A widely criticized project called "Dau" by Russian director Ilya Khrzhanovsky was to allow visitors to "experience a totalitarian system" behind a replica of the Berlin Wall. It was not approved for security reasons.
Berlin authorities refused to approve the ambitious and controversial Dau project, which was to set up a replica of the Berlin Wall from October 12 to November 9 that would have blocked an area surrounding Berlin's central boulevard Unter den Linden, well known to tourists for its numerous historical landmarks.
At a press conference on Friday, Berlin Senator for Transport Regine Günther and District Councilor Sabine Weissler, explained that the organizers' security concept was not fully developed, pointing out that application for the project only came in six weeks before the event was to take place; such a process usually takes an entire year. Following tragic events such as Duisburg's Loveparade catastrophe and the terrorist attack on the square of Berlin's Memorial Church, security has the highest priority, the politicians said.
Among the few details provided in August by the organizers of the event, Berliner Festspiele, visitors would have been required to register for a "visa" to gain access to the fake Berlin Wall site and the installation, which was to allow them to experience the loss of freedom in a totalitarian system.
While different politicians and artists supported the project, other prominent voices, including civil rights activists from the former German Democratic Republic, religious communities and historians signed an open letter against it.
'The most insane film shoot of all time'
The most intriguing aspect of the project was that it would have showcased an already legendary experiment by Russian filmmaker Ilya Khrzhanovsky.
A decade ago, the director recreated a closed Stalinist society in Kharkov, a city of 1.4 million in the east of Ukraine. Participants interrupted their own lives to spend two years living in the 12,000-square-meter fake city. They were to dress and behave according to the strict rules of the community where a Soviet-era totalitarian regime was recreated.
Some 700 hours of footage were collected through the experiment; 13 feature films as well as several series were reportedly made out of the material. The Berlin event would apparently have provided one of the first opportunities for the general public to discover the material.
In a long-form article for GQ magazine in 2011, journalist Michael Idov wrote about the project, which was rumored to be "the most expansive, complicated, all-consuming film project ever attempted." Idov depicted the director as "a mix of the lofty and the louche." The Telegraph described his project as "the most insane film shoot of all time."
Khrzhanovsky based his original project Dau on the story of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Lev Landau, whose life was filled with stories of sexual experiments, periods of psychiatric hospitalization and a dramatic car crash.
Adding to the mystery of the project, Khrzhanovsky never showed up personally to promote his concept in Berlin.
According to newspaper Tagesspiegel, a main backer of Dau is multimillionaire businessman and philanthropist Sergey Adoniev, reportedly close to Putin's circle, which also added to the controversy of rebuilding the Berlin Wall in the German capital. The costs of the Berlin project were estimated at €6.6 million ($7.7 million).
Following Dau: Freedom in Berlin, the original plan was to set up similar events in Paris and London, for cycles titled Fraternity and Equality.
eg/db (dpa, AP, epd)