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5— Time and Memory in Postwar Germany:Not Reconciled
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Not Reconciled

The opening shots of Straub/Huillet's film provide a number of contexts not present in the novel. First of all, the title has been changed to Not Reconciled or, Only violence helps where violence rules , which resonates in several directions. In addition to evoking the unreconciled past that Robert and Heinrich Faehmel have attempted to escape, it suggests that the film will depict a violent society, which it does. Yet the violence that reigns is never shown in practice, only in its results, for instance, in the case of Schrella putting on his


shirt or Robert being bandaged after beatings. "Only violence helps where violence rules" is a quotation from Brecht's Saint Joan of the Stockyards , a literary precedent from 1929–1930 that juxtaposes the visionary charisma of Joan of Arc with the brutal exploitation of the poor practiced by Chicago meatpackers. Like Johanna Faehmel, Brecht's Johanna Dark traces the origins of violence to those who exercise power and not to their victims. The film's depiction is thus distinct from most violence in film and television, which exhibits a problematic fascination with violence itself and therefore "slip onto the side of the police."[23]

A second Brecht quotation is appended to the credits which calls attention to the film's approach to representation: "'Instead of wanting to create the impression that he is improvising, the actor should rather show what the truth is: he is quoting.'—Bertolt Brecht."[24] The "truth" of the film is thus neither the plot nor the characters but the documentation of the actors' performances. Following the credits, two monuments in Cologne are shown while the first eleven measures of Bartók's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion are heard. The first is a monument in memory of five victims of the Gestapo, with the walls of the Klingelpütz town prison in the background. No fictional time or place is being established here, since the music is simply added to silent film. The Bartók sonata, which itself dates from the period of rising fascism in Hungary before Bartók's emigration, is quoted later in the film as documentary footage of World War I is included. In both cases, the music helps to separate the "present" of the filmmakers and historical reality from the fictional "present" of the film. Similarly, the intentionally prolonged titles, the shots of the monuments, and the Brecht quotation emphasize the filmmakers' intervention. Yet the Klingelpütz prison will later become the location for a fictional event, just as the execution of young people is to become an element of Böll's fiction. The second monument is in memory of the Second World War dead of Cologne: The Mourning Woman by Gerhard Marcks. This is also significant for Böll's characters, since Johanna Faehmel is one such mourning mother.

The image of a monument without information about what it commemorates, like a countermonument, places the emphasis on the act of remembering. A monument is not a bearer of information but instead an aspect of one of two processes. First, a mounument states publicly for a group of people that some consensus exists as to the importance of the person or event commemorated. This strengthens the community's sense of cohesiveness, identity, and history. The destruction and defacement of monuments usually accompany threats to such consensus. The second process takes place once the consensus or the community itself has ceased to exist. Monuments of past societies record the differences between past and present values and demand explanation. Their lack of meaning, their failure to function as monuments in the original sense, attests to the fact that time has passed, that historical development has taken place. Monuments that reflect no consensus left in contemporary society can


become a focus and a weapon of struggle, an obstacle to or a goal of a new consensus. The recent debates over Holocaust memorials and museums (in the United States and elsewhere) and the debate over the German memorial to the "victims of war" in Berlin illustrate this.[25]

Straub has indicated his conviction that no such consensus exists and that the films are intended to reveal this fact and to divide the audience: "I think the value of our films, if they have a value, consists in the fact that the audience (there is no such thing as an audience, because it is made up of classes) is divided by them."[26] The film can do this by bringing before a large audience (Straub was speaking here of television broadcasts) monuments about which a consensus does not exist. The absence of an automatic identification of what is commemorated reveals also the absence of "the audience" that would commemorate it.

One link between the monuments at the beginning of Not Reconciled and Billiards at Half Past Nine is their commemoration of people such as Ferdi and Edith whom Robert wishes to memorialize with his dynamiting: victims of the Gestapo, victims of the war. Yet such monuments do not exist in the novel, so introducing the film with them seems contradictory. A productive explanation for this contradiction may come from considering the film itself as a monument to their loss.

The novel's narrative does not follow the theme of a "monument" to a positive conclusion. If the destroyed abbey is a monument to the dead, then it is such only to Robert, and thus it is not a true monument in the public sense. Robert's further urge to destroy merely falters, so that no monument to Ferdi and Edith is ever achieved. Similarly, Robert's father does not go very far in the novel to destroy his own function as a public monument. In many ways he and his son represent respectability before the community up to the very end. The only contemporary and outwardly public (political) rebellion is taken by Johanna. Since this, too, is an act limited to the context of the novel for resonance, the suggestion was made that the novel itself was the only thrust made from the circularity of its own structure into the realm of history and politics. If the reconciliation of past and present is to take place, it must take place outside the novel, for the structures of the novel allow only a limited sign of rebellion. An indication of the failure of rebellion on the part of Robert and Heinrich has already been noted in the fact that their signs of rebellion all lie entirely in the past. This is the aspect of the novel that the film stresses to the point of using it as a structural principle, following from the title Not Reconciled .

