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Heinrich Böll - 100th Anniversary Screening

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Goethe-Institut London

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Marchorka-Muff & The Bread of Those Early Years

Heinrich Böll was one of the most important German authors of the 20th century. Born in 1917 in Cologne, he started publishing his first stories after the Second World War and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972. By the time he died in 1985, his novels, works for radio and television, theatre plays, essays and public appearances had established him as a widely known, highly engaged author and fierce critic of West German politics and society. A declared pacifist, he upheld the importance of remembering the country’s past, expressed his sympathy for the persecuted and underprivileged and defended the rights of dissidents. In the run up to his 100th birthday on 21 December 2017, we will present two films, The Bread of Those Early Years by Herbert Vesely and Marchorka-Muff by Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub. Both films are based on works by Böll from the 1950s, and were released in 1962. They have also both occasionally been cited as precursors or starting points for the New German Cinema. Yet their approaches to Böll’s work and to cinema could not be more different.

The programme has been organised in collaboration with Martin Brady, King’s College London, who will also introduce the screening.

Not Reconciled, Straub-Huillet’s adaptation of Henrich Böll’s novel Billiards at Half Past Nine, will be shown as part of the series Neue Welt: Radical Visions in New German Cinema on Sunday, 10 December 2017 7.30pm at Close-Up Film Centre. More information

The Goethe-Institut together with other London organisations and venues are planning a series dedicated to the work of Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub in the second half of 2018. For up-date please subscribe to our cultural newsletter.


The Bread of Those Early Days (Das Brot der Frühen Jahre)

Based on Böll’s novel of the same title published in 1955, Herbert Vesely’s film tells the story of Walter Fendrich, who, like Anita G. in Alexander Kluge’s Yesterday Girl (1967) came from East Germany to the West. Unlike Kluge’s heroine, however, he has managed to settle into a secure middle class life in Berlin, working as a washing machine mechanic and dating his boss’s daughter. But when he falls in love with a young woman from his hometown, this stable existence and the values attached to it become questionable to him. Often described as a forerunner of the New German Cinema, the film brought together four signatories of the Oberhausen Manifesto (1962) including Vesely himself, the producer Hansjürgen Pohland, the lead actor Christian Doermer and the camera man Wolf Wirth. The latter’s dynamic and playful camera work, in combination with the film’s rapid montage sequences, underlines the sense of breaking away and brings a lightness to the story that was like a breath of fresh air stirring up the dust that had settled on West German cinema during the 1950s.

West Germany 1962. B/w, 16mm, 89, mins. With English subtitles.
Directed by Herbert Vesely. With Vera Tschechowa, Christian Doermer, Karen Blanguernon, Eike Siegel, Tilo von Berlepsch, Gerry Bretscher, Joachim Nottke
.


Machorka-Muff

“A metaphorically abstract dream, not a story,” is how Jean-Marie Straub described his and Danièle Huillet’s first film, also their first film made in West Germany. Loosely based on the Böll’s satirical short story Bonn Diary (Hauptstädtisches Journal, 1957), it presents the dreamlike reflections of the former Nazi major and newly promoted general Erich von Machorka-Muff, who comes to the West German capital to see his lover and to lay the foundation of the ‘Academy of Military Memories’. A scathing criticism of West Germany’s remilitarization and the persistence of Nazi ideology and personnel after the war.

West Germany 1962. B/w, DCP, 18 mins. With English subtitles.
Directed by Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet. With Erich Kuby, Renate Lang, Rolf Thiede, Günther Strupp, Johannes Eckhardt.

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Goethe-Institut London

50 Princes Gate

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London

SW7 2PH

United Kingdom

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