He had himself been a pro-Meinhof sympathizer, but later became embroiled in public rows with Horst Mahler and other ex-RAF members. See Die Zeit , 6 June , p Boencke, D. Richter eds. Some of the documents are to be found in Henner Hess ed. As can be surmised, little of this ambivalence has made it into Breloer's film. With an apparently wider distribution of attention and interest, Death Game works hard to create a special space of empathy around ex-Chancellor Schmidt, his intricate reasoning and calculus of consequences, taking time to dwell also on the personalities of the men Schmidt relied on when reaching for a decision whether to buy Schleyer free and risk letting the prisoners go, whether to abandon the victims of air-piracy to their fate or send a potentially abortive and in terms of human lives costly rescue mission.
The docu-drama exudes the gravity of the reason of state, ponders the agonising hours of lonely men at the top, and circles around the problem of how a democratic state manages the mass media. Hence one topical interest and source of appeal: Death Game is about spin-doctors and government spokesmen, about how to contain a 'situation', where in the end, it does not seem to matter whether the crisis is a burst oil-tanker, a sex scandal or this particular story of hostage-taking, kidnap, murder and multiple suicide.
The fascination is with how men in positions of power deal with emergencies while seemingly keeping cool in public, which is another reason why the film naturally drifts towards Schmidt's advisers, his Krisenstab. They turn out to be partly recruited from among old war-time comrades of Schmidt, when he was a Wehrmacht officer on the Eastern Front. In one of the most astonishing turns, the film is able to invoke the spirit of Stalingrad and 'the Russian campaign' as naturally as a British politician might invoke the spirit of Dunkirk, or an American President the national resolve after Pearl Harbour.
Beck, With such a re-focusing on ex-Chancellor Schmidt and his wartime comrades, doubling the twenty years after the Hot Autumn with the fifty-five years after Stalingrad, itself echoing the 'storms of steel' of Verdun in , Death Game not only tried to 'redress' the moral balance and level the empathetic score, but actually inverted the dominant mythologies that had already at the time given the events of Autumn of their dramatic shape.
With Death Game it was as if a major player had come back to claim the hero role in a piece of theatre which at the time had cast him as the villain. The play was called Antigone : the 'return' of traded on this knowledge, suggesting a re-reading of the mythic constellation which the re-staging set out to repeal. Sophocles' Antigone has a long and involuted history in Germany, especially since G. Hegel's commentaries on the play in his Philosophy of the Spirit had made Antigone the epitome of an irreconcilable opposition between the discourse of the state and the demands of the family:.
The appearance of Antigone in Germany in Autumn is thus overdetermined: it raises the question whether the film, by pointing to her presence, already specifies a particular reading of the historical-political dimension of the events with which Germany in Autumn is concerned. Is Antigone the hermeneutic key, in other words, for more than some merely accidental features of the 'hot autumn'?
On the other hand, given the belated - and for the viewers of evidently plausible - reversal of the relationship between state and individual, perhaps Antigone could become the master-mythology of only because she served also to mystify what was equally at stake? The idea came from a distributor, the Filmverlag der Autoren, which had just changed hands. After having been owned by a number of filmmakers, among them also Wim Wenders and R. Fassbinder, the Filmverlag was bought out and baled out by Rudolf Augstein, the editor of Germany's powerful newsmagazine Der Spiegel.
The Hot Autumn: Tragedy and Anagnorisis? Germany in Autumn premiered in March , only six months after the fatal events.
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Of these encounters, only the period of the last weeks in October and the beginning of November appear in Germany in Autumn , with the documentary footage mainly centred on two funerals: that of Hans Martin Schleyer and that of Ensslin, Baader, Raspe. Also included are parts of a television interview with Horst Mahler in his prison cell, where he condemns the hostage taking but tries to give the RAF a context and a history: as long as German fascism survives in the guise of West German capitalism, there will be people desperate enough in their protests to put themselves above the law.
Horst Mahler's argument, with its reference to the Nazi past, instantiates one of the most powerful figurations around the RAF, namely the 'return of the repressed'. At the time, this return was understood by the militant activists as the playing out of a tragically necessary operation: provoking the government with violent and bloody attacks on its officials, its security installations, its top judges, the RAF wanted the political elite to show its true nature.