The shift of structural attention from the novel to the film, then, the shift to a structure based on elements "not reconciled," is above all a shift in the treatment of time. The film does not develop the opposition between time that has stopped and time that moves in the texts that are spoken. There is no author's voice in the film to say "Time glared at Hugo"[27] or "Time flowed into her


face and blanched it deathly white [mit tödlicher weiße].[28] Yet the same opposition is present in the film, in the way of concretely presenting the novel's characters so that their position regarding time becomes visible in the form of the film.

The film's narrative begins with the scene between Robert and Hugo in the billiard room discussed earlier. By eliminating the authorial commentary and restricting the length of the film shots in accordance with the laconic speech of the novel, the film makes it shockingly clear that the past is tremendously more important for Robert than the present. Instead of informing us, as does the novel, that Robert repeatedly tells such "stories," the film sets up a contradiction of narrative space.[29] The establishing shot of Robert playing billiards and saying to Hugo, "Erzählen, Junge, was?" (Stories? What stories, boy?) (shot 3), lasting only three seconds, is so compressed that it establishes no narrative space. The audience has no time and no combination of shots to feel comfortable with the space of this billiard room. The style of this shocking cut from the sound of the billiard balls after Robert's single sentence is also parallel to the abrupt contrast between the curt lines of direct dialogue and the commentary in the novel.

Instead of being told that Robert's memory consists of lines and formulas, not feelings, the audience only sees the lines and images that Robert remembers. The abruptness of the cut to the rounders game in shot 4 is also parallel to the absence of a change in verb tense in the novel as the narrative switches setting.[30] The superiority of the past over the present is established by the fact that the narrative begins here, in the past, with the voice-over of Robert, literally narrating the action. So for Robert, at least, Erzählen , or narrative, necessarily takes place in the past, but this is not true for the audience. Narrative space is still not developed in the flashback sequence: the audience is given no point of view with which to identify. The long shot of the rounders game documents the action Robert narrates, but it does not narrate it cinematically: we hear Vacano's whistle, but we do not see who he is; we hear in the voice-over that Schrella is being abused, but we do not see this happen. Instead, the action documented in the shot of the game runs counter to this narration: we see Robert hit the ball, follow it with his eyes, break his bat; this is the formula of his memory. Later as Robert asks Schrella the question "Are you Jewish?" (shot 7), this, too, is only pictured as following the game in time. A spatial or logical connection is not strongly provided, so the question most strongly functions to remind the audience that Nazism is the background here. The key to all this is the presence of the voice-over of Robert, which gives a narrative sense to these shots which the audience cannot discover merely by looking. The result is that narrative space for the audience , rather than developing in the longer flashback sequences, is retroactively placed in the three-second shot of the billiard room. By means of the auditory link between the voice saying "Stories? What stories, boy?" and the voice-over actually providing this narrative, the


audience has remained in the billiard room; it is the location for the present tense and spatial presence of the story.

This location for the narrative is again confirmed by the contrasting use here of cause-and-effect editing: Robert asks for a cognac, Hugo leaves the room, we see him at the bar. The contrast to Robert's story is striking. There is a clear sense of location, visual narrative progression, no voice-over. With Hugo, we are in the present. Hugo's way of fitting into the film's structure, as opposed to the thematic structure of the novel, is by contrast rather than by similarity. He does not tell of his own past as a victim of persecution but instead provides a contrast to Robert's story by acting out his thoroughly vacuous role in the contemporary setting. There is the "ugly" old woman with whom he must play cards and the leader of the sheep cult who wants him to be the "Holy Lamb" in her new religion (shots 9–14). Straub/Huillet have rightly removed the arbitrary justification for Hugo's appeal as a Lamb and have delayed the comparison of his smile to Edith's. But we do see his innocent face and follow his structural role as a witness to the contradictory narratives.

The narration of the flashback to Robert's past then continues as in the novel until the interruption by Nettlinger. Again a strikingly short shot without any time for the audience to comfortably locate it places an action and a person in Robert's memory: in another shot lasting three seconds, we see Edith for the last time in the film, as she says to Robert "They'll kill you" (shot 26). As the novel says, memory does not become feeling, remains formula; but the shock of brevity amplifies the audience's sense of loss as other characters refer to her.

Nettlinger's arrival at the hotel subtly continues the narrative space developed in Hugo's sequence. Here we have the same clues for assuming present tense and continuous time, and even the setting of the hotel can be easily assumed based on this continuity and the rhythmic link to Hugo's scene: each of Hugo's and Nettlinger's present-tense actions (both near one minute in length) follows Robert's flashback scenes after periods of just over two and one-half and three minutes, respectively. As in the novel, Nettlinger is the outside element that forces the confrontation of past and present. We have already noted the synthesis that takes place in this regard in the novel as the relevance of Robert's stories becomes clear to Hugo and the latter advises Robert to avoid Nettlinger. The film achieves a more complex synthesis. So far two segments of visually present narrative have alternated with two segments in the past, narrated in voice-over. A synthesis is then added in which Robert is actually seen explaining the past in the billiard room while Hugo is seen listening; Robert is seen acting in the present. The realm of Robert's action, however, is much more limited than that of the present-tense characters Hugo and Nettlinger. The billiard room is very simple, and all its elements are called into play. The function of the billiard game is obvious; in the segment in question (shots 34–39), the past spoken of by Robert is visually present only


in the form of St. Severin's steeple, barely visible outside the window. Its lack of prominence in the shot through the window places greater emphasis on the act of looking in that direction, by Hugo, by Robert, and by the audience (the camera pans to the view with Hugo's look on a signal from Robert). This is the first time the film audience is forcefully given such a clear sense of looking . Such an action to bring about strong identification with the characters is generally carefully avoided. The compositional weight of the curtains and the window itself also become relevant later in the film as present and past are again confronted. Here the shot of Hugo looking concludes with the assertion, "I would have blown St. Severin's sky high" (shot 36). But Robert's implied gesture toward and through the window is contradicted two shots later by his only other action involving the space of the room. First Hugo disappears behind a door to learn that Nettlinger wishes to be admitted and returns to stand before the door as he speaks his line (shot 38). Then Robert asks his question of Hugo from the opposite door, hears the answer, and leaves (shot 39). In terms of Robert's actions, then, a synthesis of present and past has been achieved by his telling the story at the window and with reference to his real goal, the destruction of St. Severin's.

But the fact that this past is not reconciled in the practice of the present is made evident by the simple drama of the doors. Robert has still had no contact with the narrative space shared by Nettlinger and Hugo; the freedom of action the window suggests has at this point only a fleeting existence. The use of doors to suggest a double narrative space within a simple mise-en-scène is common in Straub/Huillet. Doors punctuate the Bruckner drama in Bridegroom , we see Karl Rossmann pulled through the stoker's door in the Kafka film, and Bach's confrontation with his rival takes place at the door to a choir loft. In Not Reconciled , Heinrich's proposal to Johanna involves the opening of a door, and the door to Johanna's room in the sanitorium, where Robert and Heinrich meet as they pass through, separates her time from that of their world outside.

The suspense surrounding the reason for Robert's obsessive routine and the threat posed by Nettlinger, which begins the novel, is replaced by the unresolved tension between past and present in the segments just described. The theme "not reconciled" gives form to the film.

The novel's presentation of the ways in which Robert, Heinrich, and Johanna take refuge in the past has been discussed. It is only Johanna who, in the context of the novel, is able to break out of her routine and perform a political, public act (albeit with dubious effect). Robert's and Heinrich's change of routine—the destabilization of the structure of motif and metaphor in the novel—has been seen to remain within the confines of private life. The fact that Heinrich and Robert are still unable to confront the present with the past, made evident by the "not reconciled" passages in the novel,[31] becomes the central structural contrast in the film. In the novel, Robert and Heinrich imagine refusing to attend the rededication of the abbey because they are "not reconciled" to the inverted


values it represents. Yet they do accept the invitation, despite their thoughts, and the past does not become a public issue. This is the fact the film stresses, since we are not aware of their thoughts and this is another sense of their being "not reconciled": no action has yet linked past and present.

The two Faehmels accept the abbot's characterization of the "blind zeal" that destroyed the abbey and agree to attend the ceremony, which is to be conducted in a spirit of reconciliation. The analysis of the novel here has made it clear that the rebellion of Robert and Heinrich belongs to the past. The use of voice-over as the old man tells his story reminds us that this past is very much the present for Heinrich. This contradiction is strengthened in the film by the absence of his few feeble gestures of rebellion—destroying medals, canceling breakfast, and so on. We only hear him say that he "would have given all the Crucifixions down the centuries to see Edith's smile again" (shot 118). His rebellion is an attitude, not an act.

