Close Up

1 May 2019: International Workers’ Day: Class Relations

class-relations-daniele-huillet-jean-marie-straub.jpg

Class Relations
Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub, 1984, 130 min
German with English subtitles
Presented in a new digital restoration

Introduced by Kirill Adibekov

"Capitalism is a system of dependencies" said Kafka, and his unfinished novel The Man Who Disappeared a.k.a. Amerika, on which Class Relations (Klassenverhältnisse) is based, chronicles "a world where a sense of justice has no place" (D. Huillet). The film was shot in Germany (with two sequences filmed in the United States) and follows the path of the young German bourgeois Karl Rossman. Forced by his parents to emigrate to America, an idealised land of opportunity, he keeps finding himself involved in strange adventures, in situations of injustice and oppression, pushed around, defenceless yet still striving forward. "Kafka, for us, is the only major poet of industrial civilisation, I mean, a civilisation where people depend on their work to survive. That’s why there is this permanent fear of losing your job, there are traces left by the fact of having been afraid, and there is constantly misery that appears and is threatening", said Straub.

Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet at Work on a Film based on Franz Kafka’s Amerika
Harun Farocki, 1983, 26 min
German with English subtitles

Harun Farocki, an admirer and, for a period, a student of Jean-Marie Straub, rehearses his part of Delamarche in Class Relations under Straub's direction.


Kirill Adibekov is a film curator, essay filmmaker and independent distributor based in London and Moscow. He currently works at the V-A-C Foundation as a film curator. He has organised programmes featuring the works of Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, namely Fascination: sound (2012), a retrospective of Peter Nestler films (2013) and a film programme accompanying Expanding Space project exhibition (2016). He contributed to the collective edition L’internationale straubienne: à propos des films de Danièle Huillet et Jean-Marie Straub (Les éditions de l’Œil, 2016).

Part of the touring retrospective The Films of Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub