Film was born into a gruesome century: two World Wars, genocide, fascism, the arms race, exploitation, hunger, ight and expulsion. The history of the 20th century has inscribed itself into the history of cinema as well as the stories this cinema attempts to tell. As a time-based art, cinema has proven itself up to the task. This is because it can turn single, solitary moments into eternities or make entire epochs pass by in a matter of seconds. Cinema lends itself to a non-linear understanding of history not steeped in notions of infinitely continuous
progress or growth. The very difference between linear narrative and what cinema is capable of could be referred to as the intelligence of cinema.
ECHO takes this singular formal intelligence of cinema and runs with it: there is the setting of ECHO, the moor, the oldest living landscape on earth, where a body is discovered. Then there is the nearby town of Friedland, where an aerial bomb from the Second World War pops up in a castle moat, waiting to detonate.
And finally there is the corpse itself, of pre-historic origin and based on the true story of a seemingly hopeless investigation. ere are also ECHO’s characters, in and through whom time resonates: the detective, haunted by a recent traumatic wartime deployment; the collector, who compensates for a painful loss by hoarding; and the moor ranger, whose path through the moor represents strides across millennia. ECHO alludes to cinematic history over and again: the explosives expert explains the danger posed by celluloid in detonators of past bombs and presents landscape photography, the most important aspects of
which are invisible.
The last war to take place on German soil ended nearly 80 years ago. I belong to a generation that increasingly possesses few personal connections to this war. When we thus attempt to approach the topic as filmmakers, our starting point cannot be personal experience or memory – instruments widely available to our predecessors. This does not make it any easier to develop our own stance, especially when abstaining from historical dramatization or reenactments.
ECHO's conscious oscillation between past and present allows the film's
narrative to stage a playful and unreserved questioning of history which, in turn, provides a lens for thinking our dubious and uncertain future. If this young century has been able to teach us anything, the core of this lesson concerns the fragility of peace – and how the preservation of peace will require considerable effort and focus.