Dan Kelsall


‘Double-Crossed Nightmare’ by Rheinhold Drubbner

The following short film was fortuitously rescued from the Munich National Film Archives in 1997, just a month before the building burned down. The footage was taken to the Norwegian Institute of Celluloid Reconstruction in Oslo, and painstakingly restored.

The film, just 2 minutes 45 seconds, is the only known English-language footage of the eccentric poet Rheinhold Drubbner. Drubbner spent much of his life voluntarily locked away in an empty room with a four-foot ceiling, writing poetry and making candles. In 1981, he allowed Derek Jarman and a small film crew to spend five days in his room, filming Drubbner as he performed his collected works and discussed their political and social significance.

Of this footage, only six or seven minutes now remain. The following short film shows Drubbner reading his own translation of the acclaimed sonnet, ‘Double-Crossed Nightmare’, which he insisted was autobiographical.

There is some debate as to whether the original audio from Jarman’s footage still remains. Though the voice is unmistakeably Drubbner’s, the sound and visuals are clearly out of synch. Drubbner was known to favour radical re-writes of his work, and it is generally believed that Jarman recorded two very different versions of the poem, and one of his junior sound engineers, in a moment of madness, mistakenly spliced the two.