Alexander Kluge

b. February 14, 1932, Halberstadt, Germany

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In February 1982 Rainer Werner Fassbinder wrote a short article for Berlinaletip, a special issue of the weekly Berlin cultural magazine Tip published during the Berlin Film Festival. It was entitled “Alexander Kluge is Supposed to Have Had a Birthday.” It reads as follows:

The rumour that Alexander Kluge is supposed to have turned fifty recently is as persistent as that other absolutely ridiculous assertion that this very same Kluge got married sometime toward the end of the year! It is reported that he actually went ahead and had a private matter officially institutionalized by an official state institution. An absurd notion—several hours’ worth of stirring movies by the filmmaker Kluge, as well as a whole lot of illuminating and stimulating prose by the writer Kluge, do document after all that it is one of his chief aims to call every kind of institution into question, particularly those of the state—if I interpret half way correctly—and if his work is not indeed even more radical, that is, designed to prove that basically Alexander Kluge is interested in the destruction of every type of institution. Furthermore—an anarchist just doesn’t go and turn fifty, the age at which people celebrate you. Categories like that are meaningless to him. I mean, it is precisely rumors of this sort about one of us, serving the purposes of cooptation, that make various things clear, and at the very least remind us of the necessity of continuing to struggle for our cause and of the eternal danger of growing weary in the face of gray, streamlined reality. (1)

I was reminded very clearly of Fassbinder’s words at the 2002 Berlinale when, on the 14th February, Alexander Kluge’s birthday, it seemed, became much more than a rumour. Exactly 20 years after Fassbinder’s impassioned article Alexander Kluge’s 70th birthday was celebrated with a gala screening of his film Die Patriotin (The Female Patriot, 1979) at the Berlinale as part of a tribute to his life-long contribution to German Cinema. I could picture Fassbinder turning in his grave! Had the anti-authoritarian, anti-institutional Alexander Kluge himself become an institution? At risk of offending Fassbinder and answering that question in the affirmative, I should like to sketch a brief portrait of Kluge, a figure who is not only a great filmmaker, but an intellectual, a storyteller, and one of the great cultural critics of our time.

On the subject of birthdays, I should begin by stating that Kluge was born in the town of Halberstadt in the vicinity of Magdeburg in 1932, the son of a doctor. After completing his high school education in Berlin, he studied Law, History and Music at universities in Marburg and Frankfurt am Main and received his doctorate in Law in 1956. During his studies in Frankfurt, Kluge became acquainted with Theodore Adorno at the Institute for Social Research (otherwise known as the Frankfurt School) where he performed legal services and began to write stories. It is through his discussions with Adorno in particular that Kluge became interested in film, despite the fact that Adorno was not himself a lover of film. As Kluge has recalled in an interview, “[Adorno] sent me to Fritz Lang in order to protect me from something worse, so that I wouldn’t get the idea to write any books. If I were turned away, then I would ultimately do something more valuable, which was to continue to be legal counsel to the Institute”. (2) In 1958 Adorno introduced Kluge to Fritz Lang, who was filming Der Tiger von Eschnapur and Das Indische Grabmal (1958-1959) in Berlin. Legend has it that Kluge found the experience rather tiresome and began to write stories in the studio cafeteria, stories that would eventually become material for his own films.

Yesterday Girl

In 1960 Kluge co-directed his first short film with Peter Schamoni entitled Brutality in Stone, a poetic montage film reflecting on the notion that the past lives on in architectural ruins; that the ruined structures of the Nazi period in particular bear silent witness to the atrocities committed. This film is important for a number of reasons: Brutality in Stone marks the beginning of a process in which German filmmakers of the 1960s and 1970s began to overturn the apparent amnesia German cinema had demonstrated during the 1950s in regard to the Nazi period. In addition, the film was premiered at the annual Oberhausen short film festival in February 1961. The festival was significant because it functioned as a forum for young and experimental filmmakers attempting to develop modes of cinematic practice outside the rigid, commercial framework of the industrial system—modelled on Hollywood—that had been set up with the assistance of American occupying forces in the immediate post-war period. A year after the premiere of Brutality in Stone at the Oberhausen festival, Kluge was one of the authors and signatories of the “Oberhausen Manifesto”, a document that outlined the imperatives of bringing a new kind of German cinema into being. (3) The 26 filmmakers, writers and intellectuals who signed the manifesto declared the old cinema dead and called for new intellectual, formal and economic conceptions of cinema to be brought into filmmaking practice, education and funding so that German cinema could distinguish itself through a new film language freed from the constraints of commerce. With the intellectual considerations in mind, Kluge co-founded, along with Edgar Reitz and Detlev Schleiermacher, the Ulm Institut für Filmgestaltung later in 1962, an institute not intended as a training ground for practitioners but as the theoretical arm of the New German Cinema. Kluge thus began his long career as a filmmaker, activist and spokesperson for what was then called the Young German Film, which would later develop into the New German Cinema in the latter half of the 1960s.

