Although nearly impossible to discern while watching the film, Not Reconciled is about three generations of architects/demolition experts—Heinrich Fähmel, his son Robert and Robert's son Joseph—and is set between the early twentieth-century and the present, though most of the film takes place during the present with various abrupt flashbacks sprinkled throughout. With the full title of the film being ‘Not Reconciled or Only Violence Helps Where Violence Rules,’ the film ultimately has a message of waging war against contemporary West Germany by any means. In the end, the true hero (or heroine) is an elderly grandmother named Johanna Fähmel (Martha Staendner)—the mad matriarch of the testosterone-deprived Fähmel architect family—who shoots an ex-Nazi turned West German Secretary of State as he watches a military parade from a hotel balcony in what is probably the most insanely impotent and audaciously anti-climatic assassination scene in cinema history. Johanna’s leftist activism started early at age 30 (she is symbolically portrayed at this age by Straub’s wife/collaborter Danièle Huillet) when during the First World War she decided to denounce the Kaiser as a “fool” and was subsequently punished. This is revealed during a flashback scene in Not Reconciled where elderly Heinrich via narration his regret in regard to the fact that he is a born coward and failed to come to his wife Johanna’s aid after she denounced the good old Kaiser despite the fact that he totally agreed with his beloved's sentiments and actions. Indeed, if there is anything innately wrong with the Fähmel family, it is that the men are too soft and the women are too hard. Although not referenced in Not Reconciled, in Böll’s book it is revealed that Johanna was put in a mental institution during World War II for attempting to save Jews from cattle cars.
Set mostly in and around the prestigous Prince Heinrich Hotel, the patriarch of the Fähmel family, 80-year-old architect Heinrich Fähmel (Heinrich Hargesheimer), concludes the film with his rather somber birthday party at the hotel. As the title of the film makes quite clear, members of the Fähmel family refuse to reconcile with ex-nazis, including a rather robotic fellow named Nettlinger (Heiner Braun), who converted Robert Faehmel’s brother Otto, who died in 1942 at the Battle of Kiev, to National Socialism. Among other things, the youngest Fähmel male, Joseph (Joachim Weiler), learns that his father Robert destroyed a beautiful building—the St. Anthony’s Abbey—which his grandfather had built long ago, thus indicating a sort of generational destructiveness in the family influenced by the tides of war and the rise and fall of different Reichs. For whatever reason, Robert decides to adopt a young blond beast of a bellhop named Hugo (Georg Zander), but not before telling the lad that Nettlinger, who now proclaims to be a ‘democrat by conviction’ and who had hoped to reconcile with the demolition expert, was a nefarious nazi policeman who he blames for destroying his family. Robert also confesses to the bellhop that he is a demolition expert who was responsible for blowing up bridges, apartments, churches, railway viaducts, villas, and crossroads during the Second World War, which he seems to regret, but was forced to when American forces were approaching from the west. Of course, as a proud ‘progressive’ feminist, Straub made sure to depict nuturing mother-grandmother Johanna Fähmel as the true hero of Not Reconciled as she manages to assassinate the ex-nazi Secretary of State responsible for West Germany’s rearmament while her cuck husband was merely cowering around.
As German film authority Thomas Elsaesser wrote in his landmark work New German Cinema: A History (1989) regarding Not Reconciled: “Straub pared away all of Böll’s satire, leaving the spectator with a film that resists the family chronicle, but also narrative and the linear logic of cause and effect. This is done for much the same reason as his male protagonists reject the conciliatory gestures of their former political enemies and persecutors, and the old lady resists German rearmament by violence.” Indeed, despite its innate aesthetic and thematic inanity and particular propensity towards boring and/or alienating most viewers, Not Reconciled is, at its most fundamental level, a work of nasty neo-Bolshevik celluloid nihilism that is fueled by the sort of patently pedantic hatred that seems quite characteristic of slave-morality-driven leftist intellectuals who hate everything except hatred and destruction (with Straub's focus being not only the hatred and destruction of German culture and history, but the art of cinema as well). With various pseudo-religious references to the “beast” (a reference to both the devil and the Nazis, though Straub certainly seems to truly think that the Nazis were devils in human form) and shots of angel statues in ruins, Not Reconciled is essentially a work of Marxist (pseudo)metaphysics directed by a man who threw out Christ for the Gospel of Anti-Christ Marx and other related Hebraic intellectual rabble. An unintentionally hilarious film where the most courageous and heroic character is an elderly bourgeois woman, Not Reconciled also unequivocally demonstrates that auteur Straub was a perennial cuckold, hence why he allowed his wife Danièle Huillet to be in charge of editing and post-production of his films (which might explain why they are so incoherent, impenetrable, and nonsensically assembled!). Indeed, Not Reconciled seems like the work of a resentful old queen, or as Thomas Elsaesser stated of the film: “Straub’s adaptation of Heinrich Böll’s novel proved a harsh and unforgiving film, whose diagonals and sharply angled compositions even in the visuals seemed to want to stem the tide of those whose ultimate moral wisdom was that life must go on.” In other words, if you want to find out what it feels like to be a tedious Teutophobe who hates art and beauty and is still resentful of the fact they had to learn German as a child, watch Not Reconciled and wallow in the wonders of pseudo-kraut commie celluloid dribble.