Cinéastes agree that there’s no easy entry point into the formally rigorous world of the filmmaking duo of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet. And, as it turned out, I probably chose one that was dense, narratively complex and stylistically radical even by their avant-garde standards. In his renowned novel Billiards at Half-Past Nine, German writer Heinrich Böll had delivered, through the members of a multi-generational family, a powerful indictment against the country’s tryst with Nazism leading to and during WWII. Straub-Huillet, with Not Reconciled (or, Only Violence Helps Where Violence Rules), made a fragmented, elliptical, minimalist and free-flowing adaptation of Böll; hence, its comprehensibility is further complicated if one hasn’t read the source novel. Comprising of short scenes which transitioned at a rapid pace both spatially and temporally (albeit, interestingly, in sharp contrast to the “speed” within each scene), filled with complex flashbacks which were oftentimes not discernible from the “present”, and heavy on dialogues (the quality of subs, therefore, is critical), it attempted a lacerating snapshot of a post-War Germany which continues to be filled with former Nazi functionaries and sympathizers, and thus, in turn a look into the rise of fascism not so long back in the country’s past. The film’s ambiguous central protagonist Robert Fähmel (Henning Harmssen), his elderly father Heinrich (Heinrich Hargesheimer), his garrulous and headstrong mother, a young bellhop with whom he holds monologues while playing billiards, his former acquaintances (an exiled left-wing activist and a former Nazi enforcer), etc. provided for an often impenetrable yet strangely hypnotic deconstruction on the culture of rabid militarization, blind obedience and patriotic sacrifice which has continued to spawn fascist regimes across countries and eras.
Director: Jean-Marie Straub
Genre: Drama/Political Drama/Avant-Garde