The scene in which Robert and Heinrich fail to make their true feelings known to the abbot follows two sequences in which other characters attempt and fail to link present and past. In the first Joseph describes to his fiancée, Marianne, his father's rebelliousness and strength of principle but is unable to explain why he (Joseph) has suddenly lost interest in building (shot 123). The dilemma here is the same as in the novel: what role can the younger generation play if its progenitors already stand for both terrorism and respectability? The film does not, as does the novel, follow this to the point of suggesting the self-destructiveness of the young represented by Joseph's daredevil driving. Instead, as in the case of Hugo, their environment is simply revealed to be very restricted in its possibilities. Whereas Hugo's hotel environment is corrupt and vain, the space in which all other young characters move is virtually empty. As Joseph gives his inconclusive description of his father, the camera tracks backward to keep Joseph and Marianne in a close shot as they walk toward the camera along empty railroad tracks and power lines, a setting that could even suggest death, as Straub has noted.

After having followed Joseph and Marianne's inconclusive movement for almost two full minutes, the next sequence stresses Schrella's movement as he returns to his childhood home and also fails to connect past and present. In shot 125, he denies recognizing the sister of Ferdi Progulske, the childhood friend who was executed. Schrella is then seen crossing a large open field, walking away from the stationary camera, toward the workers' apartments in the background of the long shot. Conventional narrative would be likely to use editing or camera movement to trace Schrella's progress toward his former home, but this uncut shot (126) stresses the distance in time and space by forcing the character to do all the work and the audience to work with him. It is not an easy task: he walks slowly, and at the end of the long fourteen seconds of the shot, the field is still empty and the apartments still far away. The next shot extends this feeling of distance and difficult movement by contrasting


means. Schrella is not seen arriving at his door, but instead a 300-degree pan slowly takes in the look of the street, with no sign of familiarity. Just as the foreignness and difficulty were stressed in shot 126 by the camera's not following the character (not helping him and the audience to make progress and feel at home), shot 127 stresses foreignness also by the absence of cutting. A cut to a shot of Schrella at the door would have implied that the circular pan had been from his point of view, but instead, at the end of the pan, the camera discovers Schrella and the little girl at the door, and no point of view for Schrella is established. He is a foreigner here, in strictly cinematic terms. His foreignness in time is stressed by the abbreviated dialogue—which leaves out his emotional suspense described in the novel. He asks, "Yes, the Schrellas, don't they live here anymore?" and the girl replies with certainty, "No, they never lived here." In the novel, the child suggests that someone else may know the Schrellas, but the film lets the word "never" from the mouth of a small child resonate in all its ironic finality.

These three shots of Schrella (125–127) and the one in which Schrella reflects on his failure to confront the past (130) bracket the shots with the abbot, which document a similar failure on the part of Robert and Heinrich (yet in the novel, Schrella's lines are adjacent to the dialogue with the child). This series of shots, 125 to 130, therefore, represents a climax of the film as a monument to the failure of these characters to do anything in the present that restores any life to their past.

A turning point in the narrative exists in the brief moments of communication between fathers and sons. The novel includes two such instances, where fathers ask their sons for advice. The initial instance between Robert and Hugo, whom Robert intends to adopt, is in both the novel and the film. In the final scene of the novel, a parallel exchange takes place between Robert and Heinrich. Heinrich refuses to receive a visitor by the name of Gretz, who had denounced his own mother to the Nazis, with the aside, "Or do you consider this the time and place, Robert, to receive a cerain Mr. Gretz?"[32] This exchange is replaced by a conversation in which Heinrich finally reveals to Robert his acceptance of the destruction of the abbey he designed (shots 115–122), a parallel to Robert telling Hugo, "I would have blown St. Severin's sky high" (shot 36). The unity brought about by this conversation is conveyed by the simple use of conventional reverse angle editing: For a few minutes the audience is allowed to see the speaker (almost) from the listener's point of view, and as Heinrich begins to say "I would have given all the Crucifixions down the centuries . . . ," the shot is cut to a reverse angle of Robert listening. In a conventional film, this kind of cut would be transparent, merely the narrative device expected by the audience to link speaker and listener. But in the context of this film, the rare use of a conventional cut also succeeds in meaning that communication is, for once, taking place between these two people. It happens at no other time in the film. Earlier they have only met on the way to and from


their visits to Johanna, passing each other between two doors—another sign of the limits of their action.

A third conversation completes the pattern of Robert's recollection of the past in the present: again he speaks in the billiard room, this time to Schrella. Here again, Robert is confined. Because of a high camera angle we do not even see the window anymore. Robert leans against the white door and speaks with Schrella about how so many people from their past have either died, disappeared, or been rendered harmless. Their reaction to the present is one of passive cynicism—the "opposition" is no different from the governing party, even "the list of stereotypes has dwindled" (shot 150). The only action to be spoken of here is that of going to Heinrich's party and of adopting Hugo, but there is no visible motion outside the realm of the family and the past. Since Hugo will be joining the family, he is sent off to pack at the end of the sequence, but even his exit is heard and not seen.