Just as the Oberhauseners maintained that German cinema could only be renewed through both theory and practice, so too Kluge’s cinematic practice would be unthinkable without his very particular and idiosyncratic contribution to film theory. A discussion of his films, therefore, would be not be possible without recourse to some of his most important theoretical concepts: montage, Phantasie, history/story and the development of a counter-public sphere through film. I shall therefore attempt to chart a way through these concepts as they are actualised through his filmmaking practice.

Alexander Kluge’s Theory of Montage: The Importance of the Interval

Through his writings on film and his films themselves, Kluge has sought to theorise and put into practice a new conception of montage distinct from both ‘invisible’ editing strategies of Hollywood and commercial film practice, and ‘dialectical’ montage as theorised and practiced by Sergei Eisenstein and the Soviet school of filmmakers.

Kluge’s theories of the cinema are founded on the conception that mainstream narrative cinema—not only Hollywood, but also importantly, ‘Papa’s Kino’ (the post-war German cinema denounced in the Oberhausen manifesto)—works by a process of closing off the ability for the spectator to engage their imaginative faculties while watching a film. Kluge does not simply take for granted the notion of spectator as passive observer. For him, under the right circumstances—that is, those circumstances created by the right kind of film—the spectator can assume a much more active role during the screening of a film.

Kluge aspires consciously in his various roles as filmmaker, theorist, and activist to develop new modes of constructing films that will in turn provide the spectator with new and more active ways of engaging with such films; ways of activating the spectator’s own capacity to make connections between vastly disparate images.

Artists Under the Big Top: Disorientated

Kluge’s theory of montage hinges on his conception of the ‘cut’. As Stuart Liebman has written, this theory “pivots around the break in the flow of images, the cut between shots, or the cut to a title.” (4) This emphasis on the cut opens up a space for the spectator to enact her or his own imagination, or what Kluge calls Phantasie. (5) Kluge’s films are constructed from an array of diverse fragments such as photographs, archival film footage, illustrations from fairy tales and children’s books as well as paintings, drawings, intertitles and fictional episodes. In addition, the soundtracks of his films generally consist of a range of discordant elements including voice-over narration (usually performed by himself), various pieces of classical and operatic music, and other sounds such as air-raid sirens, bombing raids and aeroplanes that are not always necessarily motivated by or synchronised with the images they accompany. Rather than putting these fragments together with a final “ideal meaning” in mind, Kluge places the emphasis on the role of the spectator in the production of meaning. The looser the logical connection, or wider the gap between consecutive images, the more space is left for the spectator to activate her or his own Phantasie. Kluge is therefore, not interested in ‘conquering the spectator’ or directing them toward a predetermined series of associations, as was the case with Eisenstein’s dialectical approach, but his theory of montage is interested in involving the spectator in the production of meaning, effectively making them “co-producers” of the film. (6) As such he relies on the spectator’s own capacity to make connections between the diverse fragments. This is what Kluge calls the “film in the mind of the spectator”, a capacity which he believes has existed for thousands of years, long before the technological invention of cinema. Kluge writes: “film takes recourse to the spontaneous workings of the imaginative faculty which has existed for tens of thousands of years.” (7) This capacity to make connections is an ability to edit together images and experiences into something meaningful, to see the hidden correspondences between diverse things, a capacity that is not unlike Walter Benjamin’s notion of ‘involuntary memory’. (8) Montage, for Kluge, which is certainly not equivalent to the editing of the filmstrip, occurs between the film and the spectator, and within the spectator’s own mind.

Kluge’s theory of montage allows the spectator to engage in an act of reading that requires, as Gilles Deleuze has said of “false continuity”, “a considerable effort of memory and imagination”. (9) Rather than ‘effort’ as such, Kluge advocates the adoption of a rather relaxed attitude on the part of the spectator. He has written: “Relaxation means that I myself become alive for a moment, allowing my senses to run wild: for once not to be on guard with the police-like intention of letting nothing escape me.” (10)

In a playful episode of The Female Patriot, Kluge shows his protagonist Gabi Teichert (Hanelore Hoger) confronting a voyeur, ‘Der Spanner‘. Rather than simply condemning this man for his perverse activities, she listens to him. He complains that he is unable to relax, since during the day he is paid by the government to spy on people suspected of unconstitutional behaviour, and by night he spies on unsuspecting young women for voyeuristic pleasure. But the possibility of gaining pleasure from such an activity is inhibited by his inability to relax, as he watches women with the same ‘police-like’ concentration that he must adopt in his day job. The voyeur, therefore, becomes a figural representation of a cinema spectator who cannot simply relax and allow the images and sounds to wash over them. Gabi suggests to the voyeur that in order to relax he should do a number of eye-blinking exercises. These exercises in effect mimic Kluge’s process of montage, creating gaps or black/blank spaces between images, disrupting continuity and therefore opening a space in which the spectator can engage her or his imagination. Kluge encourages the spectator not to worry about piecing everything together. As he says, “If I have understood everything then something has been emptied out.” (11) Indeed, the fragmented and non-linear and sometimes cluttered structure of his films invite the spectator to view them over and over, since a full appreciation cannot be gained through a single viewing.

