07/04/2005

From the Feuilletons is a weekly overview of what's been happening in the German-language cultural pages and appears every Friday at 3 pm. CET.. Here a key to the German newspapers.

Die Welt, 07.04.2005

Controversial German thinker Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) is famed for his pithy formulas: "Sovereignty belongs to those who determine the state of emergency", "True politics is the differentiation of friend and enemy," and "All key concepts in modern political science are secularised theological ones." Herfried Münkler, professor of political science at Berlin's Humboldt University, defends the philosopher against his critics and his admirers. "Schmitt is a stylistic extremist. And this stylistic device has a counterpart in his political thought, when he ascribes greater cognitive value to the state of emergency than most others do. The majority likes to be in the middle. Knowledge, by contrast, develops on the margins. If you hold such a belief, you have to phrase your words accordingly, and Schmitt did so masterfully. More than almost any other thinker, Schmitt used linguistic precision to make an enigma of himself." Münkler comments on Schmitt's much criticised "decisionism": "Some argue that Schmitt's 'decisionsim' theory inevitably pushes him into the arms of National Socialism. But in fact this is anything but self-evident. If there was any act in Germany after 1933 that needed a decision, it was resistance to Hitler. By contrast, not taking a decision led to tacit support."


Der Tagesspiegel, 07.04.2005

The Volksbühne Theatre in Berlin has long had cult status among adventurous theatre-goers. Led for the last 13 years by Frank Castorf, who has also directed some of the most memorable performances, the theatre stands for deconstructed plots, "mishmash" productions blending two or more unrelated plays, entertaining musical interludes and a good deal of audience abuse (flour bags hurled at the crowd, faeces dropped from the ceiling, audience members stripped and seated in milk). Peter Laudenbach saw the latest performance, Rene Pollesch's "Die Magie der Verzweiflung" (The magic of despair), a title he sees as symptomatic for the state the theatre is in. "When actor Bernhard Schütz improvises lustily about 'using your own urine to cure foot fungus', you involuntarily think: exactly. This is exactly the problem with the Volksbühne in the 13th Castorf year: too much self-therapy and urine." For Laudenbach, the problem comes from "using artistic narcissism as a decadent game of the subsidised cultural left. For them increasing poverty and social scission seems at best a distant rumour. In making a show of its own autism, Pollesch's theatre does a better job of displaying the problem of the Volksbühne than any review could ever do."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 07.04.2005

Dominik Graf writes a beautiful homage to French filmmaker Jean Eustache (1938–1981), whose films have just been shown in a retrospective in Berlin. Comparing Eustache to Eric Rohmer with reference to the former's 1973 masterpiece "The Mother and the Whore", Graf writes: "Don't be misled: both directors make films in which people talk incessantly, but unlike Rohmer, Eustache's characters are unusually neurotic and unruly, not run-of-the-mill bourgeois. They are love-thieves and scoundrels. Eustache's dialogues are sharp-witted and astute, his characters larger than life from the start. Jean-Pierre Leaud, for example, in 'The Mother and the Whore', always enters cafes looking for people he's arranged to meet as if he were heading to the final gunfight at the OK Corral."

Malte Ludin's documentary "2 oder 3 Dinge, die ich von ihm weiß" (2 or 3 things I know about him) is about his father, Hanns Ludin, the murderous Nazi ambassador to Slovakia from 1941-1945, who was executed in 1947 as a war criminal. More correctly, the film is not so much about Ludin's father as about his father's family, traumatised by the spectre of Ludin senior. Eva Menasse is impressed: "This film illustrates the psychological effects the murderous insanity of National Socialism had on the families of the perpetrators, how these effects are still felt today, and how cover-ups, lies and glossing over family history are paid for with mental health."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 07.04.2005

"Between the long-forgotten hit of yesteryear and the old favourite, there is a third, often ignored, category: the new 'old music' of pop which sounds like the old favourites but was never actually a hit", writes Thomas Steinfeld, putting his finger on the "embarrassment" of aging rockers in the guise of US band Gov't Mule, whose members include the founders of the Allman Brothers Band. "... the mule, the sterile, balky, plodding, but ever useful beast of burden is their namesake, and their music which alternates between white blues, soul and straight rock with a bit of jazz is the best to be produced in this genre in the post-heroic period of popular music. It is classic rock, and the group continues to play in the knowledge that they're not a pretty sight. The guitarist and singer Warren Haynes is long-haired and chubby, and when the band plays open air in summer his belly protrudes out over his pale stick legs in shorts. But Haynes' voice is full of the sweetest pain, that could bring a petrol pump to tears." Younger musicians like Adam Green, The Strokes or Franz Ferdinand have "nothing on the music of the older generation, because this has, just as undeservedly, the advantage that one can talk about it in terms of musical careers. The comparisons are straightforward: for Warren Haynes there is Duane Allman and early Eric Clapton, and for Eric Clapton there is Robert Johnson. These simple genealogies all end in the seventies."

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