Since paralysis has been a central motif of both novel and film, the increased motion of the characters is striking as they come together at the conclusion. This begins with Schrella's visit to his childhood home and Robert and Heinrich's conversation with the abbot, after which they meet Joseph and Marianna and get into a car to return to the city. Schrella is moving, too, and he speaks in the very next shot but for the only time in the film in voice-over. Like Robert and Heinrich, he, too, has denied the past and cannot act in the present, although the past would seem to demand it. Thus his voice-over, isolated in this single shot after the Faehmel family gathers, becomes a comment on their failure (shots 128–129) as well as on his own (shots 125–127). His words immediately follow the family's departure from the abbey: "I have sinned, have greatly sinned: I did not want to see any recognition light up in Erika Progulske's eyes, or hear Ferdi's name from her mouth." Shot 130 is linked to shot 129 through sound and camera movement as well: there is no dialogue in either shot, and the action is merely observed; Schrella's voice-over is not simultaneous with the shot of his walking toward the city but draws attention to the preceding shots.

The rare camera movement, which first appeared in shot 127, also links shots 129 and 130. As the Faehmel family leaves the abbey, the camera pans to follow their car for the full time it takes for it to leave the camera's field of vision. This occurs at the point where the door of the abbey enters the frame, so the camera tilts up and rests on the spire of the abbey. The symbol of the cultural continuity that Robert and Heinrich had wished to see destroyed triumphs once again. Shot 130 resonates with this motion by way of a similar pan from left to right that finds Schrella in a position similar to that of Robert's first memory in the film—on a bridge over the Rhine ("a pagan river," as Straub has called it).[33] By contrast, instead of explaining his persecution by the others (shot 7), he is now confessing his sin. The pan also follows Schrella as he begins his return to the city, ending with a view toward the spire of the cathedral (St.


Severin's). This is both a parallel to the abbey in the previous shot and an indication of the destination of all the characters. The action converges in the hotel, facing the cathedral.

Just as all the other characters in the novel are separated from Johanna by their varying relationships to time and the past, these shots separate the others from Johanna by way of the voice-over commentary and the return from a failed pilgrimage. Johanna's manner of existing in the film is unique, and her motion is the only one that has consequences. Of the three characters who narrate the past—Robert, Heinrich, Johanna—Johanna is the only one whose stories are not related through voice-over and who speaks both of the link between past and present and of taking action to free her dead son (fallen in World War I) from the bad influences that survived him. Robert does not tell Hugo that Nettlinger has become a government minister. The audience must make this connection. But Johanna does make this connection with Vacano: "I shall be the Lord's instrument: I have patience, time doesn't press me. One shouldn't use powder and wadding but powder and lead; crackers do not kill, my boy. You should have asked me: now he has become Chief of Police" (shot 109). For Robert and Heinrich, there is a gap between past and present—signified by the detached flashback shots and the voice-over—that does not exist for Johanna. The correspondence to the stream-of-consciousness narration in the novel's chapter 5 is very strong here. For this narration on the basis of thoughts, all time merges into a psychological present. The film stresses Johanna's uniqueness in this respect by not using voice-over for her reminiscences, although Robert speaks in voice-over even in the short time he leaves her room to "talk" to his dead brother Otto. For Johanna there is only the present, in which past and future are linked. Therefore, even though she speaks of the same past to which Heinrich and Robert have referred in their flashback sequences, she always speaks on camera as if she were narrating events that are taking place now.

As all the other characters move together toward the city in the spirit of failure just described, Johanna begins to move as well. The filming of her departure from the sanatorium is similar only to Schrella's pilgrimage in the film, but, unlike him, she does achieve her goal. First the distance and the time she must cross to reenter reality are revealed in two long shots, 138 and 139. The first shows the door of the sanatorium, then Johanna walking out the door and around the building to the garden. The stationary camera and slow pace (the shot lasts 33 seconds) heighten the significance of Johanna's simple short walk. The next shot (39 seconds long) does the same, as Johanna is shown walking away from the camera through a long greenhouse, but this time she does not leave the frame. Unlike Robert and Heinrich, who are associated with closed doors and restricted motion, Johanna opens the greenhouse door and shockingly transforms the right half of what was a very two-dimensional composition into extreme depth of field. There is also an open window in the


Martha Ständner as Johanna Faehmel in 
Not Reconciled.  Courtesy Straub/Huillet.

upper left of the composition, a black square in the gray building beyond the greenhouse. Finally, as her goal is achieved (she gets the gardener's pistol from his worktable), she is seen in a close shot and the camera now follows her in a pan as she leaves: the resistance has been overcome, but even this third shot lasts 35 seconds, bringing the total to 107 seconds for this single act. In cinematic terms, Johanna's action began when her black gloves were seen in the mirror as she prepared to leave (shot 137). Straub went to great pains to keep this image because it is reminiscent of Cocteau's Orphée .[34] Through this mirror, Johanna is reentering life.

After the long process of liberation contained in her journey to get the gun, her journey to the hotel need not be shown. Instead, we see her telephone the hotel to reserve room 212 "with balcony," and as we see and hear the porter on the other end say the word "balcony," the setting shifts to the hotel and remains there. The next shot (145) is of a window opening onto the balcony adjacent to the one on which Johanna will next be seen. Thus her motion, so slowly and painfully begun, exerts influence on the narrative of the next several scenes: she calls the hotel, which becomes the scene of action until she fires the pistol; only then does the setting shift again. This points out Straub/Huillet's technique of establishing location by way of its relevance to structure rather than through the omniscient storytelling convention of establishing shots. We


Martha Ständner as Johanna Faehmel in 
Not Reconciled . Courtesy Museum of Modern Art.

are never shown the Prince Heinrich Hotel from outside, and it is in reality a composite of several locations. Instead we come to know it by way of its relevant elements: Hugo, the desk clerk, the billiard room, the windows, balconies, and draperies, and the proximity to St. Severin's.

Inside the hotel, the power plotting of the politicians visually and narratively balances the cynical passivity of Robert and Schrella, and the two sequences are bracketed by Johanna's action, which opposes them both. She is the character whose confrontation with the present ends neither in compromising resignation nor in the refuge of the family. Her return to the hotel by way of a telephone call also places her opposite the powers behind Mr. M., an unidentified politician, who also conclude their business by telephone. This makes it all the more logical that she next appear opposite him on the corresponding balcony. As Straub has noted, Johanna and M. are linked by the word "balcony" as well, with which both their scenes end (145, 148).[35]

The confinement in the sequence between Robert and Schrella is contrasted with Johanna's ultimate freedom in shot 159 as she fires her pistol. This shot stands alone in the film both as the climax of its action and as a structural keystone. In Straub's view, the sense of freedom in this shot rests on its being uncut.[36] The only motion within the shot is that of Heinrich, who walks into the frame from the side, speaks to Johanna, then leaves the frame by walking


toward and past the camera. The camera begins in medium shot, tracks in to record the exchange between the two characters, then tracks out again as Heinrich leaves, to frame Johanna in the window as she raises her arm to shoot.

Like the similarly structured shot of Karl and Therese discussed in regard to the film Class Relations (chap. 8), this shot stands against and comments on the rest of the film in many ways. It records the unity of character, location, and time, since all other such units in the film contain at least two shots. For instance, freedom has often been suggested by the windows in the film—in the billiard room, in Johanna's room, or as the avenue of communication for the young Johanna and Heinrich. Here, finally, Johanna stands outside the window on the balcony. Having left the barely suggested hotel behind her, she is virtually suspended in space. This departure is amplified by the fact that St. Severin's—referred to as a potential target earlier in the film—now virtually fills the screen with its dark weight. Johanna's manner of uniting past and present is again unique. It has already been noted how in this moment Johanna unites past and future in choosing which villain to shoot at. In cinematic terms, however, it is important that these targets not be visible: the cause-and-effect thrill of the shooting is irrelevant to its purpose in the film. Instead the image of the woman with her arm raised to fire, suspended outside the hotel room opposite the cathedral facade, culminates the intersection of the history of her family with German history. As the novel states, the target is not merely a person (Mr. M.) but respectability; the film shows, therefore, the cathedral and not the minister as the "target."

Thus Johanna's shot contrasts her not only with her invisible target, M., but also with her husband (who advises but does not stand with her), her passive son, and all the other partial and contingent acts in the film. Her act alone is visually balanced and framed, sovereign, self-contained, and complete—except for the extension of the pistol hand into offscreen space.

The concluding five shots of the film alter the narrative resolutions of the novel. In the novel, the gunshot serves as a way of bringing together the entire family at one point in time, but the film records no simultaneous reaction to the gunshot. Instead, it concentrates on action outside the hotel after the shooting. As in the novel, Joseph, Marianne, and Leonore (Robert's secretary) are visiting the Roman Children's Graves under the city when the shot is fired, but the sound is omitted (shot 162). In addition to recalling Robert's passion for demolition (and the discovery of an "older" past), these shots return the film to the more normal pace and content of everyday life. Yet the dialogue unites past, present, and future for the characters, which happens only at isolated instances in the film. In addition, these characters are the only ones in the film who move from place to place in the town center: they are seen arriving at the Cafe Kroner to be told the old man's party has been canceled. The young people apprehend what has happened and move in accordance with it. The final shot, as a commemoration of Johanna's act, also culminates its significance.


