The Master Game

(Das Meisterspiel)

Germany, 1998, 106 min, color/b&w
In German; English subtitles
Music (Score)
Themes & Genres:


At the Vienna Art Academy in 1994, one or more perpetrators spread black paint over 27 works by Austrian painter Arnulf Rainer. Rainer had become world-famous for his abstract art and, in particular, for his over-painting of photographs and his own and other artists’ paintings. Now, who has painted over the over-painter? Speculation rages: Did he deface his works himself? A year later, an unsigned letter surfaces that claims responsibility for the act and accuses Rainer—and modern art in general—of being complicit in “destructive modernism.” At the same time, Austria is shaken by a series of mail bombings by the Bavarian Liberation Army, which sees the country’s “German identity” threatened. 


In this film, Dammbeck sets up a game to explore the mystery. Are there connections between the over-painting event and the mail bombs? Or is it all just a game? A dream? Or perhaps a hallucination?



2018 Leipzig International Festival for Documentary and Animation Film, Germany
2000 Germany 2000: New Films, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
1999 Wilhelm-Dieterle Film Award, Ernst Bloch Center, Ludwigshafen, Germany
1998 Silver Dove, Leipzig International Festival for Documentary and Animation Film, Germany


Press comments

“Lutz Dammbeck’s filmic research resemble a detective story.”  —  


The Master Game is a film of questions rather than answers. It’s not a game for beginners, but rather what the title implies: a master game.”  —epd Film


“[Dammbeck’s] film is an exciting excursion into modernism and its euphoria, crisis and contradictions.”  —Filmdienst


A fascinating, but sometimes oblique search for evidence.”  —


“Lutz Dammbeck puts a thrilling puzzle together.”  —

“Dammbeck investigates the limits of the contradictory facets of art in the 20th century, its ideologies and histories. In the process, he informs us about the emergence of what we today describe as the ultra-right wing.”  —Goethe-Institut



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