Mar 5, 2013

The Patriot

As one of 26 signatories to the Oberhausen Manifesto of 1962, which marked the 'official' launch of the New German Cinema aka Neuer Deutscher Film against "Papas Kino," auteur Alexander Kluge – a Frankfurt school lawyer turned filmmaker who traded trades at the recommendation of Theodor W. Adorno (who, in turn, introduced Kluge to Fritz Lang, thus enabling Kluge to work as an assistant on the 1959 The Tiger of Eschnapur and learn the tricks of the trade from one of the masters) – acted as a sort of ‘father figure’ filmmaker for the fellow filmmakers of his generation, including Rainer Werner Fassbinder, thus inevitably resulting in the omnibus film Germany in Autumn (1978) aka Deutschland im Herbst; a politically-charged work featuring film contributions from eight Teuton directors (including Kluge, Fassbinder, Edgar Reitz and Volker Schlöndorff) responding to the dubious deaths of far-left terrorists belonging to the RAF aka Baader-Meinhof gang, who had purportedly committed suicide in a heavily secure prison, as well as the future of Germany as a whole. With his segment for Germany in Autumn, Kluge would introduce the character of Gabi Teichert (Hannelore Hoger); a historian of Hessian history and proud Aryaness who attempts to dig deeper and deeper (both literally and figuratively as an amateur archeologist with a spade and as a studied scholar and history teacher) into Germany's past so as to discover 'positive' secrets from 2000 years of Teutonic history. Gabi Teichert would also be the lead protagonist in Kluge’s subsequent film The Patriotic Woman (1979) aka Die Patriotin aka The Patriot – an anti-climatic and anti-melodramatic drama-documentary hybrid utilizing a constructivist method of montage as a means to distance the viewer from tragedy, action, and, well, entertainment – which follows a proud German patriot and ‘dreamer of the day’ who slowly but surely falls into an abyss of bitter disappointment where she comes to learn through trial and error that, whether she wants to admit it to herself or not, there is no definitive German history, but an inherent antagonism between public and personal history. A special lady who takes an “interest in all the dead of the Reich,” including those who fought for the Third Reich, and who fanatically believes that, “the material for advanced history lessons isn’t positive enough because our German history isn’t positive enough either,” hence her personal crusade to change that, Teichert is ultimately upstaged by the historical lessons of a dead ‘talking knee’ (inspired by Bavarian author/poet Christian Morgenstern’s marvelously morbid poet “The Knee”) that used to belong to an unfortunate fellow named Corporal Wieland, who belonged to the ill-fated 6th Army (the first German field army to be totally destroyed in WWII) of the Wehrmacht and who fell at the battle of Stalingrad on Janauary 29, 1943, but as narrated in the film, all that was left of the fallen fellow was, “nothing more than a knee. It is not a tree, it is not a tent, nothing else.” A cinematic work directed by a German man who was born in 1932 and thus remembers the Third Reich, as well as his hometown and family home being blown to bits by British bombers during the Second World War, The Patriot is an ostensibly guilt-ridden celluloid work that, quite undoubtedly, shamelessly and aesthetically sterilely wallows in Kluge’s Jewish mentor's super absurd remark that, “Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric,” but at least the director has the gall to admit that there is no such thing as a definitive account of history.

