From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Die Welt 10.11.2008

At a seminar in the German Historical Museum in Berlin on WWI documentary films, Rüdiger Suchsland discovered that the genre involved a lot more creativity than previously believed. Film historians, he writes, have now shown that "reenactment is not a new phenomenon. The reenactment of historical events in supposedly 'objective' documentary films is the subject of much controversy today, but it was a completely normal stylistic device in the 1920s. Only around 12 percent, at a generous estimate 20 percent of the footage in old documentary films about the First World War show real war scenes, the rest of what are often very spectacular images were recreated later or filmed during training. Or they were taken directly from feature films." The museum is currently screening a series of WWI films.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 12.11.2008

Marc Zitzmann introduces the Theatre de la Commune of the Parisian banlieue Aubervilliers, whose director, Didier Bezace, he believes is on a par with Peter Brook. "Of all the great Parisian banlieue theatres, the one in Aubervilliers is closest to the citizens (almost half of the audience comes from the capital). Bezace is a humanist, his theatre is politically engaged, but not militant – he talks to the audience's hearts and minds, not their stomachs. And you always come out feeling lighter and taller."

Die Tageszeitung 12.11.2008

Ekkehard Knörer was blown away by Alexander Kluge's "unbelievably contemporary" nine-hour film essay on Karl Marx's "Kapital": "News from ideological antiquity" is not a film adaptation of "Das Kapital", nor is it a remake of Eisenstein's [never-realised] megalomaniacal project. It is also not a film in the familiar sense, but then what would you expect from the man who reinvented TV? It is a self-contained work of art, but one that is open on all sides. Marx himself described "Das Kapital" as a work of art and Kluge treats it as such, as do nearly all of those who he asked for conversational, musical or philosophical contributions. They see Marx's masterpiece as a sort of walk-through installation. They tunnel in there, sometimes with Eisenstein's help, sometimes alone. They zero in on concepts like "commodity fetish" for example, turning them this way and that, until they start to shine again."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Jürgen Dollase was rankled by the nonchalance of molecular cook Ferra Adria, who told the British Independent that neither he nor any other of the world's top chef's "would be able to make a better burger [than McDonalds] – for the price." Dollase finds this downright irresponsible. "Of course you can make better burgers for the same money – but this is not the sort of thing our master chefs would stoop to. They lovingly think of themselves as important pillars of society but can't or refuse to bear the social responsibility that comes with their position and talent."

Die Zeit 13.11.2008

The Czech writer Alena Wagnerova leaps to Milan Kundera's defence, condemning the article in Respekt magazine as a "public media execution": "If, like me, you cringed at the initial announcement that the document had been found, you would have read the Respekt article in unbridled disgust at the way the magazine sensationalised the whole thing, at the perfidy of the entire campaign, which was held up as an example of the importance of confronting the communist past. In fact the whole thing is reminiscent of the campaigns under Stalin, where people were convicted and destroyed by black-and-white views and political whim."

Other papers 13.11.2008

The Slovakian internet magazine publishes an English translation of Martin Simeka's answer to the eleven prominent authors who swooped to defend Milan Kundera against the "defamatory campaign". "The nature of the actual events is certainly very complex and requires close attention, but based on all the information available it is more than likely that it was indeed Milan Kundera who denounced Miroslav Dvoracek. It is, therefore, not inappropriate to ask: should we accept Milan Kundera's subsequent denial just because he is a writer of world renown? No, we cannot - despite his great literary talent and despite the significant contribution that his work has undoubtedly made to the world's understanding of the nature of communist totalitarianism. After all, what is also at play here, apart from cultural merit, is the historical, non-literary truth, as well as the lives of real people. Should we disbelieve the evidence of our own eyes and jettison elementary logic just because Milan Kundera is claiming the opposite?"

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 14.11.2008

Christian Gasser talks to graphic artist Art Spiegelman about how he became an artist and his autobiographical comic "Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@)*!" "I wanted finally to find out why, as a young boy, I was fixated on comics like a duckling that fixates on something other than its mother and follows this mother ersatz around for the rest of its life. ...I had to face the fact that when I started out I was an idiot with tunnel vision, the only thing I cared about was comics. Which is why I took so long to learn. ... People think comics are simple and primitive, but actually the comic is an extremely complex form of expression. You don't only have to be a talented writer and draughtsman, you have to be able to combine word and image into something else. ... Luckily though, while I was at college, I made friends with an experimental filmmaker who opened my eyes. I realised that there were other interesting forms of expression besides comics, film for example, or painting. These experiences then started flowing into my comics."

Süddeutsche Zeitung

A new documentary about Kemal Atatürk has caused a scandal in Turkey without so much as denting the taboo on all criticism of the founding father. How very revealing, says Kai Strittmacher: "A film about a man, who in Turkey, as the Taraf Zeitung puts it, 'enjoys the sort of treatment that only Kim Jong-il enjoys in North Korea. A documentary which says nothing new. Which is 50 percent leader cult, 40 percent public broadcaster on valium – and 10 percent touching and human. Yet this ten percent is enough to boil the blood of many a Turk. But if a sleeping pill can cook blood, we should stop looking at the sleeping pill and start focussing on the patient." - let's talk european