Sounds from the Fog
Directed by Klaus Stanjek
Original Title: Klänge des Verschweigens
Germany, 2012, 94 minutes, Czech, English and German w/ English subtitles
German director Klaus Stanjek investigates a well-kept family secret: his Uncle Willi was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp because of his homosexuality. Only Willi’s acumen as an accordion player and his acceptance into the camp orchestra saved him from extermination. Sixty-five years later, Willi’s nephew (director Klaus Stanjek) delves into the personal and political story of his beloved uncle in a documentary that is one part historical inquiry and one part detective story. Through interviews with relatives and survivors, newly discovered documents, and pictures from the past, the true character of Uncle Willi is revealed. “I never heard about it—but also it didn't interest me,” said the filmmaker's aunt, in a statement that is emblematic of the family’s attitude toward Willi’s well-kept secret. “Active forgetting” is a common process of coping with history in Germany. In a radical personal approach, Sounds from the Fog follows the complex twists and turns of the Stanjek family’s history and their feelings as they try to deal with the threatening knowledge that Klaus uncovers with his pursuit of the truth and the unwavering eye of his camera.
Stanjek, a veteran documentarian who teaches at the University of Film and Television, Potsdam-Babelsberg (Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen [HFF] Konrad Wolf) says about his documentary, “My cheerful uncle lived with my family unless he was touring as an entertainment musician across Germany. Only at his age of 90, I detected what my whole family had hidden: that he had spent eight years in Nazi camps and that he was gay. During the following research I found out that my hometown, which presented itself as a liberal town, had been a major stronghold of the early Nazi Party. I found out that even in a brutal concentration camp, festivities took place where my uncle played music; and that my mother enjoyed her career in the Hitler-Youth despite knowing about her brother’s captivity. Because of several taboos and the passage of time, the story of my beloved uncle was hardly accessible. By means of animation and image compositing, we revitalized the available photos. My surprising encounters in several countries and my reflections lead the audience through the burdened social history of Germany.”