Often incorrectly identified as a promo video for the 1974 release of Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” album, this animated head trip by Roger Mainwood was actually made in 1979 and neither Kraftwerk or their record label had anything to do with the making of the film.
Mainwood discusses the history of his creation:
“Autobahn” was actually the first animated film I did once I had left the Royal College of Art Film and TV school in London. I am rather embarrassed by it now of course, but I suppose if we can look at it as an historical curiosity then it may still have some value ! It certainly gave me an opportunity to learn a lot of things about animation.
I’ve never actually had to explain in words exactly what it was all about. There was a lot of what you might call “psychedelic pop” imagery around at the time that to be honest never had a great deal of actual “meaning” to it at all, and I guess I was tapping into that. Thinking back to my thought processes at that time, I remember wanting to specifically not have conventional cars in the film. I wanted a sense of a repetitive journey, and alienation, which I took to be what the music was about,............hence the solitary futuristic figure, protected by large goggles, moving through and trying to connect with the journey he is taking. The automobile “monsters” are deliberately threatening ( I have never been a big fan of cars or motorways ! ) and when our “hero” tries to make human contact (with different coloured clones of himself) he can never do it. In the end he realises he is making the repetitive and circular journey alone but strides forward purposefully at the end as he did in the beginning . All of which sounds rather pretentious….......but I was a young thing in those days ! Anyway it gave me an excuse to do a lot with the animation which I enjoyed and I think some people also have, although I can see it could be viewed as a rather frustrating film for anyone looking for a conventional storyline.
I never made contact with Kraftwerk, and they had no input into the film images themselves. John Halas got the commission from Kraftwerk’s record company, and it was deliberately experimental in nature and designed to be released on one of the first ever laser discs. Unfortunately the laser disc technology never took off.
The film was entered into various film festivals around the world and won a few prizes, but it never got a commercial release in cinemas but was shown on the TV a bit in the UK and I presume in Germany too. I have no idea what Kraftwerk think about it or whether they have even ever seen it.”
Mainwood’s “Autobahn” appears on Youtube in various forms, mostly chopped up and in black and white. Here’s the full color, uncut original in the best quality I’ve been able to find.