Einstürzende Neubauten, "1/2 Mensch"

Sohgo Ishii’s movie of Einstürzende Neubauten’s first visit to Japan is a mesmerising piece of work. Ishii mainly filmed Neubauten both at a traditional concert and at a private performance in a disused factory. The industrial setting suits the band perfectly and vice versa.  This movie documents the old lineup in its prime.

1/2 Mensch begins with some beautiful shots of junk the opening tape loop of “Armenia” fades in and the scene cuts to the group on their own in the factory save for the film crew.

There is a feral, chaotic nature to the performance. At no stage did I think that this was all staged for the cameras. The factory scenes are very intimate, I felt like I was in danger at times with the bits of scrap being flailed about. The live performances in 1/2 Mensch are blistering. The live versions on this DVD are superior to the studio versions and thankfully Neubauten have had the forethought to include a CD soundtrack with the DVD, collecting all the live material from the movie. That being said the ferocity of “Abfackeln!” and “Die Zeichnungen des Patienten O.T.” work far better with the visual accompaniment.

Segments of 1/2 Mensch use the studio recordings instead of the band actually performing. These videos (almost a vulgar term given the quality of the films) range from montages of scientific imagery such as stars and embryos mixed with the band moping about to a gob smacking sequence for “Z.N.S.” in which hordes of painted Butoh dancers dressed in junk jerk and twist about the place. Combined with the shuddering lurch of “Z.N.S.” this sequence is absolutely thrilling to watch. 1/2 Mensch is entirely without fault. I don’t say this lightly. It is one of the most finely crafted films I have ever seen. Thankfully this official reissue does Ishii’s work justice unlike the dodgy bootleg versions floating about at the moment.