16 mm film transferred to video, 28:00 min, 2003


By quoting the most diverse identification models from the memory bank of 20th century Pop culture and its embodiment by Melhus himself, a completely new contextualisation of known roles is provoked. In a psychic sense the film’s creatures are animated by the voices of the non-dead dead (James Dean, Janis Joplin, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison), who achieved eternal youth and media immortality only through their early death.

“In Auto Center Drive, in particular, the regression signified by the invocation of former icons of the popular imagination operates on a transpersonal level and serves to elucidate contemporary Western society. (…) Melhus stages Americans’ sense of a betrayed adolescence, their regressive desire for juvenility, and the missed encounter with their dead icons. It is because of the impossibility of retrieving such youthful rebelliousness and because of one’s sense of entitlement to it that–to speak in terms of the Lacanian mirror stage–one yearns nostalgically for these images to the point of wanting to copy them. The exposure to life’s fullness, including the danger of death, that these rebels represent leads the contemporary anaesthetized spectator to want to live vicariously through them. Thus Melhus adopts their poses, their gestures, and their phrases, which are now, however, rehearsed safely, as they are emptied amnesiacally of their time-specific political and cultural meaning.”

– Alice A. Kuzniar, in After the Avant-Garde: Contemporary German and Austrian Experimental Film, edited by Randall Halle and Reinhild Steingröver (Camden House, 2008), (Synopsis by LA Filmforum)

Film Stills:

Selection of Production Stills:

Production Team:

Script, director, production, editing, actor: Bjørn Melhus
Camera/ DOP: Mike Jarmon
Camera assistant: Jesse Lee Stout
Sound: Sascha Starke, Till Spielhoff
Screen design, set photos: Ralph Henning
Production assistant: T. Paul Gleason

Special Recognitions:

49th  Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen: German Competition, 1st prize