Nasceu em 1937 em Friburgo na Alemanha. Trabalhou como operário e em 1955 foi contratado como marinheiro (América do Sul e Central). Em 1959 frequentou a Academia de Arte de Munique, onde estudou pintura (com Ernst Geitlinger) e serigrafia. Teve alguns empregos casuais como actor em filmes. Depois de fazer sete filmes na República Federal da Alemanha, emigrou para a Suécia, terra natal da sua mãe, em 1966. Aí continuou a realizar, enfrentando as mesmas dificuldades que encontrou na Alemanha, e ainda mais obstáculos. Depois de vários empregos para o bife, foi contratado pela Sveriges Radio-Televisão (mais tarde SVT, canal 2), onde foi incumbido da aquisição e dobragem de programas infantis. Na SVT, fez cerca de quarenta filmes entre 1967 e 1985 – muitas vezes em colaboração com a sua esposa Zsóka, de origem húngara. Seguiram-se quinze filmes produzidos em diferentes contextos políticos, sociais e históricos na Suécia e noutros países da Europa e da América do Sul. Os títulos dos filmes de Nestler, precisos e factuais, remetem-nos frequentemente para um território ou grupo social.
1962 AM SIEL
1963 AUFSÄTZE (Compositions)
1964 MÜLHEIM (RUHR)
1965 EIN ARBEITERCLUB IN SHEFFIELD (A working-men’s club in Sheffield)
1965 VON GRIECHENLAND (From Greece)
1965 RHEINSTROM (Rhine River)
1967 IM RUHRGEBIET, I RUHROMRÅDET (In the Ruhr Area)
1968 GESELLSCHAFTLICHES VERBRECHEN, SAMHÄLLELIG FÖRBRYTELSE (Crime against humanity)
1968 GRIECHEN IN SCHWEDEN GREKER I SVERIGE (Greeks in Sweden)
1969 IN BUDAPEST I BUDAPEST
1969 DIE DONAU RAUF UPPFÖR DONAU (Upstream the Danube)
1969 WIE BAUT MAN EINE ORGEL? HUR BYGGER MAN EN ORGEL? (How do one build an organ?)
1969/70 WARUM IST KRIEG? VARFÖR ÄR DET KRIG? (Why war?)
1970 WIE MACHT MAN GLAS? (handwerklich), HUR GÖR MAN GLAS? (hantverksmässigt), (How do one make glass? by handicraft)
1970 WIE MACHT MAN GLAS? (maschinell), HUR GÖR MAN GLAS? (maskinellt), (How do one make glass? mechanically)
1970 ZIGEUNER SEIN ATT VARA ZIGENARE (Being gipsy)
1971 DÜRFEN SIE WIEDERKOMMEN? Über neofaschistische Tendenzen in Westdeutschland, FÅR DE KOMMA IGEN? Om nyfascistiska tendenser i Västtyskland, (Are they allowed to return? About neofascist tendencies in West-Germany)
1971 ÜBER DAS AUFKOMMEN DES BUCHDRUCKS, OM BOKTRYCKETS UPPKOMST (About the upcoming of letterpress printing
1971 BUCHDRUCK OFFSET, BOKTRYCK OFFSET (Letterpress and offset printing)
1972 BILDER VON VIETNAM, BILDER FRÅN VIETNAM (Pictures from Vietnam)
1972/73 ÜBER DIE GESCHICHTE DES PAPIERS, TEIL I, OM PAPPERETS HISTORIA, DEL I (About the History of Paper, Part 1)
1972/73 ÜBER DIE GESCHICHTE DES PAPIERS, TEIL II, OM PAPPERETS HISTORIA, DEL II (About the History of Paper, Part 2)
1973 SPANIEN! (Spain!)
1973 EINE SCHULE IN UNGARN, EN SKOLA I UNGERN (A School in Hungary)
1974 CHILEFILM LÖRDAGS – CHILE (Chile film)
1974 STOFF, TEIL I, TYG, DEL I (Fabric, Part 1)
1974 STOFF, TEIL II, TYG, DEL II (Fabric, Part 2)
1974/75 ERZBERGBAU / EISENHERSTELLUNG, TEIL I, BERGSHANTERING / JÄRNHANTERING, DEL I, (Mining / Ironworks, Part 1)
1974/75 ERZBERGBAU / EISENHERSTELLUNG, TEIL II, BERGSHANTERING / JÄRNHANTERING, DEL II, (Mining / Ironworks, Part 2)
1974/75 ERZBERGBAU / EISENHERSTELLUNG, TEIL III, BERGSHANTERING / JÄRNHANTERING, DEL II (Mining / Ironworks, Part 3)
1976 PINETS PUPPEN PINETS DOCKOR (Pinet’s Puppets)
1976/77 AUSLÄNDER. TEIL I. SCHIFFE UND KANONEN, UTLÄNNINGAR. DEL I. BÅTAR OCH KANONER, (Foreigners. Part 1. Ships and guns)
1977/78 AUSLÄNDER. TEIL II. ZIGEUNER UTLÄNNINGAR. DEL II. LE ROM, (Foreigners. Part 2. Romani)
1977/78 AUSLÄNDER. TEIL III. IRANER, UTLÄNNINGAR. DEL III. IRANIER, (Foreigners. Part 3. Iranians)
1977/78 AUSLÄNDER. TEIL VI. IRANER, UTLÄNNINGAR. DEL VI. IRANIER, (Foreigners. Part 4. Iranians)
1978 ETWAS ÜBER DIE INDIANER DER USA, NÅGOT OM USA:S INDIANER, (Something about the indians in the USA)
1981 IST DER FRIEDEN VERFASSUNGSFEINDLICH? ÄR FREDEN FÖRFATTNINGSFIENTLIG? (Is peace anticonstitutional?)
1981 MEIN LAND MITT LAND / MI PAIS, (My country)
1982 RUPERTO MENDOZA
1982 VICTOR JARAS KINDER, VICTOR JARAS BARN (Victor Jara’s children)
1982 ES IST KRIEG IN MITTELAMERIKA, DET ÄR KRIG I CENTRALAMERIKA, (A war is going on in Central America)
1982 DIE FOLGEN DER UNTERDRÜCKUNG, HUR FÖRTRYCKET SLÅR, (The consequences of opression)
1982/83 ICH WILL KEINE TRAURIGEN GESICHTER SEHEN, JAG VILL INTE SE SORGSNA ANSIKTEN (I don’t want to see sorrowful faces)
1983 DAS FRIEDENSHAUS MITTEN IM PULVERFASS, FREDSHUSET MITT I KRUTDURKEN (The House of Peace on the Powder Keg)
1983/84 GEFÄHRLICHES WISSEN, FARLIG KUNSKAP, (Dangerous Knowledge)
1985 DAS WARTEN, VÄNTAN, (The Waiting)
1988 DIE JUDENGASSE (The Jewish Lane)
1988 ZUR GESCHICHTE DER JUDEN IN FRANKFURT, (About the History of the Jews in Francfort)
1988 DAS BILD DER JUDEN IN DER CHRISTLICHEN MALEREI UND IM GEISTLICHEN DRAMA, (The picture of the jews in the christian painting and the religious drama)
1990/91 DIE NORDKALOTTE, NORDKALOTTEN
1992 ZEIT (Time)
1994 DIE HASEN FANGEN UND BRATEN DEN JÄGER, HARARNA FÅNGAR OCH STEKER JÄGAREN, (The hares are capturing and roasting the hunter)
1995 PACHAMAMA – UNSERE ERDE, PACHAMAMA – NUESTRA TIERRA
1998/99 DIE RÖMERSTRASSE IM AOSTATAL (The roman street in the Aosta Valley)
2000 FLUCHT, (Escape)
2002 DIE VERWANDLUNG DES GUTEN NACHBARN, (The methamorphosis of the good neighbour)
2003 MIT DER MUSIK GROSS WERDEN, (Growing up with music)
2001 – 2007 several DVCAM productions about refugee and immigrant children and youth in Sweden, about separated children and young Somalian’s visit of relatives in Kenya, about the NGO’s work in Iran. Director, script, cinematographer and editor: Peter Nestler. Production Kintopp HB for Swedish institutions.
2009 TOD UND TEUFEL (Death and Devil, Swedish version Nära Hin Onde)
2015 DIE HOHLMENSCHEN (The Hollow Men)
A Conversation with Peter Nestler
Stefan Ramstedt: “Zeit” is one of a number of films that you and Zsóka Nestler made in Hungary. It’s also one of many films you made that deal with folk art. Could you say please tell me about the origin of this project and how you came in contact with these artists?
Peter Nestler: I met Zsóka for the first time in Budapest on the 5th of March 1966 (we married later that year). She was then 22, I was 29, and that day we went to an exhibition of Francisco Goya’s “Los Desastres de la Guerra”, the etchings that he’d made between 1810 and 1815 but that never were made public until 1863, thirty-five years after his death. These were horrifying images, but very truthful. Visual art and sculpture was for both me Zsóka a way to understand the world, to live consciously, to enjoy beauty but also to see–to dare seeing–the abysm of human existence.
Through Zsóka I got to know the singular work of Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka, as well as the very rich Hungarian folk art, which during the 60s still was vivid in many villages. We’d had the idea of making a film about these works of art ever since those days, but it wasn’t until three decades later that we made “Zeit”; then together with our 22 year-old daughter Monika who held the mic boom.
At the Museum of Naïve Art in the provincial capital Kecskemét we picked out seven artists who lived in different parts of the country. Pál Bánszky, the head of the museum, was very important. He helped us with contacts and addresses. The term “naiv art” is misguiding: these painters and sculptors were depicting their experiences of life (which we didn’t know about) and their dreams.
