54:00 min, DCP 3:4 and 16:9
German and English
How does the political orientation of institutions impact the lives of individuals? How do institutions decide to represent and communicate scientific and historical facts? Through an interconnected web of narratives, these two questions frame the diptych Daphne and Thomas.
The film is a special directors’ cut that combines the stories of two previous video installations The Conspicuous Parts (2018) and The Calling (2017) with new materials into one linear film as if their scripts were written as one plot.
The first part of the film is a fictional portrait of Thomas, the son of a protestant pastor who was unable to attend art school during the German Democratic Republic because of his religious background. Now, in his late fifties and still haunted by that trauma, he lives with his wife in a house they inherited from her aristocratic family. Thomas’s actions are narrated by a voice-over of his daughter, Daphne, who tells his life story from her perspective. Thomas has a comfortable life free from financial burden, yet his daily activities and trivial obligations are surrounded by melancholia and doubt.
The second part of the film begins when his daughter, Daphne, a young taxidermist, finds herself locked inside one of the dioramas of The Museum of Natural History in Berlin. By chance, a British novelist who has come to Berlin to research the museum’s archive, comes to Daphne’s rescue. The novelist is collecting material for a novel about a 1960s diving expedition that supplied Berlin’s Natural History Museum with ten meters of coral reef that was violently uprooted from Cuban seas and is still kept in museum storage. These corals also played a part in a recent love affair that left her heartbroken. The two women embark in a dialogue that culminates inside an Indonesian-style spa in Berlin’s city center. There, the colonial decor and naked bodies transform the significance of their previous encounter in the museum.
The stories of Thomas and his daughter Daphne transform through humidity and aridity, rising and falling temperatures, reality and its artifice.
Actors: Thomas Rudnik, Tina Pfurr, Caroline Clifford
Line Producers: Talking projects and Eyal Vexler
Cinematography: Jutta Pohlmann, Frank Meyer
Edit: Janina Herhoffer and Assaf Gruber
Art: Emil Birk and Romy Kiseling
Sound recording: Frank Bubenzer
Sound Design: Jochen Jezussek
Written, directed and produced by Assaf Gruber