Marx: the quest, the path, the destination
Alexander Kluge’s nine-and-a-half hour long film of Marx’s “Kapital” is not a minute too long says Helmut Merker
What is a revolutionary? The writings of Marx and Engels both use the metaphor of revolution as the “locomotive of history”. Is, then, the revolutionary a standard bearer of progress, a pace setter, a frontrunner?
None of the above, because in a world ruled by a turbo “devaluation” where only the new has market value, where commodity production spirals out of control, the “train of time” is a deadly trend. Alexander Kluge instead opts for Walter Benjamin’s idea of the revolution as mankind “pulling the emergency brake”. We must hold up the torch of reason to the problems at hand, and the true revolutionary is therefore the one who can unite future and past, merging two times, two societies, the artist who montages stories and history. And so we come to Alexander Kluge and his art.
Kluge’s monumental “News from Ideological Antiquity. Marx – Eisenstein – Das Kapital” is a 570-minute film available only on DVD which is based on the work of two other montage artists, James Joyce and Sergei Eisenstein. These two met in 1929 to discuss filming Marx’s “Kapital” which had been written 60 years beforehand. Now, eighty years on, Alexander Kluge joins the party and takes up where Eisenstein failed, because neither Hollywood’s capitalists nor Moscow’s Communists were prepared to send the necessary funds his way.
The book comes in three volumes (I still think the first one is the best, reads at times like a nineteenth century horror novel with chains rattling in dark & dank basements, the economic calculations of the second one got me lost & the parts of volume three I read — I know I didn’t read all of it — I can’t remember.) And Alexander Kluge‘s film comes in a nine-hour-long instalment. The very idea of making a movie of Kapital is truly astounding. Not sue I want to sit through all nine hours, but I would most certainly like to check it out, if it comes over here. I did sit through he 4 hours of the Che movie last month, and it was great. But that was a more tropical adventure genre. And right now I am in the middle of the 15-hour remastered version of Fassbinder’s made-for-TV Berlin Alexanderplatz (after Döblin’s novel). Pure gorgeous pleasure in slow-motion — novels have nothing to gain but everything to lose from film, TV, on the bother hand, is the perfect medium for such long narratives. I am allowing myself one hour a day of Alex & am already sad that I only have seven left. Not sure Kluge’s Kapital will be as riveting, still, an amazing project. Here the opening paras of an review ot in from signandsight; you can read the rest of the article there:
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