The Concept of Phantasie

Kluge believes that the aesthetic and political possibilities of cinema should and can be based on subjective modes of experience. A term frequently used by Kluge in his writings on the notion of spectatorship in the cinema is that of ‘Phantasie,’ (literally, ‘fantasy’) and this term acquires a very particular meaning in the context of his work. Phantasie is not like the English term ‘fantasy’ in the sense described by psychoanalysis, but is more akin to imagination. It equates with the spectator’s ability to make connections between disparate things and it hinges on Kluge’s conception of montage.

Kluge writes:

…since every cut provokes phantasy, a storm of phantasy, you can even make a break in the film. It is exactly at such a point that information is conveyed. This is what Benjamin meant by the notion of shock. It would be wrong to say that a film should aim to shock the viewers—this would restrict their independence and powers of perception. The point here is the surprise which occurs when you suddenly—as if by subdominant thought processes—understand something in depth and then, out of this deepened perspective redirect your phantasy to the real course of events. (12)

In other words, Phantasie is that which lies beneath the guarded exterior of the stimulus shield, and it is Phantasie that is set free when shock is able to break through the barrier.

Kluge has often invoked the figure of the child as the ideal spectator of his films. Kluge contrasts his cinema with that of conventional narrative cinema with an evocation of two different kinds of landscape. He writes:

At the present time there are enough cultivated entertainment and issue-oriented films, as if cinema were a stroll on walkways in a park…One need not duplicate the cultivated. In fact children prefer the bushes: they play in the sand or in scrap heaps. (13)

The Blind Director

That he invokes the figure of the child in this image is important both politically and conceptually. On one level, it is the child who, for Kluge and the other ‘Young’ German filmmakers of the 1960s, represented the hope for cinema, the antidote to the mass-produced products of ‘Papa’s Kino,’ those films that simply stuck to the well-worn garden paths. On a conceptual level, it is the child who is least ‘cultivated’, least affected by the teachings of ‘cultured’ society. The child is the one who is open to new experiences, who has not yet learnt to raise her or his defences against the shocks that modern life deals us. It is the child who is able to raise a ‘storm of Phantasie‘, It is children who play in the sand and on the scrap heaps; the material result of the effects of time and weather upon what was once solid stone, and children are today’s allegorists, the ones who are able to pick up a discarded thing—the unwanted junk of society, the refuse of mass production (the modern form of the ruin in a ‘disposable’ society)—a bottle top or a paper bag for instance, and imagine in each scrap an entire universe to be explored. This childlike capacity, according to Kluge, is what one must bring to the filmmaking process, from the point of view of the filmmaker and the spectator alike.

Although children rarely appear in Kluge’s films, it is perhaps for this reason that many of his protagonists often exhibit rather child-like traits. Many of his female protagonists in particular, such as Anita G (Alexandra Kluge) in Yesterday Girl (1966), Leni Peickert (Hannelore Hoger) in Artists under the Big Top: Disorientated (1967), Roswitha Bronski (Alexandra Kluge) in Part-Time Work of a Domestic Slave (1973) and Gabi Teichert in The Female Patriot, enter situations with a childlike but never infantile sense of curiosity and inquisitiveness, mimetically exploring and engaging with the world around them.


A certain level of playfulness can also be discerned in Kluge’s approach to history in both his fictional and documentary films. Kluge has written of his own debt to the history of cinema, particularly the silent cinema of the 1920s, and has articulated his approach to history with this history in mind. He writes:

I wouldn’t be making films if it weren’t for the cinema of the 1920s, the silent era. Since I have been making films it has been in reference to this classical tradition. Telling stories, this is precisely my conception of narrative cinema; and what else is the history of a country but the vastest narrative surface of all? Not one story but many stories. (14)

Kluge resists the dominant practice of constructing grand historical narratives, but rather conceives of history as a vast collection of stories. His model for such a conception of history is drawn from the Brothers Grimm, who, as a voice-over in The Female Patriot states, “went digging into German history and found fairytales”. In the context of a film about a history teacher dissatisfied with the poor materials she has to teach history with, this is a double-edged statement. Not only is he suggesting that History (with a capital ‘H’) represents the past as a series of stories that tell only a limited and often fictionalised version of events, but that, in a more productive way, fictional stories such as fairytales bring with them living traces of the past into the present, just as ruins served such a purpose in Brutality in Stone and just as his films ultimately attempt to do by drawing upon the cinema’s own past.

In addition, Kluge advocates a particularly subjective approach to history, evidenced in some of his non-fiction films featuring average individuals. For example Fire Fighter E. A. Winterstein (1968) and A Doctor From Halberstadt (1970) (featuring Kluge’s father), which both at times dwell upon seemingly banal and undramatic moments, moments that would usually end up on the cutting room floor, moments that my colleague, the historian Judith Keene might call the “dandruff of history”.

