This week in New German Cinema | Bleader

This week in New German Cinema

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From Klaus Wybornys Studies for the Decay of the West
  • From Klaus Wyborny's Studies for the Decay of the West
Researching filmmaker Werner Schroeter in anticipation of Facets Multimedia's upcoming retrospective reminded me just how little American spectators have seen of the New German Cinema movement of the 1960s and '70s. Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder have become recognizable figures here, but other major directors—such as Schroeter, Peter Fleischmann, and Alexander Kluge—remain largely unknown in the States. Kluge, an author and public intellectual who practically spearheaded the movement, seems especially overlooked; some day, perhaps his work will receive a stateside retrospective too.

New German Cinema was as much an act of cultural intervention as an aesthetic breakthrough, confronting buried traumas in the national culture that included not only Nazism but social inequalities within the postwar Federal Republic. If you'd like to learn more about it, I'd recommend reading Candice Wirt's recent essay at Mubi.com, which explains the origins of the movement (incidentally, the Oberhausen Manifesto, which introduced its goals to the world, was written almost exactly 50 years ago this week). And on Sunday night the Nightingale will screen Studies for the Decay of the West, a 2010 work by Klaus Wyborny , another lesser-known member of the group.

The press notes from White Light Cinema, who organized the screening, describe Decay as a "stroboscopic trip to industrial, natural, and urban landscapes in East Africa, New York, the Ruhr region, and Rimini." Wyborny composed the 80-minute work from 6,299 shots (I think we'll have to take his word on the exact number), edited in-camera on his Super-8 model, with each cut falling in sync with the musical score. The film's title refers to Oswald Spengler's 1918 philosophical treatise "The Decay of the West," which argued against the industrialization of the modern world. Friel explains in his program notes that the film isn't an adaptation of the essay, but a visual poem that responds to its themes. School of the Art Institute professor Dan Eisenberg will be on hand to explain Wyborny's methods and what he aimed to achieve through this work.

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