Alexander Kluge

Alexander Kluge photo by REGINA SCHMEKEN (1)The Venice Film Festival celebrates its Jubilee. Founded on 6th August, 1932 at the Lido di Venezia, the oldest film festival in the world celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. That same year saw the birth not only of the Festival but also of one of the protagonists of modern cinema: Alexander Kluge, father of Young German Cinema (initiator of the Oberhausen Manifesto) and winner of two Golden Lions and one Silver Lion. Kluge will provide an overview of the last 75 years of the history of cinema with a special programme presented within the framework of the Venice Film Festival.

During the 64th edition of the Mostra (29th August – 8th September, 2007), directed by Marco Müller and organised by the Biennale di Venezia chaired by Davide Croff, the German director will present materials and documents, for the most part not made public before and some even made for the occasion.

Among the main features of this programme will be the Ein-Minuten-Filme, mini-films lasting just 60 seconds that Kluge has realised over the past 40 years, above all for the German ZDF and Swedish SVT television.

“As to what cinema truly is, only hypotheses rather than certainties continue to exist”, declared the Festival director, Marco Müller. “We have thus asked Alexander Kluge to reconsider the morphological history of cinema and the other arts for us: the fruitful substratum that has resulted from the continuous movements between neighbouring cultural bedrocks and, in particular, the relationship between cinema, the visual arts, music and opera. Kluge has succeeded in condensing this relationship with admirable grace and unstable equilibrium in his “cinema pills”, which also include episodes filmed at the Lido in the 1960s. I am grateful to Kluge for having accepted, with this innovative programme designed specially for the Festival, to be the “tutelary deity” for the 75th anniversary, because it helps us consider this date not as being something fixed, a point of arrival in some way. Like few others, he has been able to avoid the danger in cinema that a continuous materialisation kills off rather than stimulates, unless there are some caesuras  in which fantasy can find a place. It will thus be he to open those caesuras within the palimpsest of the Jubilee Festival. An untiring initiator of paths and new initiatives since the early 1960s, this great film director has the same age as the Festival, but he has lost nothing of the contagious liveliness with which he animated the start of Young German Cinema.”

Alexander Kluge has also been one of the most rewarded film-makers in the history of the Venice Film Festival. On top of the Silver Lion – Special Jury Prize, obtained in 1966 with his first feature film, Abschied von gestern (Yesterday girl), and the Golden Lion in 1968 for Die Artisten in der Zirkuskuppel: ratlos (Artists under the Big Top; Perplexed) – the latest award assigned him by the Festival before a long interruption caused by the political and cultural policies of protest – Alexander Kluge was also one of the directors awarded a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement in 1982, for the 50th anniversary of the Festival.

The complete programme to be realised by Alexander Kluge for the 75th anniversary of the Venice Film Festival includes various materials exploring subjects such as the pre-cinema and silent cinema, as well as the effervescent climate that saw the establishment of Young German Cinema in the 1960s. The most extravagant and visionary grouping of materials will be reserved for a nocturnal screening after midnight.

The Kluge events for the 64th Festival have been realised in collaboration with German Films, Goethe-Institut -which will publish a dedicated illustrated catalogue for the occasion – Filmmuseum München, Zweitausendeins, Kinowelt International, Bundesfilmstiftung, dctp, Kairos-film.

Biographical notes:

The Golden Lion winner of 1968, Alexander Kluge, was born 75 years ago, on 14th February, 1932 at Halberstadt (Germany). Writer, lawyer (he studied law, history and sacred music), he is considered the father of  Young German Cinema (Junger Deutsche Film) for his role as leading promoter of the Oberhausen Manifesto – the celebrated 1962 document signed by 26 German figures which set out the wish for the rebirth in Germany of a new cinema, free in ideas and language. A disciple of Adorno, Kluge remained a central figure in the debate, throwing himself optimistically and enthusiastically into stimulating (typical of him to this day) new ideas, new avenues, new initiatives. In a short time, he became the key figure within the movement and became its most authoritative spokesman. It is no coincidence that in 1981, Rainer Werner Fassbinder should dedicate the film Lola to him.

Active since 1958 as director’s assistant to Fritz Lang during filming for Der Tiger von Eschnapur (The Tiger of Eschnapur), and director of the Institut für Filmgestaltung in Ulm since 1962 – the first cinema school in West Germany, set up in the wake of the Oberhausen Manifesto – Kluge has from his first feature film been one of the protagonists of the renewal of the Venice Film Festival, where he has been present with his work no less than five times, and where the prizes received make him one of the most rewarded film-makers. He received his Silver Lion – Special Jury Prize in 1966 with his first feature film, Abschied von gestern (Yesterday girl), and the Golden Lion in 1968 for Die Artisten in der Zirkuskuppel: ratlos (Artists under the Big Top; Perplexed). In 1971, Kluge presented Der Große Verhau in Venice, a science-fiction work in which he transfered the contemporary sense of chaos into a future society. As the main feature in the Women and Cinema section, in 1974 he presented the celebratedGelegenheitsarbeit einer Sklavin (Part-Time Work of a Domestic Slave), whose protagonist, a young married women, conducts a solitary feminist battle amidst the indifference of society and the hostility of the institutions. In 1983, he returned in competition in Venice with Die Macht der Gefühle (The Power of Emotion), an essay film in 12 chapters, in which he made use of audio-visual material of various origins. In the 1970s, he also directed a second science-fiction film, Willi Tobler und der Untergang der 6. Flotte (Willi Tobler and the Decline of the 6th Fleet, 1972), In Gefahr und größter Not bringt der Mittelweg den Tod (In Danger and Dire Distress the Middle of the Road Leads to Death, 1974), Der Starke Ferdinand (Strongman Ferdinand, 1976), and Die Patriotin (The Patriotic Woman, 1979), through which he criticised the neocapitalist Germany still steeped in danger authoriatianism. Towards the end of the 1970s, he co-ordinated the collective political adventure of Deutschland im Herbst (Germany in autumn, 1978), co-directed with Alf Brustellin, Hans Peter Cloos, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus, Maximiliane Mainka, Edgar Reitz, Katja Rupé, Volker Schlöndorff, Peter Schubert and Bernhard Sinkel. In the 1980s, he directed Der Angriff der Gegenwart auf die übrige Zeit (The Assault of the Present on the Rest of Time, 1985) with which he confirmed his terse, aggressive style, and Vermischte Nachrichten (Miscellaneous News, 1986). In 1985, together with Edgar Reitz, he directed a television series dedicated to the history of cinema, in four episodes. Since 1988, he has produced numerous cultural television programmes for the RTL and SAT 1 channels. He has also written novels and political and philosophical essays: Öffentlichkeit und Erfahrung, 1972 (Public sphere and experience, Minnesota 1993); Der Unterschätzte Mensch (2001); Chronik der Gefühle (2000), Die Lücke, die der Teufel lässt (2003), Tür an Tür mit anderem Leben (2006). His latest book is made of “stories of the cinema”: Geschichten vom Kino (2007).