Sunday, September 28, 2008

The drama of fragments


Terrific article in today's Observer by Neal Ascherson on the new film about Baader-Meinhof, and about the people themselves, most of whom Ascherson met in the seventies. I think, when trying to understand the lack of response to world events today (which I am for my PhD), Baader-Meinhof and Germany in the seventies might not be a bad place to start.

They came out of the sixties student unrest, with a peculiarly German outlook tempered not only by fury about Vietnam et al, but anger about their parents' generation and what they did (and did not) do in the war. It was a powerful cocktail of emotions and led them on the path to terrorism.

But it's a predictable arc, isn't it, and it's why we are where we are today. Idealism, if unrealised, will lead to frustration which will turn to anger. That anger exploded in Germany in the seventies and burnt itself out. What comes next is cynicism, which is pretty much where we are today, a cynical world observing events, deploring them, but doing nothing very much about them. I guess the good news is that everything is cyclical and that, sooner or later, young people will react again against the folly being perpetrated by their elders.

Writing of the film, Ascherson makes a fascinating observation:
The method adopted by producer Bernd Eichinger...is to throw at the viewer one astonishing scene after another without stringing them together into some psychological narrative. He calls this technique Fetzendramaturgie - the drama of fragments. You and I can put the fragments together into any pattern we please.

That's a most interesting approach. My current writing project is already partly in that vein, but probably not as fragmentary as Eichinger's method. I wonder how well it will translate into written work: films are, of course, brilliant for fast cuts and dizzying changes of scene and multiple POVs. Something of that kind, as a written project, could be worth investigating.

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