Harun Farocki - Leben - BRD aka How to Live in the German Federal Republic (1990)
Saturday, April 21, 2007
A critical dissection of modern life in Germany. Composed of thirty-two short scenes taken from instructional and training classes (on everything from stripping, to childbirth, to police tactics), Farocki's intention is to reveal Germany as a place where nothing occurs without rehearsal and preparation.
The author assembles a genre picture of the contemporary FRG with shots of scenes where life is rehearsed, ability/durability is tested. Wherever one looks, people appear as actors playing themselves; they take on roles. A play in the theater of life made up of training courses, fitness tests for things and people. Be it in birth preparation classes for expectant parents or in practice runs for sales talks, on the military training ground or during role-plays for educational purposes. Everywhere the incessant effort to be prepared for the emergency of "reality" can be felt. How To Live In The FRG assembles out of a wealth of details a picture of a society in which childbearing and dying, crying and taking care of people, crossing streets and killing are taught and learned in state or private institutions, indeed have to be learned. The real mechanical ballet is not danced by machines but by people, who move to a music that feeds on bombastic phrases from the realms of social work, bureaucracy and therapy. All together, the collected scenes appear to support the view that a mentality of insurance and providing for the future prevails in the FRG, a country in which happiness as well as misery are supposed to be disciplined by means of social techniques and freed from any measure of unpredictability. And yet How To Live In The FRG goes beyond such an interpretation. The participants in the games, tests, and therapy sessions are not degraded into pieces of evidence for some theory or other. They retain, to varying degrees, something of their dignity. This is a result of Farocki's working method:he has edited the scenes in such a way that even the most nonsensical occurrences as it were explain themselves. (Dietrich Leder, broadcast on February 23, 1990)
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