THiNC. is all about movies. But not your normal run of the mill movies that you might find getting reviewed on Siskel and Ebert. Sure, the Venn Diagram overlaps. But, my hope anyway, is that we here at THiNC. (besides speaking about myself in third person plural) bring you a different kind of film recommendation. Hopefully they are movies that are crazy, weird, and different. But mainly? Hopefully they make you think. Seriously, any movie, Wallace and Grommit, Mr. Bean, who cares, as long as they make you think. Could be that they make you think about time travel and recursive loops (like Primer, Diverge, Dark, or Timecrimes), or maybe they are all out mindjobs (like Mandy, Thelma, Enemy, or Elizabeth Harvest) or maybe they are just high octane closed box independent film rockets (like Green Room, The Guilty, Infinity Chamber, or Us and Them), ultimately they should drive you to think critically about something or other.
Today’s movie though, which you can find here, it’s off the beaten path even for our normally low traveled byways. The movie is entitled Nietzermann, and it was brought to us today by Yannick in our “Make a Movie Suggestion” widget. (Interested in suggesting a movie for us all to talk about – there is a red tab at the bottom of this screen which will allow you that opportunity. Currently up to my gills in suggestions, BUT SURE! Throw yours in the pot, maybe the THiNC. gods will smile kindly down your direction.)
Ok – so normally, I give you a little primer on the movie, give you a free hit of the crack, a trailer, and then recommend you go find the film and watch it. But with this one? I try to pick it up and turn it, synopsize it, and it all falls apart in my hands. There are too many strands. Too many pieces. But we’ll get to that soon. Just know this is a micro-budget film, based on a real (fake but real) viral hoax video. Oh, I munged that big time didn’t I? Gah. Here. Trailer for a minute. I’ll think about it while you watch.
Nietzermann History Overview
When I first watched the film, I didn’t understand that I was watching it all backwards and upside down. Nietzermann is really impossible to experience as it originally first happened any more. I mean, I guess I could walk you through how to try and experience how the film was first experienced. Maybe?
First and foremost it begins with this YouTube video below (not even sure this is the original one, it has been re-uploaded and translated to so many languages) that is of a man named Jacques Nietzermann. It was filmed in 1980, and in the video, he predicts the end of the world in 2012. He also successfully predicts the election of America’s first black president, and a number of other correct predictions. Here, watch it for yourself.
That video went nuts right away. I think it was first uploaded in 2010? 2011? Oh, there are ways to find this stuff out. It was January 2012. Ok? So this guy, in 1980, predicts the end of the world in 2012, at the hands of aliens. And the forums and the chat boards (almost said BBC’s which would have really dated me by an eon, and we don’t want that at all) go apoplectic. Here’s just one that you can start your deep dive with. Right? So, as soon as the video launches people are analyzing the things in the video to try and timestamp the video. They analyze the video editing equipment that made the video. They dive super deep trying to debunk this little video.
And then there are the piles and piles of internet details, researched facts, and investigatory threads: A French newspaper article about Francque Nietzermann. Sightings of Nietzermann in the 1980’s. As well as apocalyptic dooms dayers declaring the end of the world. And on and on the rabbit hole goes.
Which brings in two guys, Luke Stratte-McClure (whom I chat with a bit, further down this post), and Mackenzie Sidwell Graff, who begin investigating these videos of Jacques Nietzermann (yeah, did I fail to mention that there more than just the one I posted above?). They are two actors looking for their big break, and in the meantime they decide to start doing their own deep dives on these videos… investigations into the likelihood that they might actually be real. Here, here’s a playlist of all 10 of their YouTube video investigations you can watch in order as they try to get to the bottom of this thing. Here’s one, just to whet your appetite.
So, let’s review, because even I am a little lost at this point. We have a 1980’s psychic predicting the end of the world via alien attack. We have online forums going ape, trying to figure out whether this guy was a hoax or not. And then we have a couple of actors that decide, on their own, to begin investigating the merits to this guy Jacques Nietzermann. Ok? Well, then after all these YouTube videos came out, they pulled them all together into the movie we now know as Nietzermann. Got it?