Germany in Autumn

This subjective approach can also be seen in the impulse behind the collaborative film Germany in Autumn (1977–78), a film made in response to the events of the Autumn of 1977 when a leading German industrialist Hans-Martin Schleyer was kidnapped and killed by RAF terrorists attempting to secure the release of three prominent leaders of the RAF’s Baader-Meinhof group, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Enslin, and Jean-Carl Raspe, who subsequently committed suicide (or, some believe were murdered) in prison. The film consists of a series of documentary and fictional sequences marked at either end by footage of two funerals. At the beginning we see the state funeral of Schleyer and at the end the joint funerals of Baader, Enslin and Raspe. In a large part the film was made in response not so much to the events themselves, but to the selective filtering of information of the events by the media, fuelling and supporting the restraints placed on civil liberties and freedom of information by the government. As several of the film’s collaborators have said: “It is something seemingly simple which roused us: the lack of memory…For two hours of film we are trying to hold onto memory in the form of a subjective momentary impression.” (15) The film is not, therefore a documentary detailing the events that took place, but rather the collection of divergent impressions about a particularly volatile and emotive moment in Germany’s political and social history. It was for this film that Kluge created the character of the history teacher Gabi Teichert who became the protagonist of The Female Patriot.

Counter-Public Sphere and Alternative Modes of Production

Kluge’s films are very much an expression of many of the tenets addressed in the Oberhausen manifesto, as well as of Kluge’s own writings, particularly regarding the role film should play in the public sphere of the Federal Republic. Kluge was particularly concerned with the fact that the new cinema that they hoped to create would be completely ineffectual unless there was a public ready to receive its products. To a certain extent, Kluge’s films can be seen as an attempt to educate the audience in ways of seeing, appropriate not only to Kluge’s own films, but to those of his colleagues as well. Many of Kluge’s films show the allegorical system at work in them, sometimes by the use of a voice-over narrator, or by the confused or disoriented characters that often inhabit his films, and in whom we, the confused and disoriented spectators, can see ourselves. (16) Kluge advocates the development of a kind of counter-cinema in order to generate an alternative public sphere. Miriam Hansen has written most eloquently on this point:

As a medium that organizes human needs and qualities in a social form, the existing public sphere maintains a claim to be representative while excluding large areas of people’s experience. Among the media that increasingly constitute the public sphere, the cinema lags behind on account of its primarily artisanal mode of production (in Germany, at least), preserving a certain degree of independence thanks to state and television funding. This ironic constellation provides the cinema with a potential for creating an alternative, oppositional public sphere within the larger one, addressing itself primarily to the kinds of experience repressed by the latter. Thus the cinema’s intervention aims not only at the systematic non- or misrepresentation of specific issues—eg. family, factory, security, war and Nazism—but also the structure of the public sphere itself. (17)

Part-Time Work of a Domestic Slave

In some cases, therefore Kluge even advocates a kind of cinematic understanding of the world through his female protagonists, such as Roswitha Bronski in Part-Time Work of a Domestic Slave, a character who performs illegal abortions in her kitchen, so that women may have the chance to choose their own way in life, rather than have their lives and their reproductive systems presided over by the male-dominated legal system and dictated to them by the conventional structures of the dominant public sphere. In the opening image of the film, a voice-over introduces us to Roswitha, who looks directly into the camera. The voice (Kluge’s own) says: “Roswitha feels an enormous power within her, and films have taught her that this power really exists.” This is the power of subjective experience and what Kluge refers to as female modes of production. Through the presentation of women in his films, Kluge hopes to present an alternative mode of production. This is based not on rationalised modes of industrial production that have come to govern our lives since the advent of the industrial and technological revolutions, but on a female productive force (not to be equated with pure biological reproduction). He believes this force is manifested by women in their constant struggle against patriarchal social and political structures such as archaic laws that effectively maintain control over, and attempt to contain and limit, women’s bodies and desires. (18) Kluge’s theorisation of a female productive force and his female protagonists, I believe, serve as a refreshing antidote to the dominant cinema’s representation of active, desiring women as evil femmes fatales simultaneously desired and feared by men. Kluge’s women possess agency as they playfully negotiate their own way through the public sphere on their own terms.


Since 1988, Kluge has primarily worked in television, and has not made a film since 1986. His work in television consists of cultural, magazine and interview programs for various German television stations, including 10 vor 11 and Primetime/Spätausgabe for RTL, News & Stories for SAT.1, and Mitternachtsmagazin for VOX. These programs are produced in a small studio in Munich by his own production company, and began with the aim of securing ten percent of airtime for independent productions. Not unlike his films, these programs employ a diverse variety of image and sound fragments intended to give the television viewer a multi-sensory and multi-dimensional experience. At a discussion following the screening of a new documentary on Kluge’s work in television, Kluge stressed the fact that the opportunity for working collaboratively is one thing that attracts him to the medium of television. In fact, when asked why he has not made any films since 1986, he simply replied, “if anyone out there wishes to make a film with me, collaboratively, then I would make films again, but I no longer have the desire to be an auteur, I want to work collaboratively.” Perhaps Kluge did take heed of Fassbinder’s words after all, and to this day still resists the temptation to submit to the rules of the institution, continuing to mount what he once called a “revolution from below”. (19)

Alexander Kluge


The filmography contains the following information about the films where known:

Screenplay (S), Cinematography (C), Editor (E), Producer (P), Principle actors or subjects if a documentary (A), film format and running time. I have included the English title only where the film has been released under an English title.

