Alexander Kluge, a prolific West German filmmaker from the early 1960s through the mid-'80s, has been working in independent German television for the past two decades. Freiheit für die Konsonanten! & Grenzfälle der Schadensregulierung includes twelve of Kluge's television productions since 1992, which fall into three categories: (1) satirical improvisational comedy sketches; (2) montage footage of German police clashing with leftist protesters set to death metal music; and (3) theater interviews and excerpts from stage productions.
Nine of the twelve programs included in Freiheit für die Konsonanten! & Grenzfälle der Schadensregulierung are arch improv comedy sketches lamely satirizing topics like German spelling reform, car racing, the former East German secret police, the Catholic Church, insurance underwriting, WW-II Polish partisans, German military adventurism abroad, anti-terrorism, and the Bush Administration. The skits which range from 11 to 45 minutes each feature an unseen interviewer and an on-camera actor in costume. The improv is performed in deadpan earnestness with efforts toward satire, but the results are abysmal. If there is anything funny about these skits it's over my head.
To convey some sense of the skits, here are two typical exchanges selected completely at random. The first sample comes from the skit Mit allem Reichtum meiner Nöte (With all the Wealth of my Needs, 1999, 24 min.) about a disgraced Catholic vicar in which the most prolonged point of discussion was the name for the space between the testicles and the anus, but which broached other subjects as well such as the ex-vicar's childhood:
Unseen Interviewer: "Describe how you grew up. The house is the body we carry around with us. The family, the ancestors: the second house."
The second selection, from a skit entitled Das Weichziel ist der Mensch (Man is the Soft Target, 2008, 45 min.), about German military adventurism abroad captures a sense of the repartee between the unseen interviewer and an actor playing a high-ranking German military officer:
Unseen Interviewer: "The war on two fronts, a mistake which can never be repeated, because we would have the all-round utilization of the Bundeswehr worldwide. Always within an alliance."
Does anybody find this the least bit funny or perhaps slyly witty?
I'll confess that after slogging through three hours of Kluge's dreadful improv, I had little patience for the rest of the offers which included Das Quietschen der Macht, wenn sie die Bremsen zieht (The Screeching Sound of Power as Soon as it Puts on the Brakes, 1992, 18 min.) a montage of footage of German police arresting leftist protesters, shot between 1972 and 1992, and set to music by the death metal band Goatlord; an interview with theater director Christoph Schlingensief; and, footage from a theater production of Henrk Ibsen's "Peer Gynt" performed in the Munich Volkstheater. While the footage from "Peer Gynt" was mildly interesting, I was too battered down from the three hours of mirthless improv and 18 minutes of death-metal protest montage to pay more than passing attention to the forty-five minutes of Kluge and Schlingensief droning on about "Hamlet", right-wing extremism, and American foreign policy. If they said anything interesting, I missed it.
A fact is negative imagination, imagination is negative facticity - it cannot go on like this. That imagination exists is a fact; and that pure facts exist is a Imagination. Imaginations give rise to facts and facts propel imagination production away from them or towards them. It is therefore important to enlarge the interfaces between the two, to maintain communication between the two opponent forces.
It is no wonder that Professor Stollman is a leading scholar of Kluge's work; his essay is every bit as funny, witty and insightful as Kluge's skits, which is to say, it is not at all funny, witty, or insightful.