The existential dilemma of Kafka’s Amerika re-imagined as an insight into class struggle.
The dark and poetic visions of Czech writer and unlikely national hero Franz Kafka have often lent themselves to screen adaptations, but filmmakers Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet’s take on Amerika remains one of the most faithful to Kafka’s frustrating existential battle.
Moving away from the turmoil of an individual oppressed by a faceless authority, Class Relations seamlessly shifts the paranoia and overbearing bureaucracy to the realm of class struggle, where capitalism quashes all that comes up against it. Perfectly capturing the sense of hopelessness and lack of freedom that Kafka’s works ooze, Class Relations won multiple awards upon its release in the early 80s. –MIFF
Danièle Huillet was born on May 1, 1936 in France. After she had just finished high school in the 1950s, she met Jean-Marie Straube and both their professional and private lives have been closely intertwined ever since.
In 1958 they moved to Germany, and their 1965 production Not Reconciled (Nicht versöhnt, based on a novel by Heinrich Böll) caused a scandal at the Berlinale. This film was followed by adaptations of works by Corneille (Othon, 1969) and Bertolt Brecht (History Lessons or Geschichtsunterricht, 1972) and Arnold Schönberg’s opera Moses und Aron (1974/5), each in the somewhat unpopular manner of austere exercises. A great deal of attention was aroused by the Kafka adaptation Class Relations (Klassenverhältnisse, 1983, based on the unfinished Amerika/Der Verschollene). These films were followed by others dealing with literary greats such as Hölderlin and Sophocles. Since the 1970s Danièle Huillet and Jean… read more
Filmmaker Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet, his wife and co-director, have become leading figures in New German cinema. Their films are not for passive viewers seeking light entertainment; films such as Not Reconciled or Only Violence Helps Where Violence Rules (1965) are intellectually demanding, and yet are among the most haunting films of German cinema. Prior to teaming up with Huillet, the French born Straub worked as an assistant to French directors such as Abel Gance, Jean Renoir, and Robert Bresson. He met and teamed up with Huillet in 1954. To avoid the draft, he fled to Munich, Germany in 1958 where they got involved with radical theater groups. By the early sixties he and his wife had become a prominent directors. They made their debut with the short Machorka-Muff in 1963. In 1968, their long-time friend Fassbinder appeared in The Bridegroom, the Comedienne and the Pimp. Straub and Huillet’s most famous film is Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (1968). By the late ’60s… read more
A new translation of writer-critic Louis Seguin’s 1984 article on Straub-Huillet’s Class Relations.