remember well how unsure I
felt when that film was screened at a festival in France that very same year. Joris Ivens sat
in the front row, and Marguarite Duras was there too. And then you imagine that such a person
wonít think much of your film and becomes angry." HORIZONTALEN was, however, well
received and was followed by, among others, IN NEED OF SPACE (1982), DE HEMEL IS
VIERKANT (The square shape of heaven, 1985), FOUR MOVES (1987) and NACHT-LICHT
(Night-Light, 1993). "In fact I donít really regard myself as an animation filmmaker. Alright
I use that particular technique. But it has little to do with what most people consider to be
animation. Still, Iím an outsider within the world of experimental film as well, because I
consistently make abstract films, Iím a loner, but of course I am not alone at that."
Bart Vegterís abstract films invite comparison with early German experimental films, such
as those by Viking Eggeling (1880 - 1925), Hans Richter (1888 - 1976), Walter Ruttmann
(1887 - 1941) and Oskar Fischinger (1900 - 1967). "Yet this similarity was only discovered
at a later stage. I didnít get to know these films until after I had made FOUR MOVES.
There certainly are similarities, like working on film in its absolute form. And I have also
some of those moral convictions regarding the purity of abstraction. Itís simply a matter of
acknowledging that those people were working on similar things, but in a entirely different
juncture of time. In fact, a similar trend sprang up in America later, with people like
James Whitney (1921 - 1982) who involve all kinds of eastern mysticism. But with that
aspect of abstract film, I personally have no affinity."
"Nor am I at ease with those theories which refer to abstract film as visual music, in which
particular colours equalize certain chords. This doesnít appeal to me. In my view, on the
contrary, music and film have almost nothing in common. This is a very difficult subject.
Of course music is very important, because it can make a film more accessible. But the
way I work is to let the image develop itself, and if you add music you change the film.
At the time I composed my own music for HORIZONTALEN, but in the end I didnít use
it so itís a silent film now. In one film I used existing music and for my other films I have
always had the music specially composed. It would be ideal to develop such a project
together with a composer, so that image and music would originate together. But that is
very difficult to realize."
NACHT-LICHT is the first result of Vegterís experiments with the computer. "On the one
hand a computer is just a new trend people tend to exaggerate about. On the other hand I
can get very enthusiastic about it myself. In the end it offers new space and you yourself
are responsible for how you fill this space. I do consider it important to develop my own
graphic programmes. Those ready-made computer programmes offer too many possibilities.
They soon spoil the work, especially when you get impressed by them. Think of that smooth
American 3-D computer animation, for example, like in John Lasseterís films. Of course
they are quite nice, but personally they really irritate me. The technique is too overpowering.