Brutalität in Stein (Brutality in Stone, 1960) Co-directed with Peter Schamoni. S. & P. Alexander Kluge, Peter Schamoni. C. Wolf Wirth. 35 mm. B & W. 12 min.

Rennen (1961) Co-directed with Paul Kruntorad. P. Rolf A. Klug, Alexander Kluge. E. Bessi Lemmer. 35 mm. B & W. 9 min.

Lehrer im Wandel (1962–63) Co-directed with Karen Kluge. P. Alexander Kluge. C. Alfred Tichawsky. E. Alexander Kluge. 35 mm. B & W. 11 min.

Porträt einer Bewährung (1964) S. Alexander Kluge. P. Kairos-Film. C Winfried E. Reinke, Günter Hörmann. E. Beate Mainka. A. Polizeihauptwachtmeister Müller-Seegeberg. 35 mm. B & W. 13 min.

Abschied von Gestern (Yesterday Girl, 1965–66) S. Buch: Alexander Kluge, Based on his short story “Anita G.” P. Kairos-Film, München, Independent-Film, Berlin. C. Edgar Reitz, Thomas Mauch. E. Beate Mainka. A. Alexandra Kluge, Günther Mack, Hans Korte, Alfred Edel. Voice-over. Alexander Kluge. 35 mm. B & W. 88 min.

Frau Blackburn, geb. 5. Jan. 1872, wird gefilmt (1967) S. Alexander Kluge. P. Kairos-Film. C. Thomas Mauch. E. Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus. A. Martha Blackburn, Herr Guhl. 35 mm. B & W. 14 min.

Die Artisten in der Zirkuskuppel: Ratlos (Artists Under the Big Top: Disorientated, 1967). S. Alexander Kluge. P. Kairos-Film. C. Günter Hörmann, Thomas Mauch. E. Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus. A. Hannelore Hoger, Alfred Edel, Siegfried Gaue, Bernd Hoeltz, Kurt Jürgens. Voice-over Alexandra Kluge, Hannelore Hoger, Herr Hollenbeck. 35 mm. B & W and Colour. 103 min.

Feuerlöscher E. A. Winterstein (Fire Fighter E. A. Winterstein, 1968) S. Alexander Kluge. P. Kairos-Film. C. Edgar Reitz, Thomas Mauch. E. Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus. A. Alexandra Kluge, Hans Korte, Peter Staimmer, Bernd Hoeltz. 35 mm. B & W. 11 min.

Die unbezähmbare Leni Peickert (The Indomitable Leni Peickert, 1967–69) S. Alexander Kluge. P. Kairos-Film. C. Günter Hörmann, Thomas Mauch. E. Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus. A. Hannelore Hoger. 35 mm. B & W. 60 min.

Der grosse Verhau (The Big Mess, 1969–70) S. Alexander Kluge. P. Kairos Film. C. Thomas Mauch, Alfred Tichawsky; Extra Footage: Günter Hörmann, Hannelore Hoger, Joachim Heimbucher. E. Maximiliane Mainka, Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus. A. Vinzenz und Maria Sterr, Hannelore Hoger, Hark Bohm. 35 mm. B & W and Colour. 86 min.

Ein Arzt aus Halberstadt (A Doctor from Halberstadt, 1969–70) S. Alexander Kluge. P. Kairos-Film. C. Alfred Tichawsky, Günter Hörmann. E. Maximiliane Mainka. A. Dr. Ernst Kluge. 35 mm. B & W. 29 min.

Wir verbauen 3 x 27 Milliarden Dollar in einen Angriffschlachter (1971) S. Alexander Kluge, based on his story “Angriffsschlachter En Cascade”. P. Kairos-Film. C. Alfred Tichawsky, Günter Hörmann, Hannelore Hoger, Thomas Mauch. E. Maximiliane Mainka, Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus. A. Hark Bohm, Kurt Jürgens, Hannelore Hoger, Ian Bodenham. 35 mm. Colour and B & W. 18 min.

Willi Tobler und der Untergang der 6. Flotte (Willi Tobler and the Sinking of the Sixth Fleet, 1971). P. Kairos-Film. C. Dietrich Lohmann, Alfred Tichawsky, Thomas Mauch. E. Maximiliane Mainka, Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus. A. Alfred Edel, Helga Skalla, Hark Bohm, Kurt Jürgens, Hannelore Hoger. 35 mm. B & W and colour. 96 min.

Besitzbürgerin, Jahrgang 1908 (1973) S. Alexander Kluge. P. Kairos-Film. C. Thomas Mauch. E. Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus. A. Alice Schneider, Herr Guhl. 35 mm. B & W. 11 min.

Gelegenheitsarbeit einer Sklavin (Part-Time Work of a Domestic Slave, 1973) S. Alexander Kluge. P. Kairos-Film. C. Thomas Mauch. E. Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus. A. Alexandra Kluge, Franz Bronski (Bion Steinborn), Sylvia Gartmann, Traugott Buhre, Alfred Edel. 35 mm. B & W. 91 min.