In a somewhat recent interview from 20 February 2012 entitled “I am a patriot of the 20s”: An Interview with Alexander Kluge" conducted by Candace Wirt, Kluge stated the following regarding his film The Patriot (1979) and being a ‘collector’ of history like Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (who appear in the film): “A poet is always a collector. You have to find something. You do not have to invent reality, but to find reality. In the 30s and 40s, there was the Holocaust in our country. It is necessary to dig for the reasons and to dig deeper and deeper and deeper. You can’t carry on with the poetry of ancient times. You have to find these ancient times. Where are the roots of criminal behavior? And then there may also be roots for the remedy.” Indeed, while I am rather surprised that Kluge thinks of himself as a poet, I am not the least bit shocked that the Holocaust is his frame of reference and inspiration for analyzing history, as if all moments in German history were leading up to a genocidal racial holy war against foreign peoples whose influences on the Teutons has been mostly rather recent (basically, a couple centuries). An eternal ethno-masochist who was, quite involuntarily, one of ‘Hitler’s children,’ being from the generation that knew nothing but National Socialism, at least until 1945 when his nation was reduced to nothing more than a "Tot Reich" of rubble and regret, Kluge has assembled a work with The Patriot that, more than anything, basks in the personal misery of German history, albeit in an ironically intentionally mundane and monotone sort of way, as envisioned by a deleterious deconstructivist auteur of the anti-Occidental Frankfurt school persuasion who firmly associates films with a “magical” (i.e. being entertaining) quality as being of a manipulative National Socialist persuasion. A fiercely fragmented film directed by a man who is clearly more obsessed with the dead than the living, The Patriot intentionally establishes a deep divide between the spectator and the film’s protagonist by using abrupt voice-over narration (from Kluge himself), documentary and vintage footage, silent film style inter-titles, paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, a poster from the anti-Polish National Socialist propaganda film Heimkehr (1941) aka Homecoming directed by Gustav Ucicky (who is ironically believed to be the bastard son of Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt), and even archetypical images from Hindu cosmology, as a means to illustrate the subjectivity and complexity of history, as well as to deter too much empathy for Gabi Teichert, but especially her cause for a patriotic pro-German history. Like Teichert, who wants to “change history” and attempts to do so by attending SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany; a rather unlikely place to find individuals fond of German history) political conventions and doing illegal archeological digging to find positive raw ‘historical material,’ only to be disappointed in the end, the viewer must come to terms with the fact that the land of the romantics, thinkers, and philosophers is not so romantic, but barbaric and even philistinic, with its history of dehumanization and death of its populous at the hands of the state, but also, as narrated by Kluge, that, “At the time of this emperor [Napoleon I], the scholars Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm dug intensively into German history. They dug and dug and unearthed the fairy tales. Their content: how a people deals with its wishes over a period of 800 years,” thus resulting in some 'positive' aesthetic byproducts. Of course, in contemporary Germany, it seems that Auschwitz has replaced Grimm's fairy tales, just as defeat, guilt, and self-hatred has replaced a national conscious and kultur. In The Patriot, there is no ‘volkgeist,’ but instead, the expressions of an over-intellectualized dead soul whose fear of national identity is no less grand than his hostility toward celluloid beauty, because as a shabbos goy and Frankfurt school victim, Kluge is one of those individuals who personify Albert Camus’ words, “Those who lack the courage will always find a philosophy to justify it,” of which anti-Aryan academic, antagonistic ausländer, and all-around agitator Adorno happily provided to him.

