From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 28.03.2008

In a very interesting interview, Tibetan writer Jamyang Norbu discusses the principle of non-violence, which he considers a failure as it condemns Tibetans to inactivity and plays into the hands of Peking. "It was only in 1959 when the Dalai Lama fled the country, after uprisings in Lhasa in which the townspeople, ex-military and former Tibetan civil servants took part, that Tibet moved into the international spotlight. Everything that we have today in exile goes back to this uprising. Even the Dalai Lama should face up to the fact that he was only able to leave the country because Tibetans took up arms and helped him. Ultimately, he owes his freedom and status to people who were ready to use violence. They didn't only save his life, they also saved him from further ignominy. In fact, the Dalai Lama was kidnapped and brought outside the country by Tibetans against his will. If he had stayed, the same thing would have happened to him that happened to the Panchen Lama. He would have become a puppet in the hands of the Chinese government."

Kölner Stadtanzeiger 28.03.2008

"Fitna" is a let down, writes Tobias Kaufmann about the video by Dutch provocateur and anti-Islamic filmmaker Geert Wilders. "'Fitna' was at its most effective as long as no one had seen it. As long as it had people quarrelling about a theoretical provocation, as long as debate centred simply around the possibility that an anti-Koran film could be released in the Netherlands, as long as people played out danger scenarios and evoked looming threats, Wilders' film was a wonderful example of the frenzy in which the threat of Islam has plunged even the most contemplative of countries like the Netherlands. And as long as that was the case, it was useful. Wilders could have taken this to extremes. Instead of putting the film online, he could have called a press conference and said: 'All I did was edit together a few clips from the Internet that I didn't show to anyone, and look how you've all wet your pants in fear.'" (Read our feature "A twelve-minute film about the Koran" by Gelijn Molier)

Frankfurter Rundschau

"How much state brutality are we ready to accept for the organisation of the Olympic Games?" asks Arno Widmann. "Billions have been invested in the games, and billions of earnings are at stake. They cannot simply be cancelled. Clearly, the games have been able to cope with a substantial amount of terrorism and even a hint of civil war in the past. Yet both the massacre of protesting students in 1968 in Mexico – ten days before the start of the games – and the attack on the Israeli Olympic team in 1972 in Munich came as a surprise. That cannot be said this time around. The Olympic athletes may well meet for a peaceful sporting competition. In all probability, however, the competition will serve to give China an entirely unsporting global publicity by means of a short-lived but extremely effective display of power."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 26.03.2008

Michael Althen praises Julian Schnabel's film "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," based on the book of the same name by Jean-Dominique Bauby, former editor in chief of Elle magazine, who was almost entirely paralysed after a stroke. "In a perfect universe, this film would have won the Oscars for best director, best camera and best screenplay at the Academy Awards. It would have had to! Not because there's anything wrong with the competition, not at all, but because 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly' is exactly the kind of film that keeps cinema alive as a popular art form. Because even if it doesn't completely reinvent cinema, it in a way reaches the summit of cinema's possibilities, and audiences just have to keep rubbing their eyes. How simple complex things can be, what beauty you can find where you least expected it."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 25.03.2008

Marianne Zelger-Vogt has heard Berg's opera "Wozzeck" in Bern, at least up to the point when conductor Roman Brogli-Sacher left the orchestra pit. "As artistic director Marc Adam explained to the dumbfounded audience, differences had arisen between Brogli-Sacher and the orchestra regarding how to perform the work. At the centre of the conflict, it seemed, lay different notions of how loud the music should be played. The musicians, citing allowable sound levels, were unwilling to play as loud as Brogli-Sacher wished."

Die Tageszeitung 25.03.2008

Brigitte Werneburg was thrilled with the major Berlin retrospective of works by photographer Wolfgang Tillmans: "You can't stop looking at 'Freedom from the Known Empire (US/Mexico Border)', the huge black and white photo of a border crossing between the United States and Mexico taken in 2005. The fantastic work reveals Tillmans' intense political awareness. The manifold forms of the provisional shacks and the hard, enduring architecture of the border fence mark the location as a zone of state power. The rites of passage are dictated by the empire, and all those wishing to cross the border into Mexico must submit to them. Everyone has their backs to the camera. … They bear a resemblance to classic reportage photography, but also contain passing references to Laszlo Moholy-Nagy's formal studies of the shadow patterns of balcony lattices and other iron constructions, in which photography is pure light design."

Die Welt 25.03.2008

Magdi Allam, a leading journalist at Italy's Corriere della Sera, has converted from Islam to Christianity. He describes his christening in a letter to his editor in chief which Die Welt reprints. "I'm particularly thankful to Pope Benedict XVI, who accorded me the sacraments to become a Christian, baptism, confirmation and Eurcharist, in Saint Peter's Cathedral during the Easter vigil. I took the simplest and most telling name that a Christian can bear: Cristiano. As of yesterday my name is 'Magdi Cristiano Allam'." In a second article, Martin Zöller portrays the journalist, who must now live under protection.

Berliner Zeitung 22.03.2008

Christian Esch was at a moving evening at the Central House of Literature in Moscow, when Andrzej Wajda presented his film "Katyn". Officially, the massacre of 20,000 Polish officers is no longer denied, writes Esch, yet it doesn't fit in well with Russia's portrayals of its past: "But the people gathered at the Central House of Literature saw things differently. The tears flowed. Those present wanted to bring to light and come to terms with past faults, and things were far less routine than they are in Germany. The first to talk was film director Alexey Simonov, who read Alexander Tvardovsky's poem about the guilt of the survivors. Then everyone rose for the third time in honour of their guest, and finally the voice of elderly dissident Ljudmila Alexeyeva broke entirely. Putting her hand on Wajda's, she thanked him for the gift of his films, which reveal the shame of the Soviet crimes, first with 'Canal' about the Warshaw Uprising of 1944, and now with this work. A spontaneous minute of silence followed for the victims of Katyn, to which Wajda's father also counted."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 22.03.2008

The much bewailed demise of Italy is visible not only in politics, Franz Haas reports, but also in the confused and defeatist attitude of the country's intellectuals, who have little to say about the impending third electoral victory of Silvio Berlusconi. One example: "Giorgio Agamben no longer distinguishes between parties, and uses tenuous philosophical acrobatics to explain what 'my, and incidentally also Foucault's investigations show,' namely that today the true mystery 'is no longer the leadership but the government, no longer God but the angel.' Asked whether the clergy has too strong a hand in political matters, he confounds his interviewer by saying that on the contrary, the Church could do much more to fight the 'daily ignominy, injustice and poverty'."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 22.03.2008

How can the "dwarf industry" of Austrian cinema produce so many internationally acclaimed directors, from Barbara Albert to Michael Haneke and Ulrich Seidl? asks Susan Vahabzadeh. "Seidl relates the country's filmmakers to its literary legacy, saying 'Perhaps I'm a bit like Thomas Bernhard, and Michael Haneke is like Elfriede Jelinek. In Austria we tend to sweep things under the carpet.' The relationship to the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into Greater Germany by the Nazis in 1938, for example. Here people prefer to portray Austria as a victim of the Nazis, he says. 'It seems that a particular form of resistance arises in a society that attempts to cover up so much. Pressure produces counter pressure.'" - let's talk european