Prison Images

A film composed of images from prisons. Quotes from fiction films and documentaries as well as footage from surveillance cameras. A look at the new control technologies, at personal identification devices, electronic ankle bracelets, electronic tracking devices.

The cinema has always been attracted to prisons. Today's prisons are full of video surveillance cameras. These images are unedited and monotonous; as neither time nor space is compressed, they are particularly well-suited to conveying the state of inactivity into which prisoners are placed as a punitive measure. The surveillance cameras show the norm and reckon with deviations from it. Clips from films by Genet and Bresson. Here the prison appears as a site of sexual infraction, a site where human beings must create themselves as people and as a workers.

In Un Chant d'amour by Jean Genet, the guard looks in on inmates in their cells and sees them masturbating. The inmates are aware that they are being watched and thus become performers in a peep show. The protagonist in Bresson's Un Condamné à mort s'est échappé turns the objects of imprisonment into the tools of his escape. These topoi appear in many prison films. In newer prisons, in contrast, contemporary video surveillance technology aims at demystification.

(Harun Farocki)

Original title Gefängnisbilder Director, scriptwriter Harun Farocki Cinematographer Cathy Lee Crane, Ingo Kratisch Editor Max Reimann Sound Louis van Rooky Researcher Jörg Becker, Cathy Lee Crane Production Harun Farocki Filmproduktion, Berlin, Movimento Paris, Christian Baute, commissioned by ZDF/3sat TV-producer Inge Classen Format video col. and b/w Length 60 min.