One of the prisoners of the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg was the Jewish-Hungarian artist Ágnes Lukács, who was born in 1920, arrested in spring 1944, and liberated by the US army on April 14, 1945 in the Salzwedel subcamp. After the war, Lukács spent several decades artistically dealing with the pictorial motif of a closely-knit women‘s group that pushed together and comforted itself against the background of radical violence, as in the drawing „Összebújva“, which belongs to a cycle of 24 works in total.
These images of female solidarity in a violent system, which Burkhard Schittny got to know in the Neuengamme concentration camp memorial, this visualization of history in the concentration and labor camp, in which about 50,000 people died or were murdered as a result of barbaric working and living conditions, deeply touched the artist.
In the 60-minute filmic work „Dignity - Tribute to Ágnes Lukács“, Schittny takes up the image motif and transports it into the present through a group of actresses. The non-linear narrative style is striking in this slow-motion film. Over and over again, the women‘s group is formed anew. Individuals step out of isolation into the group, which comes together repeatedly in a variety of ways, forming itself densely again and again in an oppressive, dimly lit place.
The clothing of the bald, bare-footed women also takes up motifs by Lukács, which Schittny uses as a template. Her white coats are decorated with different patterns. Like Ágnes Lukács, Schittny’s adaptation is concerned with counteracting dehumanization in tyranny - giving back dignity to the depicted.
The theme of his filmic examination is solidarity, but also, as the art historian Christiane Heß writes, „the experience of violence and the struggle for self-assertion and individuality“. The technique of slow motion, the montage of various sequences, is an adequate way of capturing the artist‘s decades long preoccupation with her subject in new images.
Despite all the necessary aestheticization in cinematic adaptation, Schittny here succeeds in translating the creative process of the artist Ágnes Lukács, who was imprisoned in Auschwitz, Groß-Rosen and Neuengamme and who created her works from memory alone for years after the end of National Socialism. In addition, „Dignity - Tribute to Ágnes Lukács“ transposes a female „strategy of survival“ (Heß) into the present.
(Christiane Heß, Gezeichnete Erfahrung? Über das Motiv der Nähe im Bilderzyklus von Ágnes Lukács, in: Hamburger Schlüsseldokumente zur deutsch-jüdischen Geschichte, 21.09.2018)
Produced and directed by:
Burkhard Schittny, 2019
Hair Make-Up / Special Effects: