Betrayal is an everyday occurance, and it starts with the betrayal of one's own self. Sterling Hayden: round-the-world sailor, war hero, Hollywood star, author. "Hayden did more than just regret and seek the forgiveness of those whom he had harmed so much," as one of those whom Hayden had denounced to the House of Un-American Activities Committee in 1947 later put it. "He did the most radical thing possible: He changed." (Abraham Polonsky) This 2-disc DVD set presents two films by Wolf-Eckart Bühler that deconstruct the Hayden myth. On the one hand: a chaotic yet tranquil documentary featuring Sterling Hayden himself. On the other: Hayden's self-analytical, autobiographical tale on the experience of fear, conformation and betrayal, condensed into contemporary images and sounds.
Pharos of Chaos - West Germany 1983 - Directed, written and produced by: Wolf-Eckart Bühler, Manfred Blank - Photographed by: Bernd Fiedler - With: Sterling Hayden - Premiere: 22. February 1983 (Berlinale, Internationales Forum des Jungen Films)
Der Havarist - West Germany 1984 - Directed and written by: Wolf-Eckart Bühler, based on "Wanderer" by Sterling Hayden - Cinematography: Pater Gauhe - Music: Konstantin Wecker - Cast: Burkhard Driest, Rüdiger Vogler, Hannes Wader, Hans Michael Rehberg, Edgar Selge, Donald Arthur, Kent Doering, Klaus Emmerich, Kristina Van Eyck, Roger Fritz, Wolf Heckmann, Michael Krüger, Imo Moszkowicz, Martin Moszkowitz, Hans Noever, Enno Patalas, Hans Günther Pflaum, Dieter Schidor, Klaus Schreyer, Lauren Straub, Susanne Winter, Gerd Adam, Paul B. Kleiser - Produced by: Red Harvest Film Wolf-Eckart Bühler / Starfilm Martin Moszkowicz - Premiere: 27. June 1984 (Munich Filmfest)
Vor Anker, Land unter. Ein Film mit Sterling Hayden - West Germany 1982 - Directed and written by: Wolf-Eckart Bühler, Manfred Blank - Photographed by: Bernd Fiedler - With: Sterling Hayden - Produced by: Wolf-Eckart Bühler für Westdeutsches Fernsehen - Premiere: 13. April 1982 (West 3)
About the films
In the early 1980s, Wolf-Eckart Bühler was working on a book about HUAC. Neither it nor his book on Marx and America was ever completed. But the work sparked his interest in Sterling Hayden and his autobiography "Wanderer". Bühler was so fascinated by the book that he developed his film Der Havarist (The Shipwrecker, 1983). The concept and script were aimed at treating Hayden's voice as seriously as Straub/Huillet did with Pavese or the Greek classics the actor's turbulent life, as portrayed in the film, being of similar dimensions. Bühler knew he would have to talk to Hayden in person to persuade him to participate. It took almost a year to find him. Hayden was living on his Dutch barge on the river Doubs near Besançon. He read the script, was excited about it, and gave Bühler the rights to the book "Wanderer". On the second evening, Hayden told Bühler it was a shame nobody was recording picture and sound of their meeting. Within a few days, Bühler organized a film crew who all agreed to defer their salaries; he returned with them a week later.
Bühler had enough money for only five days of shooting. Hayden was either drunk or stoned for every minute of that time, but in the documentary he speaks as clearly as an archangel. It is astounding to see him with a prodigious beard, weatherbeaten, barefoot, high as a kite, his hair a wild mane. A king without country or subjects. A Shakespearean figure. A dreamer and a thinker, at times a fiery prophet. Pharos of Chaos, the title of an unfinished book by Hayden, gave the stirring documentary its title. Hayden watched the movie a year later, alone in the theater. Meeting the director in a restaurant afterwards, he was silent for a long time before saying that he thought the film was good, very good, and true, but that he never wanted to see it again; never wanted to see himself at such a low point in his existence.
Der Havarist was also a low-budget film, produced as the New German film wave was coming to an end, and auteur filmmaking was being edged out by producer's cinema. Bühler wasn't interested in turning Hayden's life into a melodrama. Watching it even today, the verbatim staging of Hayden's testimony at HUAC is oppressive. Der Havarist is a political film even more so now than when it was made. "Hayden's story is an opportunity for us all to question ourselves," Bühler said. The director cast three different actors in the Hayden role Burkhard Driest (dialogue passages), a controversial figure at the time; the professed member of Germany's Communist Party and songwriter Hannes Wader (narratives), and Rüdiger Vogler (monologues, reflective). To put Hannes Wader in front of the camera in an era when communists were banned from working professionally in West Germany was a political statement.
Hayden often seemed to be sleepwalking through his films, cooler even and more distant than Robert Mitchum. His eyes, quite small for a man of his size, often seemed to gaze at some unattainable far distance. He was marked by a deep rootlessness, in odd contrast to his physical presence and strength. In Johnny Guitar, the John Carradine character says to him, "that's a lot of man you're carryin' in those boots, stranger." Hayden is a lot of man, and yet, he is a man of deep vulnerability. Once you have seen Wolf-Eckart Bühler's films, you will know why.
DVD features (2-disc DVD)
- Leuchtturm des Chaos / Pharos of Chaos 1983, 114'
- Vor Anker, Land unter. Ein Film mit Sterling Hayden 1982, 44'
- 16-pages bilingual Booklet with essays by Alf Mayer and Wolf-Eckart Bühler
- Der Havarist 1984, 92'
- Alternative beginning of Der Havarist 1984, 5'
Edited by: Filmmuseum München
DVD authoring: Tobias Dressel, Gunther Bittmann
DVD supervision: Stefan Drössler
First edition August 2018