In “One plus one” (1968), Godard famously proclaimed: If an intellectual wants to be revolutionary, he has to stop being an intellectual. Many notions of radicality around 1968 are struggling with the question how the relation between thinking/aesthetics on the one hand and acting/politics on the other can be overcome. Does one need to take sides? If so, which side would it have to be? Is it a false dichotomy in the first place?
Harun Farocki, Holger Meins, and Günter Peter Straschek, fellow students of the first year at Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (dffb) gave different answers and suggested different paths. Meins, cameraman for Farocki’s The Words of the Chairman (1967) and Straschek’s A Western for the SDS (1968) and director of Oskar Langenfeld (1966) took the most radical option by joining the armed struggle of the Red Army Faction and ending his life in prison after a hunger strike in November 1974. Farocki and Straschek, in their turn, tried to maintain a rigorous political stance within the realm of a political aesthetics. In a variation of Godard’s one-liner, Straschek reminds us: “Bad intellectuals have never yet become good proletarians.” Showing and commenting clips and short films by the three film makers, I would like to delineate options of negotiating film making and politics in the years 1967 to 1970.
Volker Pantenburg is professor for Film Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. In 2015, he co-founded the Harun Farocki Institut.