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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

Friday, January 18, 1980
9:00 p.m. Die Bettwurst
Rosa von Praunheim (West Germany,1971)

Rosa von Praunheim’s first full-length feature is a lower-middle-class idyll in which the filmmaker, fascinated by the aesthetic of the petty bourgeoisie, elevates kitsch to new satiric heights. As Die Bettwurst - literally the “bed sausage,” referring to the little neck-pillow that Luzi gives Dietmar for their first Christmas together - will be shown without English titles, the following synopsis should help non-German-speakers appreciate von Praunheim’s behavioral comedy:
Luzi and Dietmar meet in the harbor town of Kiel, and fall in love. She is an older petty bourgeois secretary; he is a younger unskilled worker from Berlin. They both play out the good middle-class ritual as they learned it from their upbringing and the media. They go together to a country inn for dancing; she shows him her victory garden and her photo album. After a night of love he helps her vacuum. They celebrate Christmas together. Suddenly old criminal friends of Dietmar’s arrive and abduct Luzi, in order to force Dietmar to go in with them again. In the style of a film parody, Dietmar shoots the criminals on the beach and flees with Luzi by means of a small private plane into an indefinite future.

Rosa von Praunheim has stated in regard to Die Bettwurst:
“Some critics consider me cruel and cynical: I am supposed to make fun at the expense of others. The film is radical and disturbs the viewers, like all my films. It mirrors daily rituals and exaggerates them using the example of two helpless individuals. The discomfited viewer has the opportunity to laugh impartially at his own situation and to reveal a part of the constraints that keep him from the greatest part of happiness. For many critics it is hard to grasp that Luzi and Dietmar are not as repressive as that which they represent. They are themselves outsiders, naive victims of the society, that have it much harder in all conventional actions than those of us who have learned to conform in a much less disruptive and more dangerous manner. The lower-middle-class ineptitudes of the characters, that we laugh at, are harmless in comparison with our own moral presumption. Luzi is actually my aunt, or more precisely the daughter of my grandfather’s sister on my father’s side. When I met her in the fifties (she came on a short visit from Poland), I was shocked by her striking temperamental nature that, as I later determined, is the same as mine. In the film she plays herself. Both improvise their dialogue, and I only tried to inject as much authenticity into the story as possible. Both of them helped me to retain the bourgeois logic of history. Luzi’s apartment in the film is her own, as is her wardrobe. Dietmar came from Berlin to Kiel for the filming. His entire life, starting with step-parents and an orphanage, he has been forced to subordinate himself to the most rigid petty bourgeois ideals. He developed a stubborn and egocentric character. Meanwhile, avoiding again and again all work, he failed regularly however in his naive and honest way. He leads an unbelievably exalted life. Even as a star nothing has been changed in all this.”

• Written, Produced, Directed and Photographed by Rosa von Praunheim. With Luzi Kryn, Dietmar Kracht, Steven Adamschewski. (1971, 78 mins, color, In German, No subtitles, Print Courtesy of The Goethe Institute)