By 'tearing the mask off the face of power' the terrorist expected the public to see what hid behind capitalism and economic prosperity: the old fascist state and its obedient servants. Hence the overdetermined and emblematic figure of one of their chief kidnap victim: Hans Martin Schleyer, figurehead of German industry and prominent member of the political class which it represented, behind whose Biedermann appearance the RAF wanted to expose the fervent SS officer he strenuously denied ever having been.
In captivity, Schleyer was apparently several times interrogated by his guards as to his Nazi past, and photos of him in SS uniform circulated in the left-wing press. Botzat, E. Kiderlen, F. Wolff eds. Kommentare Frankfurt: Verlag Neue Kritik, Self-censorship of television is explicitly connected in the film to the Antigone story.
In the exchanges that lead to the decision to ban it, the sketch is able to evoke some striking contemporary parallels: a state funeral and a contested burial; a woman hanging herself in a prison cell; two sisters; a state in a state of emergency suspending civil rights and curtailing individual freedom; acts of resistance and violence committed out of fiercely held convictions are among the major echoes that provide the episode's central dramatic irony: that a classic tragedy from the canon of Western civilization cannot be shown in a democratic society because it turns out to be 'too political'.
As indicated in Jillian Becker's title Hitler's Children? The story of the Baader-Meinhof terrorist gang , cited above. In a WW2 newsreel included in the film, the young Manfred can be seen standing beside the coffin of his father, who after the defeat of El-Alamein had been ordered by the Nazis to commit suicide, so that Hitler could give him a State Funeral and celebrate a National Hero. Now Rommel Junior in found himself in the part of the benevolent counter-Creon, for it is he who as Mayor orders - 'a quick decision and clean choice', he calls it in the film - that the three terrorists should have a dignified funeral in one of the city's more prestigious cemeteries, rather than be handed to the Stuttgart vox pop , who had demanded that the bodies be disposed of 'down the sewers'.
On the other hand, beyond more repetitions and reversals, what sort of cynicism, hypocrisy or expediency is the Rommel reference supposed to imply about the State funeral of Hans Martin Schleyer? The camera lingers on further parallels between the Rommel State Act and that given to Schleyer. The same forest of flags: the Swastika in the newsreel then is replaced by the Mercedes Star now; the same rows of uniformed men: in in SS uniform, now in sober black suits, but not a few of them with scars on their cheeks, tell-tale signs of having once belonged to the ultra-conservative, duelling student fraternities which since the Wilhelmine Reich have supplied Germany with its judiciary, military and industrial elite.
Continuities across the rupture, repetitions and returns: that the framing episodes consciously build on these and other dramatic ironies becomes evident when we see shots of the Mercedes Benz assembly line, where the workers down their tools for three minutes of silence, in honour of the dead Schleyer, whose portrait looms over them. To this can be added another unstated, but no doubt implied irony that undercuts both: the workers are now enjoying, albeit for only three minutes, the right to down-tools which the dead Schleyer, as notorious trade-union basher, had fought hard to eliminate from the statute books.
The sense of official hypocrisy - strongly felt by the members of the Schleyer family at the funeral itself - was also alluded to by the Federal President Walter Scheel, who in his funeral oration said: 'the face of terrorism makes us blanch. But we ourselves may have to look more often into the mirror. The Rommel reference is, however, an instance of another trope, related to the Antigone story and central to several other interpretative strategies implemented in Germany in Autumn. A farewell letter by Schleyer to his son, written immediately prior to his death opens the film.
In it the doomed hostage gives a candid assessment of his predicament, warning the son against harbouring illusions about any possible lack of resolve on the part of the terrorists, and implicitly accusing the Government of having sacrificed him out of clearly political calculations. That this distrust did much to shape the forms the protest movement took in West Germany is made clear in another autobiographical essay, Christoph Meckel's Suchbild Frankfurt: Fischer, There, among the most traumatic memories are instances where the father projected his own insufficiency onto his children, abusing parental power to confirm himself and strengthen his own battered ego, setting a pattern which in the son provoked violence against both himself and seemingly 'innocent' targets.
Schneider, p Schneider, p 9.
Schneider sees the RAF's theatrical metaphor as apt. The bombings, hostage takings and terrorist acts were nothing less than 'murderous and suicidal' attempts to 'tear off the mask' of official authority behind which they had reason to suspect the guiltily fretting faces of their own fathers. To take Schneider's analogy further: the Schleyer kidnap was the RAF's staging of 'The Mousetrap' to catch the conscience of a king by the name of Helmut Schmidt, while Schleyer is himself a Claudius who has the bad luck of being guarded by someone more resolute than Hamlet, for his captors did not spare him the way that Hamlet spared Claudius when he overheard him praying.
