Happiness Is A Warm Gun is a search for meaning to the murder of Petra Kelly, the internationally celebrated German peace activist and environmentalist. The attitude that Thomas Imbach adopts is cynical, black-humoured, and distanced, yet it is nonetheless less poignant for all that posturing.
Petra Kelly was found dead in bed in October 92 of a bullet in the temple. Her devoted companion and lover, Gert Bastian, was sprawled at the doorway to the bedroom, also dead of a bullet in the head. A Derringer, its twin chambers empty, lay nearby. Police investigation concluded that no third party was involved.
Petra Kelly was 44 when she died, in the midst of an intense life, “a politician with no time for political parties”. Hers was the internationally known face of the Green Party. Hundreds of groups in many countries looked to her for inspiration and support.
General Gert Bastian was no less a personage than Petra Kelly, if not probably more. He was a war hero and commander of the 4th Tank Division, one of those Wehrmacht officers “who went back into military service to try to build a new kind of army for Germany”. He resigned from the Bundeswehr when Germany agreed to deploy NATO nuclear missiles on German soil.
Both Kelly and Bastian exemplified the intense and fanatical uprightness and sobriety of the post-war German class that sought to cleanse itself and its Fatherland from the despoliation of the previous disastrous decades. Their deaths were an indictment and a protest against a reality without hope, an acceptance that their political fight was lost.
Thomas Imbach uses the ploy of the belief that the soul is in limbo between the moment of death and its absorption into oblivion, that there is a rapid re-running of all the significant memories of a life in that limbo, by depositing Kelly and Bastian into the directionless hermeticism of an airport’s transit lounge and terminal, stuck between arrival from a known physical world and departure to an unknowable destination. The two souls struggle with each other and within themselves to achieve an understanding of their relationship as it existed in their lives gone past.
Linda Olsansky and Herbert Fritsch are outstanding in their iconoclastic representation of two iconic personalities. The result is poignant and sad and grievous: there is no understanding achieved, only a groping and a slipping over tortuous footholds of action and memory, over terrains of violence and desire.