In Gefahr und größter Not bringt der Mittelweg den Tod (In Danger and Deep Distress, the Middle Way Spells Certain Death, 1974) Co-directed with Edgar Reitz. S. Alexander Kluge, Edgar Reitz. P. RK-Film (Reitz-Film, Kairos-Film). C. Edgar Reitz, Alfred Hürmer, Günter Hörmann. E. Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus. A. Dagmar Bödderich, Jutta Winkelmann, Norbert Kentrup, Alfred Edel, Kurt Jürgens. 35 mm, B & W. 90 min.

Der starke Ferdinand (Strongman Ferdinand, 1975–76) S. Alexander Kluge, based on his story “Ein Bolschewist des Kapitals” P. Kairos-Film, Reitz-Film, München. C. Thomas Mauch, Martin Schäfer. E. Heidi Genée, Agape von Dorstewitz. A. Heinz Schubert, Verena Rudolph, Gert Günther Hoffmann, Heinz Schimmelpfennig. 35 mm. Colour. 97 min.

Zu böser Schlacht schleich ich heut Nacht so bang (1977) S. Alexander Kluge, Maximiliane Mainka. P. Kairos-Film. C. Dieter Lohmann, Alfred Tichawsky, Thomas Mauch. E. Maximiliane Mainka. A. Alfred Edel, Helga Skalla, Hark Bohm, Kurt Jürgens, Hannelore Hoger. 35 mm. Colour. 81 min.

Die Menschen, die das Stauffer-Jahr vorbereiten (1977) Co-directed with Maxamiliane Mainka. S. Maximiliane Mainka, Alexander Kluge. P. Kairos-Film; Institut für Filmgestaltung, Ulm. C. Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein, Alfred Tichawsky. E. Maximiliane Mainka. 35 mm. Colour and B & W. 40 min.

Nachrichten von den Stauffern I und II (1977) Co-directed with Maximiliane Mainka. S. Maximiliane Mainka, Alexander Kluge. P. Kairos-Film; Institut für Filmgestaltung, Ulm. C. Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein, Alfred Tichawsky. E. Maximiliane Mainka. 35 mm. B & W. Part I, 13 Min. Part II, 11 min.

Deutschland im Herbst (Germany in Autumn, 1978) Co-directed with Volker Schlöndorff, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Alf Brustellin, Bernhard Sinkel, Katja Rupe, Hans Peter Cloos, Edgar Reitz, Maximiliane Mainka, Peter Schubert. S. Heinrich Böll, Peter Steinbach and the directors. P. Pro-ject Filmproduktion im Filmverlag der Autoren, Kairos-Film, Hallelujah-Film. C. Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein, Michael Ballhaus, Günter Hörmann, Werner Lüring, Jürgen Jürges, Bodo Kessler, Dietrich Lohmann, Colin Mounier. E. Heidi Genée, Mulle Goetz-Dickopp, Tanja Schmidbauer, Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus, Christine Warnck, Juliane Lorenz. A. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Armin Meier, Liselotte Eder, Hannelore Hoger, Helmut Griem, Wolf Biermann, Horst Mahler, Vadim Glowna, Angelika Winkler, Franziska Walser. Voice-over, Alexander Kluge. 35 mm, Colour and B & W. 123 min.

Die Patriotin (The Female Patriot, 1979) S. Alexander Kluge. P. Kairos-Film. C. Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein, Petra Hiller, Thomas Mauch, Werner Lüring. E. Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus. “Bundeswehrlied” directed by Margarethe von Trotta. A. Hannelore Hoger, Alfred Edel, Dieter Mainka, Kurt Jürgens, Alexander von Eschwege, Beate Holle, Willi Münch. 35 mm, Colour and B & W. 121 min.

Der Kandidat (The Candidate, 1980) Co-directed and S. Stefan Aust, Alexander von Eschwege, Alexander Kluge, Volker Schlöndorff. P. Pro-jekt Filmproduktion im Filmverlag der Autoren, Bioskop-Film, Kairos-Film. C. Igor Luther, Werner Lüring, Thomas Mauch, Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein, Bodo Kessler. E. Inge Behrens, Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus, Jane Sperr, Mulle Goetz Dickopp. 35 mm. Colour and B & W. 129 min.

Krieg und Frieden (War and Peace, 1982–83) Co-directed with Stefan Aust, Axel Engstfeld, Volker Schlöndorff. S. Heinrich Böll and the directors. P. Pro-jekt Filmproduktion im Filmverlag der Autoren, Bioskop-Film, Kairos-Film. C. Igor Luther, Werner Lüring, Thomas Mauch, Bernd Mosblech, Franz Rath. E. Dagmar Hirtz, Beate Meinka-Jellinghaus, Carola Mai, Barbara von Weitershausen. 35 mm. Colour. 120 min.

Biermann-Film (1983) Co-directed with Edgar Reitz. P. Kairos-Film. C. Edgar Reitz, Vit Martinek. E. Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus. 35 mm. B & W. 3 min.

Auf der Suche nach einer praktisch-realistischen Haltung (1983) P. Kairos-Film. C. Thomas Mauch. E. Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus. 35 mm, B & W. 12 min.