Camera movement again reveals relationships by sweeping across the family sitting around a huge birthday cake in the architects' studio. But this time the pan begins with the characters instead of ending with them. First it records the united family and the twofold expectation for the future: personally, that Johanna will return, and politically, that "the look of astonishment will not disappear from his [M.'s] face." After documenting the presence of all the characters together for the only time in the film, the pan quickly continues—against the direction of their gazes—to the window, again the avenue of freedom. Outside is the Rhine, with all its ambivalent associations for Straub, but as the screen fades to white to the accompaniment of the music of Bach, the image becomes the visual opposite and fulfillment of Johanna's pose to fire the pistol from the balcony. All traces of the constraints of history and cultural monuments are removed; the cathedral is gone. Only the music suggests a link between liberation and continuity. It is the same Bach suite Johanna had disrupted in an earlier flashback to World War I by muttering the litany "the fool of a kaiser." But here the overture is played, a new beginning.[37] This liberation becomes all the more convincing when one compares the camera movement to the window with the final scene of the novel: The united family there witnesses Heinrich's destruction of the abbey in cake form, the cathedral's substitute. The film manages to do away with the real thing.

The placement of the fictional narrative of the novel within a context of documentary elements and the freedom created by the filmmakers' formal decisions are important aspects of Not Reconciled as well as of the films to be examined in following chapters. For Straub/Huillet, documentary is fundamental to all film art.[38] Even the fictional drama contained In Not Reconciled is documentary on one level: a documentary of its (re)enactment, its quotation from the novel. Just as the words of the novel do not openly express emotion, neither does the style with which Straub/Huillet present them. The texts are offered as documents, facts—placed in a context but not interpreted.

The documentary nature of the film's setting is a separate element and provides a fruitful sense of context for the words, acts, and characters of the novel. For instance, the monument to the young people executed by the Gestapo is the real basis for the fiction of the novel. The Cologne cathedral in the film is at once St. Severin's and itself. Cologne is both the real, contemporary city and the setting of the novel's fiction. The film is able to surpass the novel in this ambivalence most effectively in the merging of Heinrich Faehmel's past and German history. When documentary footage from World War I is introduced (shots 79–88), Heinrich is no longer the narrator telling his personal story; Straub/Huillet's camera is no longer even the one doing the filming. The viewer is forced to place Heinrich's story in both a historical and an aesthetic context that has a reality prior to and independent of the film. A similar effect is achieved by the documentary photos projected behind the abbot to depict the destruction of the abbey and other religious/cultural treasures (shots 66–76).


Here the split between fiction and documentary is synchronous. The newsreel segments are embedded in Straub/Huillet's fictional narrative, while the back projections make the viewer aware that two cameras, that of Straub/Huillet and that of a historical documentarist, have recorded two temporally separate realities. The subjects, then, are also brought into contrast. The abbey was "needlessly" blown up by Robert, while Monte Cassion—the real monument in the photo—was destroyed in a costly battle justified by the rationality of war. While stressing the artificiality of the cinematic image, Straub/Huillet also stress historical facts that must be addressed.

Rather than negating feeling, I argue that the film's formal structure actually increases the audience's freedom to respond emotionally as well as intellectually. For instance, since Robert's achievement has been to keep memory from becoming feeling, Johanna's act provides a great release of pure feeling in the film. In the long shots that follow her—each over thirty seconds—stasis becomes motion, darkness becomes light. The audience's freedom of response is preserved in the climax of the film as well, where Johanna fires the pistol from the balcony (shot 159). Straub stresses that the old woman is truly free because the shot contains no cuts. The audience, however, is free for the same reason. The distance provided by the form leaves the motivation up to the character: she sees the targets, she has the mission to fulfill (i.e., the liberation of her character), and she decides to lift the pistol to fire. For the first time in the film, her husband gives her advice. This communication between them, not found in the novel, furthers the impression of the uniqueness of her act. The audience is allowed to contemplate this act from outside and as a whole but is not distracted by dramatic tension created by cuts to the politician or the military parade on the street. Instead, they are allowed to feel the significance of the drama: The camera moves, Heinrich moves, the decision is made, the action occurs all in real time and space. The full fifty-six seconds allow the event to register in full significance as opposed to the abbreviated actions of much of the rest of the film. The freedom of imagination and emotion granted the audience by this treatment of time has also been present in the scenes of Schrella's walk across the open field or Johanna's journey to get the gun. The time required for these emotionally significant events in the present contrasts with the brevity of the treatment of the victims, stressing their absence: Edith is seen in memory for fourteen seconds; Ferdi Progulske (the boy executed in 1935) is seen for eleven; the word "Jew" is spoken exactly once.

