Would Have Worked Better as a More Traditional Documentary
Last Christmas, a friend of mine gave me the Facets DVD of this film as a gag gift. He knew how much I had disliked the one other Alexander Kluge film I had seen (Willi Tobler and the Decline of the Sixth Fleet). I did not like this film either, but I was less bothered by it (maybe because I had lower expectations).
First, let us look at that title, In Danger and Deep Distress, The Middleway Spells Certain Death. With a title like that, a potential viewer knows that he should not expect entertainment. In fact, a viewer should deduce from that title that he is in for a slog, which he is.
On the surface, the plot seems to be about two women living in West Germany. One is a spy for an Eastern bloc country. However, she is often being censured for the nature of her "reports." They read like poetry. One of her handlers, tells her that, rather than sending them on, she should just read her reports at a coffee house. The other woman is something of a thief. She allows men to pick her up for quick sex, but then she steals their wallets. In one instance, after outdoor sex, the woman steals a car from one trick while he is urinating (what she does with the stolen vehicle after that is not explained)
These two women are sometimes placed (like in the film Medium Cool) in the background of real events. In this case, the events involve the social unrest going on in West Germany in the 1970's. The film includes lots of documentary footage. There are scenes of a choir of policemen, dancing girls (the highlight for me), the police demolishing a building that squatters had been using, the police clashing with demonstrators (a water cannon is used), and, finally, the police chief defending his actions. Some of these scenes are interesting, others less so, but I was not sure what I was to understand from any of them.
How all of these characters and themes fit together is not adequately explained. Are the directors saying that in 1970's West Germany, the best one can hope to be is either a spy or a thief or are the jobs of spy and thief the middle way that leads to the death of the title? The viewer has no idea. The filmmakers (Alexander Kluge and Edgar Reitz) would have been better off just making a more traditional documentary. The filmmakers' opinions would have been clearer and the viewer would have been given more of a context. This last point is particularly important for the foreign viewers (like myself) who has only slight knowledge of the political and social realities of 1970's West Germany.
In Danger and Deep Distress, The Middleway Spells Certain Death resembles a film that Godard might have made if he had been German and trying to make a 1974 response to the 1927 film Berlin, Symphony of a City. This is not the kind of movie I enjoy (or get) much from watching. I began using my fast forward button at the twenty-five minute mark and leaned on it heavily for the remainder of the film.
5 of 8 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this