Friday, December 1, 2023

Rehearsals for Living

Leben - BRD/How to Live in FRG (1990) - Farocki Screen Shot 2023-11-30 at 9.05.50 AM Screen Shot 2023-11-30 at 9.49.37 AM Screen Shot 2023-11-30 at 9.01.30 AM Screen Shot 2023-11-30 at 8.42.44 AM Screen Shot 2023-11-30 at 8.38.08 AM Screen Shot 2023-11-30 at 8.34.30 AM Screen Shot 2023-11-30 at 8.26.46 AM Screen Shot 2023-11-30 at 8.11.20 AM Filmed just before the dissolution of the East Germany, but came out afterward, Harun Farocki's Leben - BRD or How to Live in FRG (Federal Republic of Germany/West Germany) stands in contrast to both, the egalitarian (East) or capitalist (West) utopias that never have materialized. He knew that the West hadn't really won the Cold War game- that there was something inherently unnatural and inhuman about the advanced capitalist system in the West. Farocki strings series of 'how to' instructional videos of all kinds from all over West Germany, where people were enacting scenarios - from birth to death, intercut them with various household products - toilet seats, washers, drawers, car doors, going through rigorous and repeat stress tests.

It's 'how to' instructions on anything in life from sex, birth, caring for child, crossing the road, interacting with clients, customers, climbing out of a wrecked car, letting others know when locked out of your house, de-escalating arguments, reprehending a gun wielding hooligan, attacking the enemies in combat, stripping even, ANYTHING. Everything is prepped early on in life. There's an instruction for everything. Unlike other 'documentaries', Farocki's non-narrated film creates its own rhythm as it equates these 'learned' human behaviors to the repeated slamming of inanimate objects. All these activities are heavy on the business transactions and also law and order. The film shows a series of rehearsals to live 'actual life' as if you are not ready to live it yet.

Leben - BRD makes you wonder about human existence before all the technologies we have now. How did human beings survive without knowing how to have a baby without hurting either mother or a baby? How do we deal with difficult people without resorting to violence? The capitalist world is so complicated that it needs an Ikea instruction mauals on everything we do? The whole endeavors seem so patronizing. But that's the point Farocki is making. In this so-called free world, you need to be told early on how to live. How is it any different than the communist totalitarian society?

Often funny yet pointy, especially intercutting between the residents of a group home discussing and organizing their grocery list for dinner and people practicing dining table manners with empty plates and learning the orders of cutlery use.

Leben-BRD will make a great double feature with Godard's Germany Year 90 Nine Zero about East-West dynamics.

No comments:

Post a Comment