Magazine article The New Yorker

The Way West

Magazine article The New Yorker

The Way West

Article excerpt

In 1962, inspired by the French New Wave, a group of West German filmmakers issued the Oberhausen Manifesto, which called for "the new German feature film." In 1966, with his first feature, "Yesterday Girl" (Facets), Alexander Kluge (one of the signatories) borrowed the New Wave's audaciously playful approach to drama to create a defiant, unsparing view of German society.

Kluge's title character, Anita Grun (Alexandra Kluge, the director's sister), Jewish, a survivor of wartime persecution and an emigre from East Germany, gets little sympathy from the court when, at the age of twenty-two, she is arrested for petty theft. On probation, she finds herself stuck in a series of dead-end jobs and subject to dictatorial and intrusive supervisors until she figures out how to live off her looks--and finds that German law is as narrow and rigid as the country's pious mores. For Kluge, Anita's story is a microcosm of modern Germany, and, as such, gives rise to a movie of many genres; he fills his film with a dazzling panoply of inventive devices--such as animation, sped-up motion, still-photo montages, fantasy sequences, and jolting musical counterpoint--that look past her image to her psyche even as they promote her as an alternative mass-media heroine. …

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