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A Tribute to Das Kleine Fernsehspiel/ZDF: Alternative Filmmaking in Television

A Tribute to Das Kleine Fernsehspiel/ZDF: Alternative Filmmaking in Television

Thursday, November 15, 1979
7:30 p.m. The Middle of the Road is a Very Dead End (In Gefahr und grösster Not bringt der Mittelweg den Tod)
Alexander Kluge, Edgar Reitz (1975)

Eckart Stein in Person!


A film which one German critic predicted “will be too far right for the leftists and too far to the left for the rightists,” The Middle of the Road is a Very Dead End is a collaboration by two of the founding fathers of the New German Cinema, Alexander Kluge and Edgar Reitz. Kluge (born 1932) is an author, lawyer and film professor as well as a filmmaker: his first feature, Yesterday Girl (1966), announced the existence of a New German Cinema for many critics on the international scene. His recent films, Part-Time Work of a Domestic Slave (1974) and Strongman Ferdinand (1976) confirm his place near the top of the expressly political wing of the NGC. Reitz (born 1932) made his first film in 1953, but effectively joined the NGC with Mahlzeiten in 1966; one of his best recent works, Zero Hour (1978) was featured last year at PFA. A mixture of fiction and documentary, polemics and satire, The Middle of the Road has been accurately described by Sight and Sound as:

“A film of fragments, rough and random, its general focus is a girl agent from the East whose mission is to compile a dossier on the secrets of the Federal Republic. She has a male companion who studies Marx ‘in the original’ (and is consequently little seen) and who has persuaded her that the real secrets are to be found in everyday events. Of which we see a pointedly disordered collage (police concert, scientific congress, a visit to the cinema), framed by a newsreel account of the clash between demonstrators and police provoked by the demolition of some old houses. The purpose... is to confront the audience with a reflection of reality as it is perceived from day to day. The state ‘secret’ is the lives of its citizens; a crane demolishing a house makes an ‘ideological’ statement; a political cliché is a powerful weapon in the hands of a politician. The girl’s report is rejected: her boss wants facts, not lyrical impressions. Facts, answers the film, are easy to find; what is difficult is how you order them."

• Screenplay and Direction by Alexander Kluge and Edgar Reitz. ZDF Production Executive, Eckart Stein. Photographed by Reitz and Alfred Hurmer. Edited by Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus. With Dagmar Bodrich, Jutta Winkelman, Norbert Kentrup. (1975, 90 mins, 35mm, English titles, Print Courtesy of The Goethe Institute)