Composition, editing, camera movement, and motion within the shots all have an effect on the narrative and the emotions it can stimulate. Critics have often noted Straub/Huillet's preference for diagonals, for instance, but have underestimated the aesthetic and thematic significance of the contrast with more symmetrical composition.[39] Scenes in Not Reconciled involving the characters' inability to reconcile past and present are most often shot in


diagonals. In addition to making a simple set "vibrate with life,"[40] Straub/Huillet's diagonal shots keep the viewer from relaxing at the point of a perspective triangle in relation to the screen. In this way they are able to vary the sense of narrative space inherent in all three-dimensional pictorial representations. Not only is the viewer not at rest as the subject for whom the composition is created but the composition itself, devoid of a vanishing point or balanced perspective focus, contains lines of visual interest that come back into the frame rather than seek to escape to another triangular point opposite the viewer on the other side. The restlessness thus created makes it possible for the viewer to feel a new sensation when, for a good thematic reason, balanced perspective returns. The profound peacefulness of the shots regarding Johanna are examples, as is the reverse angle technique (the conventionally transparent device for linking people together in film space) as Robert and Heinrich speak to each other.

Another aspect of the freedom to feel allowed by such a strict style involves the emotional response to a type of acting that does not attempt to manipulate an emotional response. Just as the visual forms and rhythms are potential stimuli for emotion rather than transmitters, so, too, are the actors. Straub cherishes the example of old Heinrich in the film, on whom the text he recited over and over again begins to make a visible, personal impression: "The old man becomes simply human."[41] It is the shot in which Heinrich is speaking to Robert (who is offscreen) at the train station (shot 117).

It is very clear right in the middle of the shot when, without my having given him any direction, at the moment he says, "I had thought I loved and understood your mother, but only then did I understand her and love her," he spontaneously lowers his eyes behind the brim of his hat, and it is only when he continues, "and understand you all too, and love you," that he raises his eyes. It is obvious that is only possible because the text has become a part of him. At this moment he is truly a kind of "incarnate word," and even though at the beginning the text was strange to him, in spite of that, and actually because of that, he coincides with this "word" at its point of arrival.[42]

The strict form, precisely because it does not prescribe a certain emotional impact in advance, becomes a mechanism of creation and discovery for both filmmaker and audience. And such discoveries are documented, not manufactured, by the film.

The documentary character of the film as compared to the novel's fiction is paralleled by the film's "musical" structure, which both reflects and surpasses the patterns in the novel. To the structural variations of the cinematic devices noted above, one can add subtler considerations: the change in locations, the decline in the amount of time spent in each location as the film progresses, the increasing motion of the camera, the increasing motion of the characters within a single shot. Even the formal connection between words,


sounds, or visual elements ties the film together musically: the sound of the billiard balls, the gunshot, and the champagne cork (shots 3, 145, 159); the sight of names in print: Heinrich Faehmel (shot 56), Robert Faehmel (shot 30), Ferdinand Progulske (shot 17); or the sound of the word "lamb" applied in various contexts to the young Schrella (shot 7), Hugo (shot 12), Marianne (shot 123), and Edith (shot 112).

As freedom of action in a historical context is more strongly suggested in the film than in the novel, so is the critical aspect of that potential: nothing has yet been done. The novel strained unsuccessfully to resolve itself through a vague hope that the Faehmel family will offset the evils around them. But the structure of the film draws attention away from this narrative, anecdotal conclusion. The critique of the present in the film has been directed at both its lack of action and its lack of a clear connection with the past, but this critique in the film is leveled as much at Schrella and Robert as at Nettlinger. None of them visibly reveals what he was in the past, but only Schrella and Robert deny their past identities. Whereas the novel is at a loss to describe what has happened to make someone like Robert retreat, the documentary look of the film is somewhat able to compensate for this. There is no need to build up the suspense of Robert's obsessive routine to hide from his past. The film merely reminds the viewer that any contemporary could have a past such as Nettlinger's, Robert's, or Erika Progulske's. Robert is a kind of war criminal, as Straub points out.[43] The film places them in real settings in contemporary Germany. While the novel stopped at 1958 and looked back at 1945, the look of the film remains contemporary: telephones, hotels, billiard tables, and teacups have not changed; a Mercedes is still a Mercedes. And one must ask what it takes to preserve the smooth appearance of such continuity.


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