Filming Das Kapital

KlugeFredric Jameson in The New Left Review:

It is always good to have a new [Alexander] Kluge, provided you know what lies in store for you. His latest film, News from Ideological Antiquity—some nine hours long—is divided into three parts: I. Marx and Eisenstein in the Same House; II. All Things are Bewitched People; III. Paradoxes of Exchange Society. Rumour has it that Kluge has here filmed Eisenstein’s 1927–28 project for a film version of Marx’s Capital, whereas in fact only Kluge’s first part deals with this tantalizing matter. The rumour has been spread by the same people who believe Eisenstein actually wrote a sketch for a film on Capital, whereas he only jotted down some twenty pages of notes over a half-year period. And at least some of these people know that he was enthusiastic about Joyce’s Ulysses during much the same time and ‘planned’ a film on it, a fact that distorts their fantasies about the Capital project as well. Yet if Eisenstein’s notes for film projects all looked like this until some of them were turned into ‘real’—that is to say, fiction or narrative—films, it is only fair to warn viewers that Kluge’s ‘real’ films look more like Eisenstein’s notes.

Many important intellectuals have—as it were, posthumously—endorsed Marxism: one thinks of Derrida’s Spectres of Marx and of Deleuze’s unrealized Grandeur de Marx, along with any number of more contemporary witnesses to the world crisis (‘we are all socialists now’, etc.). Is Kluge’s new film a recommitment of that kind? Is he still a Marxist? Was he ever one? And what would ‘being a Marxist’ mean today? The Anglo-American reader may even wonder how the Germans in general now relate to their great national classic, with rumours of hundreds of Capital reading groups springing up under the auspices of the student wing of the Linkspartei. Kluge says this in the accompanying printed matter: ‘The possibility of a European revolution seems to have vanished; and along with it the belief in a historical process that can be directly shaped by human consciousness’. That Kluge believes in collective pedagogy, however, and in the reappropriation of negative learning processes by positive ones, in what one might call a reorientation of experience by way of a reconstruction of ‘feelings’ (a key or technical term for him): this is evident not only in his interpretive comments on his various films and stories, but also in such massive theoretical volumes as his Geschichte und Eigensinn—History and Obstinacy—written in collaboration with Oskar Negt.

All of these works bear on history; and of few countries can one say that they have lived so much varied history as Germany.