I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

The Beginning of a Movement: Doering's "3302" and Punk

by Chrisaphenia Danai Papagrigoriou
April 23, 2018

In order to fully comprehend Christoph Doering’s “3302” as a piece as well as a (oh yeah) narrative movie, we want to get inside this particular cab he drives through Berlin, so let's take a time machine to the early 80’s. 

It’s 1979 in Berlin. The wall is proudly up and the youth proudly scatter in whatever direction they want. If “no future” is actually a point in time, this is it. Not decisively against everyone and everything but rather narcissistically hedonistic.

The Super 8 camera as a medium is not randomly chosen at all. It’s not trying to project a particular image quality. In fact, at the time of this film, these cameras were making appearances in trashcans and flea markets as the new technology dictated VCR. Obviously, not anyone was able to afford this new form of audiovisual documentation, but anyone could see themselves as potential filmmakers with a found camera. This whole found movement is a result of the local punk scene that would later achieve fame as the better-known music and art movement. Still, the lines of evolution are there, as both the film and the punk movement were deprived of academic approval, theory (something that naturally occurred later -- i.e. this article and the glorification of literal underground), and any kind of external facilitation, causing them to evolve in small bars and clubs as well as the hinterhoffs (backyards) of west Berlin -- industrial debris sites mainly in Kreuzberg.

In this particular film, Christoph Doering, who did actually work as a cab driver at the time in order to support his studies as a painter, chooses to invite friends and acquaintances for a ride in order to film them and the city night. The camera’s perspective is the driver’s view around him, to the back seat and through the windshield.

Amazingly using the actual filmed sites as visual symbols, “3302” almost has a plot with a twist in it. Although in the beginning one expects it to be a movie of depth on Berlin’s troubled youth and wall-associated aspects of German life, it surprises and arouses you by only celebrating nightlife and lets the viewer observe and live a Berlin night shift as much as Doering does.

The Mercedes- Benz logo that's visible through the windshield in the first shot looks very much like a shotgun target that is about to be used for massive “audiences”, especially considering that the starting shot is that of the car parked in a parking lot (placed in the very corner of the screen), paired with a Hitchcock-ish soundtrack. One wouldn't be crazy to think that there will be blood and mystery. And there is. The car starts the trip from the parking lot, spinning circles around the curves before actually getting on the road. There, the viewer's expectations of where it’s going become increasingly dark. During those faster-and-faster circles the “AUSGANG” (EXIT) sign appears more and more often, but is never used until the car has reached a dangerous speed.

The overdubbed sound of the entire film is yet another tool to both make the image richer in content and the movement almost engine-like. While the car runs around in circles we hear this noise, disturbingly ascending in volume, that doesn’t stop until we’re on the road and the radio takes over. A man on the news gives a little analysis on current events and particularly on the Cold War, while the car repeats straight speed runs directly towards different fragments of the Berlin Wall. Once the taxi picks customers up, their characters suggest themselves audibly in two ways: either by overdubbed speech (that doesn’t meet its source in terms of lip-synch) and, much cleverly, by different tuning on the radio on each one of them. In general, the sound is used here both to the filmmaker’s preference -- so as to put songs he likes in it -- and (once again) symbolically and to support the progression of the film.

In a later interview on German television, Doering explained that the “Taxi “ (3302) film was the product of weariness after work. One night after a long night at work, Doering went back home only to come across difficulties in sleeping, as flashbacks of his shift would pop into his head in dream-like sequences. The day after, he picked up a Super 8 camera and made the film. Hence, the surreal plot.

During this ride we meet all sorts of people. What starts as a collection of ideosyncratic individuals ends up as a trip into Berlin’s insanity by revealing the main players of the punk scene that the filmmaker himself belongs to.

People in the cab come go, sometimes twice, and say their thing, sometimes to the driver, sometimes to their friends, sometimes to themselves. The variation of customers frustrates the viewer when the night moves on and people start needing those late-night attention fixes. People in the back seat become a sort of portable freakshow, doing all sorts of weird things. People shoot up, play domination games with their lovers, fight, strip, sleep and wake up, wank, shout, throw up and always seem to need more and more of whatever keeps them alive at night (more often than not, speed). A personal favourite is the appearance of what was just some dude people knew at the time and later became a great modern German actor, Ben Becker. Hardly a teenager, he gets in the cab with a friend, wearing a B-52s shirt and spiky hair, with a cigarette in his mouth, and leaves the cab by spitting the camera.

Christoph Doering is a vital figure in this scene and the scene's acceptance in the wider world. In 1982 he went on to organise the Berlin’s first-ever International Experimental Film Festival. In the same year he and four like-minded artists founded the band and experimental film collective Notorische Reflexe (Notorious Reflexes) that went on to make more brilliant films in Super 8 and video as well as music.

From a small scene in some dirty corner of late 70’s and early 80’s industrial Berlin, from some punk kids with few other outlets, comes this film and others of its kind, where the most impressive thing is that as low budget, anti-art, and experimental as they are, they turn out to be an unintentional comment on life. It's a testement not only to the values, reality and social stage of the punk scene, but also to the wider world. After all, everyone is an actor in their own little film.

Chrisaphenia Danai Papagrigoriou