On the high seas. Part 1: The burgeoning decision to go on a journey willy-nilly

The found film fragments dance, colored and maltreated, to ominously placed music that tilts from atonal to electronic and further into the flavors of Krautrock, noise, and free jazz. Our view of the ephemeral images, largely taken from old documentaries, amateur films and advertising, is reduced and blocked by superimposed grids and nets. The atmosphere that emerges fluctuates between maritime to martial: a gigantic ship sets off, probably more for military purposes than to transport vacationers.  

Under the somewhat unwieldy, gently contradictory title Auf der hohen See, Teil 1: Vom aufkeimenden Entschluss, wohl oder übel eine Reise antreten zu müssen (“On the High Seas, Part 1: On the burgeoning decision to have to go on a journey for better or for worse” – but are you really free to decide to do something if it has to be done out of necessity?), Ralf Petersen deploys an impressive arsenal of moving image manipulations. He chases across a landscape of associational spaces, while taking stock of the analog cinema avant-garde, with allusions to Dziga Vertov’s Soviet revolutionary pathos, Stan Brakhage’s wintry Dog Star Man and Bruce Conner’s dreamy, ominous repetitions of motifs, among others.  

Petersen proceeds in a mercurial way, setting his scenes in a halting motion: the images tremble, twitch and freeze, afflicted by color filters (favorite tone: blood red), stressed with dirt and scratches, paintings, perforations, and image reversals. The materiality of the medium is well-cultivated; the pact of instability that cinema has made with itself is celebrated. The pointed, yet cryptic montage is impregnated with underlying humor, enjoying its gaps in sound and moments of stagnation.  

The spirit of contradiction in Auf der hohen See lives in the interstices that resist objective legibility. At sea, things become intangible: they flow and stumble away incessantly, an ocean motion picture in a psychedelic frenzy of color. (Stefan Grissemann)  

A found-footage work, consisting of flickering film remnants on 35mm, 16mm, and 8mm. Epic in addition to the length of the title is also the motif that unites the fragments: a sea voyage. Ralf Petersen has the adventure begin with his preparation, the decision to set sail soon. (Philipp Stadelmaier, Diagonale 2024)

Orig. Title
Auf der hohen See, Teil 1: Vom aufkeimenden Entschluss, wohl oder übel eine Reise antreten zu müssen
10 min
Ralf Petersen
Orig. Language
No Dialogue
Filmstill (Image)
Filmstill (Image)
Filmstill (Image)
Ralf Petersen
Sashe Urdovski, Ralf Petersen
Ralf Petersen
Analoglabor None, Ralf Petersen
Acquisition (Found Footage)
Friederike Zinner, Max Kaufmann, Experimentelles Filmlabor None, Navigator Film
Editing & Composition
Ralf Petersen
Available Formats
DCP 4K flat (Distribution Copy)
Sound Format
Frame Rate
25 fps
Color Format
Festivals (Selection)
Linz - Crossing Europe Film Festival
Graz - Diagonale, Festival des österreichischen Films