70 Years of Berliner Festspiele

DAU. Degeneratsia

Ilya Khrzhanovsky and Ilya Permiakov

The institute that this film is about existed twice. Once as the top-secret Institute for Physical Problems as part of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, which was in operation from 1938 to 1968, and a second time as the largest film set in Europe, which was destroyed at the end of the project.

Ilya Khrzhanovsky, “DAU. Degeneratsia“, DEU, UKR, GBS, RUS 2020. Film, Berlinale Special

© Phenomen Film

  • 335 min
  • In Russian and English, with English and German subtitles

The DAU Institute in Kharkiv was an experiment designed by director Ilya Khrzhanovsky in which leading mathematicians, artists, philosophers and mystics lived and worked between 2009 and 2011. Among other things, they explored the foundations and limits of intellectual understanding and human action, working towards the creation of a “new human being” and beyond, to the bloody end.

“DAU. Degeneratsia” shows the secret institute as a place where scientific and occult experiments are conducted on animals and people and the properties of ideal human images are negotiated. Marina Abramović, Romeo Castellucci und Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz are among the participants. The secret service chooses to turn a blind eye to the erotic excesses, the nightly debaucheries and the scientists’ cruel and strange experimental methods, until finally, a group of radical youths disguised as new test subjects is infiltrated into the institute. The institutes’ new management commissions them to put a stop to the activities of the scientists and researchers.

So far, 14 feature films and several film series have emerged from the DAU project. In the summer of 2018, Berliner Festspiele were preparing to host a presentation of “DAU” as an urban project with a large-scale, enclosed event area in Berlin-Mitte Unter den Linden. It had to be cancelled shortly before the starting date because of supposedly still open safety-related questions.


With Prof. Dmitry Kaledin, Vladimir Azhippo, Olga Shkabarnya, Prof. Alexei Blinov, Prof. Nikita Nekrasov, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, Dr. Zoya Popova, Alexey Trifonov, Kristina Voloschina, Viktoria Skitskaya, Maksim Martsinkevitsch

Written and directed by Ilya Khrzhanovsky, Ilya Permiakov
Cinematographer Jürgen Jürges
Montage Ling Lee, Arttu Salmi, Marianne Kuopanportti Fennel
Sound Design Stefan Smith, Rob Walker, Alex Joseph
Sound Maksim Demydenko
Production Design Denis Shibanov
Costumes Lyubov Mingasitinova, Olga Bekritskaya, Elena Bekritskaya, Irina Tsvetkova
Make-up Jekaterina Oertel
Casting Vera Levchenko, Inna Schorr, Asya Smekalova
Assistant Directors Vera Levchenko, Inna Schorr
Producer Sergey Adonyev
Co-Producers Svetlana Dragayeva, Kristina Voloschina, Alexandra Timofeeva, Susanne Marian
Co-Production Phenomen Ukraine, Kiew, Phenomen UK, London, Phenomen Films, Moscow

© Phenomen Film

“Communism is a religion“

excerpt from “DAU. Degeneratsia“


DAU, the directing team in conversation

Confined within a totalitarian simulacrum of a recreated historical Soviet reality (1938-1968) around four hundred people, none of them actors, spent two and a half years investigating the foundations of intellectual understanding and human actions, conducting scientific and occult experiments and exploring ideas for humanity’s future. They attempted to bring this fiction into symbiosis with their own identities and to use art as a means to experience alternative ways of life and fields of responsibility. However, in the end came the apocalypse: death and fascism prevailed. The experiment is now over.

Ten years after filming, the director llya Khrzhanovsky, the co-director for post-production, Ilya Permiakov and the hair and make-up designer and co-director of a number of DAU films, Jekaterina Oertel, meet again on the occasion of the cinema presentation of DAU. Degeneratsiya as part of “THE SUN MACHINE IS COMING DOWN”. All in Berlin, the city where it proved impossible to find a home for DAU despite three different attempts. Thomas Oberender knows a thing or two about this and yet the experiment never seems to be entirely completed. Isn’t the architecture of the ICC also slightly reminiscent of the sets in the film?

The Soviet Union has long since become history and the DAU Institute, once the largest film set in Europe, was also broken up some time ago. Meanwhile representatives of fascist movements have taken up seats in parliaments all over Europe and this is why we look once again in the direction of Kharkiv and see how young neo-Nazis skilfully infiltrate systems, create a power vacuum, spread fear and determine all the debates: so there is plenty to talk about. And for tired eyes, there’s always vodka and gherkins!

With: Ilya Khrzhanovsky, Ilya Permiakov, Jekaterina Oertel and Thomas Oberender
This discussion will be in English.

The back view of a man who is dressed in a red costume and stands in front of a table. He is in an open temple. The right half of the picture depicts an open fire.

DAU. Degeneratsia by Ilya Khrzhanovsky, Ilya Permiakov, DEU, UKR, RUS 2020

© Phenomen Films