Such an emphasis on the father-son axis in literature, in political activism and in Germany in Autumn suggests that the German protest movement was anti-authoritarian rather than egalitarian, that despite a Marxist political discourse, it was caught in the ruses of patriarchy: a feature from which the women's movement had to extricate itself, perhaps by countering this 'Hamletigation' of German post-war history with its own agonising 'Antigonising'?
This might indeed be the 'feminist' aspect of Germany in Autumn , even if the majority of its directors were men. The episode shows Fassbinder, alternately naked and wrapped in an untidy bathrobe, restless and sweating, in his sombre Munich apartment, frantic about the news blackout, cynically incredulous about the Stammheim suicides, in fear of possible police-raids and house-searches, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, finally collapsing on the floor in a fit of uncontrollable hysterical weeping. At the heart of the politics of the segment is a heatedly impromptu but in fact meticulously scripted interrogation Fassbinder subjects his mother to in the kitchen, where he thematizes the duties of dissent for citizens in a democracy under siege; the human rights of murderers; the special horror provoked by terrorists in ordinary men and women, because they might have reasons for their acts one could not disagree with.
Challenging his mother, berating his homosexual lover, phoning his former wife for comfort, after denouncing in an television interview marriage as an artificial coupling, Fassbinder stages a series of encounters meant to cast doubts on the fictional-narrative closure on which a founding myth of West German democracy was built, namely that masculine ideals of self-discipline, responsibility and citizenship had done away with the authoritarian personality - the Helmut Schmidt values which Death Game was to revive nostalgically twenty years later.
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Considered as such, Fassbinder's self-display is an act of resistance, and a double Antigone gesture, partly directed at the film that Alexander Kluge has bound him into. For ultimately, three perspectives intersect also in Germany in Autumn , though they do not segue into or even complement each other, as they do in Breloer's film. While Kluge's segments explore, as we saw, the echoing parallels of a double funeral symmetrically inverted, and across the axis of two fathers and two sons creates a story intended to hold together the disparate moments of this film of many voices, they also effectively 'contain' German history, by setting up a more or less orderly series of mirrors which balance the two periods, Germany in the s and the s.
But as Fassbinder's episode makes clear: neither such doubling for the sake of structure, nor the proliferation of situations alluding to the classical Antigone can 'domesticate' the fantasmatic power emanating from the events. Fassbinder in a sense tries to write a different kind of asymmetrical exchange into the representations, offset in turn by Kluge's own anti-Antigone in a minor tragi-comic key, his heroine Gabi Teichert, a teacher who, at a loss where to find German history, goes out, instead of burying a body, to dig for it with a shovel in the frozen ground.
Fassbinder's episode puts before us not an absence or an unburied body, but 'a body too much': violent, obese, naked, grossly material, he confronts the viewer, indeed assaults the viewer - demanding an Antigone to mark the site where mourning has not taken place, to remind us of the irreducible singularity involved in her predicament.
By thematizing both of Antigone's impossible choices - that of the unburied body and that of her angry confrontation with Creon, Fassbinder enacts an almost classical reciprocity, as expressed in the play's stychomythia - the exchange of sentences - when he argues with his mother, recreating and at the same time inverting the encounter between Creon power, state, future father-in-law and Antigone individual, female, daughter , where formal equivalences more strongly underline different orders of non-equivalence, inequality, in-justice, while all the time keeping before our eyes the fact that the power, the potential for resistance comes from this non-equivalence between son and mother, between male and female subjectivity.
Fassbinder's own terrorising self-righteous intransigence and his mother's moral candour of the sensible, if cowardly pliable 'pragmatist' confront each other, while - emphasised by the abrupt cuts and montage effects - a retching, weeping, shaking Fassbinder remains 'uncovered' by the symbolisation or representations offered to him by his lover Armin. Unless one takes the excess that takes the place of representation as an act of exposure that undoes the uncovering, Fassbinder's sexualized self-exposure enforces, by its frontality towards the spectator, an impossible convergence of 'look' and 'gaze'.