S.R.: In an interview that I and Martin Grennberger made with Zsóka she says that “the most important role of documentary film is to share personally acquired knowledge that one considers important and wants to continue developing. One wants to document, preserve, touch, convey, and make use of this unique opportunity of being in the right place at the right time.” You two doubtlessly agreed on this question. You mention that it was your daughter who worked with the sound recording, which Zsóka did in many of your earlier films, and I’d be curious to know what Zsóka’s role was during the shooting.
P.N.: For sure we shared this idea about documentary cinema. Perhaps I should add that our knowledge could be altered or broadened considerably during the course of the process, after meeting people or finding images or objects. It’s very important to be open, sensitive, and to be able to question and reconsider what one thought one knows. When it comes to our work tasks during the shooting of “Zeit”: Zsóka was recording the sound with the Nagra tape-recorder and Monika held the boom, whereas I did the cinematography. We couldn’t and didn’t want to put small microphones on the clothes of the artists.
Zsóka was also very important in the communication with the people we filmed (Monika’s and mine knowledge of the Hungarian language was rudimentary). Her way of being and her way of creating trust and empathy was a condition for the film and the way it turned out. The artists were and felt part of the work of making the film, when they presented and talked about their work, and sometimes about their lives. No questions were asked during the shooting. We didn’t make interviews.
S.R.: Aesthetically the film follows an approach that one can recognise from your earlier films. We see the frames of the paintings, and we see the artists holding them in front of the camera. The thingness of the works is accentuated. This differs from how artworks have been depicted by filmmakers such as Alain Resnais, who in films like “Gauguin” (1950) and “Guernica” (1951) primarily (if not exclusively) keeps the camera within the frame of the art works, within their bildraum. You, on the other hand, depict the artworks as both works of art and historical objects.
P.N.: To emphasise the thingness is also to bring forth the aspect of the handcraft, the material used, the shadows and lights that fall on the works and enhances the structure, the surroundings that offer context. The artworks in “Zeit” are, as are all artworks, inseparably bounded to their makers. These were alive; we could search for them, listen and record their stories. And this was a precious gift for the three of us. These artists demonstrated for the camera and us what they had made, and they talked about their lives, their earlier working lives. By hand they brought the artworks and showed them to us, one by one. Sometimes we could also film when they were painting or sculpting that which wasn’t already finished.
They had no contact with the art market. Often they didn’t even want to sell their works, but rather give them to relatives, to a society for seniors, or to the museum on Kecskemét where Pál Bánsky had collected many of their works in order to exhibit them or to turn them in for the annual “National Contest for Folk Artists”. This contest was held in Budapest at the Ethnographic Museum, a grand neo-classical building just across the street of the Parliament. Up until 1973 it was the headquarters of the Supreme Court.
The folk artists created freely and their works couldn’t be misused as nationalist propaganda, which happens today. For example, Romani music does no longer have the same position within the Hungarian folk music. Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály had registered and recorded that music from 1905 and onwards, in order to save and preserve it for the future (and to use it in their own compositions). The Hungarian government of today rejects such cultural mixtures as a cosmopolitanism that they regard as harmful for the nation.
“Zeit” is an homage to seven artists, but it has also become an historical document of a time when everything seemed to be possible.
S.R.: The title also makes me reflect upon the time of the film itself. One can be impressed over the amount of time, history and experience that is contained within the film’s modest length. Perhaps it can be regarded as a paradox that you let every gesture, every act, every statement “take its time”, so to speak, at the same time as the film is extremely economical in terms of form. Which were the guiding principles that you followed when you edited the film? How did you find a suitable tempo and rhythm?
P.N.: I made a rough-cut of the film in my head and in my notebook during the shooting. Each segment was finished before we went to the next location. The gestures are the most important and beautiful in the film, and they are allowed to take their time.
Earlier, during travels in Hungary (with or without a camera), we had visited people who worked with painting, weaving, embroidery and ceramics. And in the 60s I had made a photo book, “Bauern malen Bilder”, together with Reinald Schnell, on people in the Yugoslavian village Kovačica who made paintings. So Zsóka and I were ready for the task of conveying seven Hungarian artists’ way of seeing and interpreting the world.
The length of the film had to be adjusted to the format that the television company that produced the film had decided: 43 minutes. It was to be part of a series of documentaries with the title “Menschen und Straßen”, which ran for many years and for which freelancing filmmakers could get commissions. Considering the title of the series, it felt natural to place the people geographically by starting each segment with images from the streets where they lived. And we were grateful for this. These pans over the streets became short introductions to each chapter and to each artist. The village or city streets told many things about the surroundings of the artists, but they also told many things about the time of the filming. Sometimes they also told things about the history, about the time that had passed.
This interview was made over email between the 10th and 16th of March 2019. It was translated from Swedish to English, and subsequently to Portuguese.
(texto traduzido em português por João Palhares no Jornal dos «Encontros Cinematográficos»)