Indeed, The Patriot is undoubtedly a film that must be seen multiples times to be digested properly, but that presupposes that it is a cinematic work that is worth seeing in the first place, which is dubious at best, unless you happen to be a ‘true believer’ whose doctrine is that somewhere in proximity with the ‘New Left,’ or someone who wants to understand how the contemporary, ethno-masochistic German artistic/academic thinks and feels.  At the conclusion of The Patriot, Kluge even went as far as pure obfuscation of meaning, stating in regarding to a scene of the ‘talking knee’ speaking in the dead language of Latin that, “When the knee speaks Latin, I do not at all assume that anyone understands that, at least not anyone who interests me as a viewer,” thus highlighting (if one does their homework), in a needlessly esoteric way, a time when knowledge of history was restricted to a small minority of individuals. Of course, today history has been ‘democratized,’ at least to some extent (but certainly not in Germany and many other European nations where it is a criminal offense to disagree with certain elements of 20th century history, especially the sort that Kluge has spent his life and career dwelling on), but as demonstrated by protagonist Gabi Teichert of The Patriot, who, “was sure the material for history lessons at the advanced level was deficient,” people tend to believe the version of history they want to believe, or at least the version of history that has been beat into their brain since birth because, after all, no one enjoys cognitive dissonance. Although, as narrated in The Patriot that, “It’s hard to present a patriotic version of German history,” things would be quite different if Germany had won the Second World War, as it is quite doubtful that the “The Holocaust” would still be described as the most horrible and tragic event in human history, as it is today as a result of the victor's version of history becoming the 'official' history of the Second World War. Probably not. If Germany had won the war, the Holocaust (which would undoubtedly not be called "The Holocaust"; with the phrase itself not being actively promoted until the mid-1970s by American/Israeli Zionist circles) would probably be portrayed as a noble and necessary campaign against a hostile enemy, if mentioned at all, but few are willing to question the subjectivity of history, not even Alexander Kluge. If The Patriot does anything of value, it is opening up the viewer’s mind to the complexity and indefiniteness of history in a variety of both personal and political ways. For example, early on in The Patriot, documentary footage of British bomber pilots who, “have not learned anything definite about Germany. They have just expertly shot up the country for eighteen hours. Now they are returning to their quarter to sleep,” but they are quite pride of the fact that “Total 950 Kaput Krauts” (i.e. they killed 950 Germans) despite their lack of understanding of German people, kultur, and history because their context for ‘understanding’ the country’s history is that of defeating an enemy nation and not understanding it on any personal or ‘objective’ academic level.  Of course, Kluge, who personally experienced the terror bombings of the British, sees that particular history from a totally different perspective.

In the end, the closest the viewer ever gets to personally ‘knowing’ Gabi Teichert is by seeing her naked body from the perverted perspective of a peeping Tom with insomnia, thereupon underscoring the voyeuristic and scopophiliac quality of cinema itself. Rather absurdly, Ms. Teichert, being a virtual victim of patriotic psychosis, sees the peeping Tom's actions as “contemporary research” and not all that different from her own as a historical researcher, thus baffling the viewer with her rather odd perspective on being the victim of a unsavory sexual degenerate who rapes women with his eyes via binoculars.  In short, at least as far as The Patriot is concerned, 'perspective is everything' when it comes to history. At the end of The Patriot, it is revealed that, “Every New Year’s Eve, Gabi Teichert reflects on the 365 days had. The hope remains for improving the material for advanced history in the coming year,” even if, “The Hessen Culture Ministry wants to abolish history altogether. And combine it with geography and government to make ‘social studies’.”

As Corporal Wieland states in The Patriot, “In the name of the dead of Germany and the 6th Army, I’d now like to express my principle views. If everyone can speak, so can I. A dead knee sees things a bit differently. For example, Bismarck, who is said to have made history…Often I’m asked where I learned so much. It’s a mistake to think that the printed matter in libraries is related to history. We, the dead and their parts, are history. Every cell that doesn’t want to die knows everything, from the beginning right to the very end. Only the quarrelsome brain doesn’t. We dead cells know everything and have reason to. The resurrection of the dead, and who really wants to die, presupposes a thorough knowledge of history. Basically I’m a historical expert. Other dead colleagues refer to me as the ‘Father of Accuracy’,” but he also later admits, “Note that a knee strides forward in principle. Over 2,000 km to Stalingrad, it bends and stretches every half metre, directed by an obstinate brain that’s still there and has no more to say. Some say I use the word ‘principle’ too much. Quite right. It’s a habit I picked up from Corporal Wieland’s brain. I always said ‘principle’ when it was under pressure. I myself have no principles, just a firm will to survive.” Holocaust survivor, novelist, and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel certainly has principles, but one can only wonder what account of history his circumcised member has to tell or at least the members of his racial kinsmen, at least judging by the original Yiddish version of his novel Night (1955) where the writer reveals that certain concentration camp survivors ran off to "fargvaldikn daytshe shikses" ("rape German shiksas" aka "impure German women") so as to seek Jewish revenge for aggressive Nazi antisemitism. That being said, if one where to use Kluge’s The Patriot as a guide for interpreting history, one can only guess the historical value of films like Spielberg’s Schindler's List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998), but something tells me that the director’s friend/mentor Theodor W. Adorno had already made up his mind on such historical matters and would give the films his full approval, at least judging by his rather subjective and exceedingly emotional quote, “Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” If Kluge considers himself a poet and his film The Patriot is, in turn, a work of celluloid poetry, I guess then, at least going by Adorno’s logic, the filmmaker is a kraut barbarian.