They allow their narrative to achieve almost 'classical' closure, which contaminates their version of German history, since such a spirit of heavily underscored dramatic ironies and structural parallels seems remote not only from the singularity of Antigone's act, and contrary to the direction in which her ethical narrative propels her: twice having to make a choice, where each time she has to take sides against herself.
It also 'masters' the German past by letting it metaphorically slide into the master-narrative of fathers and sons. That Germany in Autumn is thus finally more conciliatory than its makers might have intended also highlights a historical problem - one that the reversal of perspective so deftly effected by Death Game makes explicit. Rewriting the very tropes of tragedy, it lets Creon take control of the play and with it, of the 'hot autumn'.
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Here, too, an act of handing over was on offer, the tacit reconciliation with the previous generation, where former soldiers 'father' future captains of industry, as the television-nation unites in sympathy with the necessarily sacrificial victim Schleyer and the patriarchal-patrician Schmidt, attentively listening to the latter's case on behalf of his conscience, his plea for letting pragmatism prevail over dissent and his categorical 'no' to the terrorists also in retrospect, which is to say, for now and in the future. But then, what jagged terrain has been abandoned in such a suture, such a progress towards closure?
Reversals and Rehearsals: 'unheimlich' or 'klammheimlich'? Gerhard Schroeder, at the time of writing the SPD Chancellor-candidate is of the generation of Baader and Meinhof, and he models himself consciously in the image of Schmidt. Death Game has another contemporary agenda, because it so resolutely refuses to repeat the dominant representational gesture of the s, which was to see West-Germany invariably as possessing no present except as 'post-'.
For instance, for Germany in Autumn to cast the events of in the shape of classical tragedy - even if it was a tragedy with a revolutionary heroine - was to make the present of first and foremost a function of the past, encasing it, as indicated, in the paradigms of the 'return of the repressed'. The repetitions of Death Game , by contrast, wrest from the events of a pastness that refers itself to a present situated in It does so, not by denying the link to Nazism and the War, but by thematising it explicitly as proof of a continuity and a tradition that of soldierly virtues , rather than a 'return of the repressed' or of a past un-mastered.
On the basis of this central reversal - the shift in identification from hunted terrorists to beleaguered soldiers called upon to serve the democratic state - the film constructs a continuity, that of social democrats, remaining patriots by serving their country in war just as honourably as they stand by the nation in conditions of near civil war.
Herold, who once claimed that one had to be able to sympathize with a terrorist in order to fight a terrorist, is himself one of the tragic-comic victims, having been confined for the past twenty years to a life inside an army compound, for fear of reprisals. The literature charting these changes is now too vast to more than signal in a footnote.
Eine Filmanalyse Des Ard- Fernsehfilms Von H. Breloer "Todesspiel" - edusdamelvie.ml
Sorkin ed. Le Gates and F. Stout eds. Fyfe ed. Listening to the RAF 'live' must have been embarrassing to some of their sympathizers, even in arrogant, jargon-ridden, self-obsessed, their pronouncements seemed to lack all playfulness or the marks of the political prankster. Instead of leaving room for possible irony when baptising the foam-padded closet in which Schleyer was kept 'the people's prison', the phrase merely appeared irritatingly pompous, while the truly appalling words used to announce that Schleyer had been assassinated were rightly judged 'contemptuous' not only of his life but 'of human life'.
When journalists recalled these moments in , they easily managed to sustain moral distance by quoting the RAF's more outrageous statements, talking of hubris, bathos, or sniggering at the convoluted rhetoric. True, they speak of violence, of crowds, of confrontation, but they also bring into view something that makes keeping distance a more difficult task, because the distance in time makes the proximity in another register all the more striking.
What becomes evident is that the RAF's preferred theatres of action - the street, public buildings, department stores, nondescript underpasses - designates a topography of visual signs now omnipresent: the city, the urban scene on the move. One suddenly becomes aware to what extent these 'urban guerillas' - and the police that controlled the crowds - were not only part of the more general transformation of the civic realm and the public sphere, but actually played a leading role in making the changes visible.
This public sphere in the making has, as we know, radically re-coded the cities of the developed world, producing new kinds of mobility, reflecting changed working conditions and leisure habits, imposing new ways of inhabiting and using the domestic environment, in short, making space itself a political category. The irony is poignant also for my argument. Are we, with these sites, still in the world of the tragic stage?
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