Die Macht der Gefühle (The Power of Feelings, 1983) P. Kairos-Film. C. Werner Lüring, Thomas Mauch. E. Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus, Carola Mai. A. Hannelore Hoger, Alexandra Kluge, Edgar Boehlke, Suzanne von Borsody, Barbara Auer. 35 mm. B & W and colour. 115 min.

Der Angriff der Gegenwart auf die übrige Zeit (The Blind Director, 1985) S. Alexander Kluge. P. Kairos-Film in co-operation with ZDF. C. Thomas Mauch, Werner Lüring, Hermann Fahr, Judith Kaufmann. E. Jane Seitz. A. Jutta Hoffmann, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Michael Rehberg, Rosel Zech. 35 mm. Colour. 113 min.

Vermischte Nachrichten (Odds and Ends, 1986). S. Alexander Kluge. P. Kairos-Film in co-operation with ZDF. C. Wernder Lüring, Thomas Mauch, Michael Christ, Hermann Fahr. E. Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus. A. Marita Breuer, Rosel Zech, Sabine Wegner, André Jung, Sabine Trooger. Voice-over, Alexander Kluge. 35 mm. B & W and colour. 103 min.

Ich war Hitlers Bodyguard (I was Hitler’s Bodyguard, 2000)

Serpentine Gallery Program (2006)

Mein Jahrhundert, mein Tier! (My Century, My Animal!, 2007)

Im Sturm der Zeit/Facts and Fakes (In the Storm of Time / Facts and Fakes, 2007)

Die poetische Kraft der Theorie (The Poetic Power of Theory, 2007)

Der Zauber der verdunkelten Seele (The Magic of the Darkened Soul, 2007)

Das Phänomen der Oper (The Phenomenon of the Opera, 2007)

Das Weichziel ist der Mensch (The Soft Goal is the Human, 2008)

Nachrichten aus der ideologischen Antike – Marx/Eisenstein/Das Kapital (News from Ideological Antiquity – Marx/Eisenstein/The Capital, 2008)

Der Deutschland-Komplex – 21.915 Tage Bundesrepublik (The Germany Complex – 21,915 days Federal Republic, 2009)

Früchte des Vertrauens (Fruits of Trust, 2009)

Wer sich traut, reißt die Kälte vom Pferd (Who Dares, Tears the Cold Off the Horse, 2010)

Mensch 2.0 – Die Evolution in unserer Hand (Human 2.0 – The Evolution In Our Hands, 2012)

Theorie der Erzählung (Theory of the Narrative, 2013)

Prime Time Spätausgabe (Prime Time Late Issue, TV series, 1 episode, 2015)




Jan Bruck, “Brecht’s and Kluge’s Aesthetics of Realism”, Poetics, n. 17, 1988

Roger F. Cook, “Film Images and Reality: Alexander Kluge’s Aesthetics of Cinema”, Colloquia Germanica, vol. 18, n. 4, 1985

Thomas Elsaesser, New German Cinema: A History, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers University Press, 1989

Miriam Hansen, “Alexander Kluge, Cinema and the Public Sphere: The Construction Site of Counter-History”, Discourse, n. 4, Winter 1981–82

Anton Kaes, From Hitler to Heimat: The Return of History as Film, Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, Harvard University Press, 1989

Michelle Langford, “Film Figures: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun and Alexander Kluge’s The Female Patriot” in Laleen Jayamanne (ed.), Kiss Me Deadly: Feminism and Cinema for the Moment, Sydney, Power Publications, 1995

Rainer Lewandowski, Die Filme von Alexander Kluge, Hildesheim & New York, Olms Presse, 1980

Stuart Liebman, “Why Kluge?”, “On New German Cinema, Art, Enlightenment, and the Public Sphere: An Interview with Alexander Kluge”, October, n. 46, 1988

Eric Rentschler, “Kluge, Film History, and Eigensinn: A Taking of Stock from the Distance”, New German Critique, n. 31, Winter 1984

Eric Rentschler, (ed.), West German Filmmakers on Film: Visions and Voices, New York & London: Holmes & Meier, 1988

B. Ruby Rich, “She Says, He Says: The Power of the Narrator in Modernist Film Politics”, Discourse, n. 4 Winter, 1981–82

David Roberts, “Alexander Kluge and History”, On the Beach, n. 7–8, Summer–Autumn, 1985

John Sandford, The New German Cinema, London, Oswald Wolff, 1980

Christian Schulte & Winfried Sibers (eds.), Kluges Fernsehen: Alexander Kluges Kulturmagazine, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 2002

October, Special Issue on Alexander Kluge, n. 49, Winter, 1990

Selected Writings by Alexander Kluge:

Gelegenheitsarbeit einer Sklavin. Zur realistischen Methode, Frankfurt am Main, Surkamp Verlag, 1975

Neue Geschichten. Hefte 1–18 “Unheimlichkeit der Zeit”, Frankfurt am Main 1977

(with Oskar Negt) Geschichte und Eigensinn volumes 1–3, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1981

“On Film and the Public Sphere”, New German Critique, n. 24–25, Fall/Winter, 1981–82