Behind the Scenes of Nietzermann
So, as you have guessed, the original video of Jacques Nietzermann was crafted by a man named Will G. Kraft. He and a friend (the actor that played Nietzermann – Christopher Coulson) were looking to create a web video that would just be viral goodness in and of itself. There was no marketing plan. It wasn’t connected to McDonald’s Toys, or Star Wars action figures. It was just meant to be goodness and light in and of itself. No other purpose, or bigger meaning. But when the thing blew up, Will thought, huh… maybe we should do something else with this little video snippet. And so he crafted an overarching narrative and plan, and brought in Luke and Mack to help him film his investigative documentary. They created these ten movies diving into their “investigation” and posted them one by one onto the web. They also sprinkled supportive evidence throughout the web, which Redditors, and web denizens compliantly pulled together and helped them make the case for Nietzermann’s validity more of a reality. And then when the final movie was pulled together, they were stitched in with interviews with Luke at some sort of facility where someone off camera was interviewing him about what had happened during his work on the investigation.
The entirety of the movie is like a cousin to the film Catfish. Which, if you haven’t seen, oh my gosh. You have got to check that movie out. Nietzermann is pretty obvious to be a hoax front to back, regardless of how well the movie was staged, and stacked in a sedimentary way. But Catfish? I still am not sure whether or not they had us on, or if that was real.
Chat With Luke Stratte-McClure about Nietzermann
So, I originally reached out to Will G. Kraft, and Luke to ask about an interview, and Will didn’t respond. But Luke jumped right in… and even forwarded my questions over to Will. So maybe he will one day join in on the interview and help illuminate some of these questions I had for him.
Question #1 – “So let me just see if I am getting this right. A couple years ago, Will Kraft & Christopher Coulson create a viral video about a man predicting the future. Then Will crafts a script about a couple of guys (inc. you) that begin investigating the validity of the prediction video… do I even have the basics right here? This thing is so meta as to be out of control!”
Luke – “Hey Taylor, I forwarded your questions and email to Will/Guillaume who will be able to give you a more detailed account of how things went down. When I joined the project, the video had already been circulating for a while and gone viral in many countries. Will wanted to capitalize on the buzz before the infamous “end of the world” so we came on board and started our investigation. The idea was that we would produce regular online vids investigating various topics and then shoot the behind the scenes of our investigation as well. It would all culminate in Nietzermann, the film.
Question #2 – “I absolutely adored Catfish – and I’m still wondering if the tail wagged the dog in that “documentary” or not. Was Catfish the cinema grandparent equivalent, or do you see Nietzermann more in the vein of Operation Avalanche, in regards to the style of filming?
Luke – “Shoot days were loose and largely improvised but Will had a sense of the bigger picture and would steer us in the direction that he wanted to drive the narrative, which itself was constantly evolving along with the online discourse. For example, things took a turn when people online started to dig up videos of Olivier, the French actor, doing stand up in Paris. Will shifted the line of our investigation and we decided to go “find him” and meet him in Paris to get answers. As the debunkers uncovered truths and created more controversy, so went the through line of our episodes and search for the truth.”
Question #3 -“Speaking of Operation Avalanche, those guys went to NASA under other pretexts to film their lunar landing myth story. Did you film in locations in a guerrilla style, without permission? Some of them seems sort of giving off that vibe.”
Luke – “We shot everything guerrilla style, using our own cars, apartments, wardrobe, etc., so as an actor it was definitely the most immersive project I’ve ever been a part of. Because it was just the three/four of us (no crew) it was easy to grab shots virtually anywhere and gave the project some production value.
Comment – “Wow, that takes filming to a whole new level. Sort of shines a different light on those French cafe scenes, as well as the attack by the agents scene. Well, great job… definitely an amazing social media ground assault!”
Luke – “I’m glad you caught it and enjoyed it. It was definitely a wild ride. I’ll let Will get back to you with the rest but let me know if you have any other questions.”
Well, there you have it. If low budget, social media, found footage films are your thing, then maybe Nieterzmann is a worth while mental experiment. I had a fun time trying to unravel this rat’s nest of a meta-narrative. I literally had no idea what I was walking into when I first walked into this movie.
Edited by, CY