Close Up

10 December 2017: Not Reconciled


Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet have become synonymous with not only an uncompromising, radically austere style of filmmaking, but also a political commitment to teach how to hear and to see with their films. Fiercely independent, often working with scant financial backing and distribution, have made their work difficult to access. The extreme non-commerciality of their work, along with their penchant for elliptical narratives, further pushed them towards the periphery of New German Cinema. Their second short Not Reconciled, a quasi adaption of writer Heinrich Böll’s novel Billiards at Half-Past Nine, directly confronts Germany’s fascist past, and its continued persistence in the post-war Federal Republic.

Wim Wenders made several very experimental shorts as a film student in Munich. Of these, Silver City Revisited is the most personal and enigmatic. A moody excavation of Munich’s cityscape, Wenders shot the views from the different apartments he lived in often very early in the morning when the streets were empty, creating the impression of someone looking out the window. The expanded sense of duration, the close attention to landscape and place, the vague melancholic air that hovers gently over the film – all qualities that would become characteristic of his later features – have their origins in this rarely screened short.

Not Reconciled
Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet
1965 | 55 min | B/W | DCP

Not so much an adaptation of Heinrich Böll’s novel, Billiards at Half-Past Nine as it is a distillation of its essential elements, Straub/Huillet’s second short is about the continuity of fascism in the post-war era, the inescapable persistence of the past in the present. It is a reflection on German life as it is refracted through the lives of three generations of the Fähmel family, an excavation of German history, and the city Cologne.

Silver City Revisited
Wim Wenders
1968 | 25 min | Colour | DCP

An experimental short from his student days in Munich, Wenders directs his camera out the windows of the various apartments he lived in across town. Empty dawn streets, an endless flow of traffic and lights, a rural train station and other views punctuated by brief fades to black imitating an eye-blink. A study in the act of seeing and perception, a yearning to be elsewhere, away from the city, a film to daydream oneself into. As the original reviewer wrote: “…a film which expresses the longing for a prelapsarian speechlessness, a film of complete peacefulness.” – Gerhard Theuring