"SOAP" or "LIFE IS A SOAP OPERA"

1996/97 dogfilm for ZDF/ARTE thematic evening, DV/ Betacam SP, length: 3.30 hrs.

dogfilm was asked to suggest a theme night by the department ZDF (Das kleine Fernsehspiel)/ ARTE. We came up with the idea to confront the culturally ambitious programme of ARTE with a television genre, that raises the viewing figures on all the other channels.
The theme night "Soap" enabled us to approach the "phenomenon soap" from different perspectives: in documentary or fiction, politically and private, playfully and analytically. For the whole programme a structure was developed, that included formal aspects, the episodic moment, the breaks and a special layout. Reality and fiction were supposed to mix intentionally and not by accident.

Talking about the "phenomenon soap" we do not mean the narrow boundaries of a specified genre, but a serial world on television, which runs parallel to our lives, maybe for years, influencing it, caricaturizing it. This world is not just interesting for it’s special stylistic devices and it’s reference to "ordinaryness", but for the gap emerging between "life on the fast lane" (novel from "Beverly Hills 90210") and most peoples’ everyday life. The "phenomenon soap" stands for a life in episodes, states of crisis with just temporary solutions, a reality which exists constantly between two "cliffhangers".

For a long time the soap audience was considered as a passive mass, easy to manipulate, in danger of addiction and uncritical. More recent studies however claim that the personal involvement can lead to a positive, critical interaction between script author and audience. However, the mixing between TV reality and something, that was just called "real life" not long ago means much more than writing a letter to "Dr. Wussow" in the "Black Forest Hospital". The methods to close this gap between two types of reality for a while are much more subtle and basically they are used by everyone: viewers, but also actors, script authors, directors and maybe production drivers.

Each TV series incorporates itís own world, we follow the ups and downs of a family, a neighbourhood, a group of friends or a hospital. Within these worlds however we get familiar with lifestyles and ideology, aimed at the target group. In the U.S. we find beside the serials for white upper-class-kids the black sitcom, which shows life in Harlem as a picturesque exotic scenery in the middle of New York. In Kazakhstan a soap opera is being produced by British development specialists to support the start into a capitalistic economy. Especially conservative politicians have recognized long ago the potential of a soap opera to stabilize the sytem. A soap opera which shows that our values are the right ones and our moral is not out-dated.
Up to now there are just a few serials which follow the opposite idea, which make us worry or eben disturb the comfortable relaxation in front of the TV.

That "the real", "the authentic" reality also can’t exist without arrangements, drama structures, is a consense these days. The Super-8-material shot by a Berlin family can be intensified into a soap opera, situated between the garden colony and the family party.

1) Soap around the World
2) My Life is a Soap Opera