Harun Farocki Essay Films

Harun Farocki Essay Films-40
Two examples from his student films illustrate this well.One, with a title typical for the period, Über einige Probleme des antiautoritären und antiimperialistischen Kampfes in den Metropolen am Beispiel Westberlins, oder: Ihre Zeitungen (On Several Problems of the Anti-Authoritarian and Anti-Imperialist Struggle in the Metropolises Using the Example of West Berlin, or: Your Newspapers, 1968), presents images of bombs falling over Vietnam followed by shots of newspapers falling onto the streets of West Berlin.

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Although other engaged filmmakers such as Chris Marker and Chantal Akerman have experimented to varying degrees with the world of video art, they have remained filmmakers first and foremost.Or, rather, does it reflect a change in the status of the social world and its images?That Farocki's cinema was a cinema engagé was abundantly clear from the very beginning of the first film he made after having been kicked out of the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (DFFB) in 1968, a film which garnered for him his first significant critical notice in European film circles.It shies away from spectacularly portraying human suffering ‘and turning it into kitsch’, as Farocki will remark in a very different context in his 1988 Bilder der Welt und die Inschrift des Krieges (Images of the World and the Inscription of War, 1988).Instead, the film focuses on the production process of napalm in the United States by restaging this process with the barest of Brechtian cinematic means.The small cinemas and the film club Friends of the German Cinematheque provided a vibrant milieu in which to see and debate international cinema.Theory was not unfamiliar to these students, who were well versed in Marx, Brecht, the Frankfurt School and Situationism.NICHT löschbares Feuer (Inextinguishable Fire, 1968/69) opens with perhaps the most astonishing scene in the entirely of his oeuvre, a shot of Farocki himself sitting stiffly, even uncomfortably, at a table, reading from a transcript of testimony by a Vietnamese victim of napalm bombing raids during the American war in Vietnam. Then you will close your eyes to the entire context.After finishing his reading, conducted in the most neutral if not indifferent of tones, Farocki raises his head and stares directly into the camera and asks: ‘How can we show you napalm in action and how can we show you injuries from napalm? If we show you a person with napalm burns, we will hurt your feelings.The aesthetic that Farocki developed at this time was emphatically engaged, though attentive to the critiques of committed art familiar from the work of Theodor Adorno.Farocki's early cinema was unabashedly didactic, even heavy-handedly so, something still in evidence in NICHT löschbares Feuer and characteristic of his films at least until the early ‘80s.

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