Bestandsaufnahme: Die Utopie Film, Frankfurt am Main, 1983

“The sharpest ideology: that reality appeals to its realistic character”, On the Beach, n. 3–4, Summer, 1984

Case Histories, New York, Holmes & Meier, 1988

“Why Should Film and Television Cooperate?”, October, n. 46, 1988

Edgar Reitz, Alexander Kluge & Wilfried Reinke, “Word and Film”, October, n. 46, 1988

Oskar Negt & Alexander Kluge, Public Sphere and Experience: Toward an Analysis of the Bourgeois and Proletarian Public Sphere, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1993

Learning Processes with a Deadly Outcome, Durham & London, Duke University Press, 1996

Chronik der Gefühle, Volume 1: “Basisgeschichten”, Volume 2: “Lebensläufe”, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp Verlag, 2000

Facts & Fakes, Heft 1: Verbrechen. Christian Schulte and Reinald Gußmann (eds.), Berlin, Verlag-Vorwerk 8, 2000

Facts & Fakes, Heft 2/3: Herzblut trifft Kunstblut Christian Schulte and Reinald Gußmann (eds.), Berlin, Verlag-Vorwerk 8, 2001

Facts & Fakes, Heft 4: Der Eiffelturm, King Kong und die weiße Frau Christian Schulte and Reinald Gußmann (eds.), Berlin, Verlag-Vorwerk 8, 2002

Articles in Senses of Cinema

Alexander Kluge: ‘something almost monstrous in so much talent’ by Tara Forrest reviewed by Daniel Fairfax

Web Resources

Alexander Kluge
Expositions of several films from the Goethe Institut.

Alexander Kluge
Official website (in German)

Alexander Kluge
Biography from Spanish film journal Otrocampo.

Click here to search for Alexander Kluge DVDs, videos and books at


  1. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, “Alexander Kluge is Supposed to Have Had a Birthday” in Michael Töteberg & Leo A. Lensing (eds.), The Anarchy of the Imagination, Baltimore & London, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992
  2. Alexander Kluge in Stuart Liebman, “On New German Cinema, Art, Enlightenment, and the Public Sphere: An Interview with Alexander Kluge”, October, n. 46, 1988, p. 36
  3. The manifesto is reprinted in English translation in Eric Rentschler (ed.), West German Filmmakers on Film: Voices and Visions, New York & London, Holmes & Meier, 1988
  4. Stuart Liebman, “Why Kluge?”, October, n. 46, 1988, p. 14
  5. I will discuss the notion of Phantasie in more detail below.
  6. See Kluge, “On Film and the Public Sphere”, New German Critique, 25/26, Fall/Winter 1981–1982, in particular the section entitled “The Spectator as Entrepreneur”, pp. 210–211
  7. Ibid., “Utopian Cinema”, p. 209
  8. Walter Benjamin, “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire” and “The Image of Proust” in Illuminations, London, Fontana Press, 1992. In contrast to ‘voluntary memory’, which involves experiences being mediated by the intellect or consciousness and seeks to give information about the past rather than retain a trace of past experiences, ‘involuntary memory’ involves the spontaneous evocation of past experience and the ability to make connections between disparate things.
  9. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The TimeImage, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1989, p. 245
  10. Kluge, “On Film and the Public Sphere”, p. 211
  11. Ibid.
  12. Alexander Kluge, “The Significance of Phantasy”, New German Critique, n. 24/25, Fall/Winter 1981–1982, p. 216
  13. Alexander Kluge, Die Patriotin: Texte/Bilder, 1–6, quoted in Theodore Fiedler, “Alexander Kluge, Mediating History and Consciousness” in Klaus Phillips (ed.), New West German Filmmakers: From Oberhausen Through the 1970s, Frederick Ungar, 1984, p. 225
  14. Kluge, “On Film and the Public Sphere”, p. 206
  15. Alf Brustellin, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Alexander Kluge, Volker Schlöndorff, Bernhard Sinkel, “Germany in Autumn: What is the Film’s Bias” in Eric Rentschler (ed.), West German Filmmakers on Film: Visions and Voices, New York & London, Holmes & Meier, 1988, p. 132
  16. A good example of both of these devices can be found in Die Patriotin where the voice-over narrator is nothing but a fragment itself, a knee, and the female protagonist, Gabi Teichert, is engaged in the task of gathering the diverse fragments that make up the history of her country. She is often puzzled as to the significance of those fragments.
  17. Miriam Hansen, “Alexander Kluge, Cinema and the Public Sphere: The Construction Site of Counter-History”, Discourse, n. 4, Winter 1981/82, pp. 57–58
  18. Kluge discusses the concept of female productive forces at length in his book Gelegenheitsarbeit einer Sklavin. Zur realistischen Methode, Frankfurt am Main, Surkamp Verlag, 1975
  19. Kluge in Stewart Liebman, 1988, p. 34

About The Author

Michelle Langford is a lecturer in Film Studies at the University of New South Wales. She has published on Iranian and German cinema and is the author of Allegorical Images: Tableau, Time and Gesture in the Cinema of Werner Schroeter (Intellect, 2006).

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