 Even in his self-loathing, Alexander Kluge was still able to reveal, if only to a minor extent, the taboo historical truth in terms of Germany's collective suffering during the Second World War, which Hollywood has never and will never acknowledge, and for that alone, he deserves some minor praise.  During a segment of The Patriot featuring documentary footage of bomber pilots dropping bombs on a German city and burning buildings during a literal "Holocaust" (burnt offering) scenario, the voice-over narrator states: "Let us not forget that sixty thousand people burned to death in Hamburg."  Although the historical record shows that more Germans than Jews died in the Second World War, not to mention the millions that died after the war during Stalin's expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the starvation of German POWs by various allied nations, who is willing to acknowledge it?!  Until Germany and other European nations come to terms with less than comforting aspects of their own histories and rediscover their roots, Europa will continue to decay until all that is left is a 'multicultural,' alien-conquered corpse and one does not need to be a patriotic philistine to acknowledge this truth.

-Ty E


the sneering (homo-phobic) snob said...

That Elephant looks as though he wants to shove his knob up the fish`es bum, i hope the fish is a girl fish otherwise the elephant is a faggot ! ! !.

teddy crescendo said...

Gabi Teichert is quite a tasty bird.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

The Fatherland is a bloody load of old rubbish, as i`ve told you before on this site the only country in the world that is an even bigger load of old rubbish is Britain.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

The history of Ger-girl-y is a pile of garbage, but its still a lot more interesting that the history of England (which is total shit) ! ! !.

Juden said...

if i may, i believe the bit about poetry and auschwitz takes a few thins for granted, none of which are as preposterous as you might think.
the quote presupposes poetry as an activity that seeks to find beauty in the world. its an activity of introspection and not action.
leaving aside the racial nonsense for a bit, the phenomenon of death camps revealed something very special and very ugly about the world and about humanity. there were murders before, there was war and genocide and crime before. the camps were unique for the mechanization, their efficacy, and for how close they came to success.
so the quote can be taken as, in a world where underneath the thin veneer of beauty and civility lies a reality and that reality is murder on an unfathomable scale, and that at any moment things could fall apart and we could again have innocents herded into camps to be exterminated, there is something intellectually dishonest about engaging in the navel gazing of poetry - of putting a pretty face on a world and a humanity that is capable of such an abomination.
i enjoy your site and i am as avid a student of film and history as you are. i am myself a german jew, which puts our perspective at odds a bit. my only suggestion, to borrow the phrase of a fellow german, is to be cautious to not let the abyss stare back into you. state sponsored racial purging and wholesale murder is wrong. the genetics of who is doing the murdering and who is doing the dying is not relevant.
furthermore i would also beseech you to forgive the jewish people for what you might see as mistakes in thinking about history. regardless of perception, half (!) the entire jewish people were murdered less than a hundred years ago (of course jews were not the only victims of WWII - many innocents died on both sides). this is still very recent, and my grandmother is still alive to tell me about how her parents smuggled her to america the day after cristalnacht so that she could be survive (she was seven years old, they were caught and sent to camps). genocide is not an easy thing to come to terms with, particularly when it is so recent and so personal. please be patient with us.
other than that, keep up the great work on your site. i very much enjoy it.

eddie lydecker said...

Judens com-girl-t makes the com-girl-ts left by Jervaise Brooke Hamster seem like the pathetic and inane ramblings of a 3 year-old nursery school moron, no wonder you`ve made the decision to per-girl-ently discard that silly bastard.