Born in 1932, Kluge began making short films in 1960 and completed his first feature, YESTERDAY GIRL, in 1966. He was part of the revitalizing New German Cinema movement that also included Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Volker Schlšndorff, and Werner Schroeter. Kluge was an ideologue, advocate, author, teacher, and one of the spiritual guides for a re-awakened German cinema. During the 1960s and 70s, he made several key, if little known in the US even today, works of the period, including ARTISTS UNDER THE BIG TOP: PERPLEXED (1967), PART-TIME WORK OF A DOMESTIC SLAVE (1973), and THE FEMALE SLAVE (1979), and participated in the omnibus film GERMANY IN AUTUMN (1978). He made his last feature in 1986 and has since been working in television and continuing to write.
More than others of his contemporaries, Kluge’s films frequently incorporated experimental, Brechtian, and other formalist techniques. He injected his films with disruptions to break the narrative flow. STRONGMAN FERDINAND, though, was his most conventional early feature.
It is the story of Ferdinand Rieche, a former policeman, who becomes the new head of security at a private corporation. Rieche is obsessed with his role as a security expert: the narration at the start states, “This is Ferdinand Rieche. Security is his business He knows everything about it and will never understand that other people don’t.” Rieche thinks and plans. He reads books on Marx and communism to understand his enemy; he drills his guards endlessly; he conducts practice evacuations of the plant. But his obsessiveness about security begins to move from the practical to the abstract and absurd. He begins to lose himself in the idea of perfection.
STRONGMAN FERDINAND “is Kluge’s most straightforward film to date. It is the story of the head of a company’s safety guards, a former policeman, who ‘guards’ the objects entrusted to him before they are threatened. The film is an ironic parable on an atmosphere of exaggerated fear in the Federal Republic.” (Peter W. Jansen, The New German Film, 1980)
“Alexander Kluge’s STRONGMAN FERDINAND is a bracingly prescient, humorous, astute, and understated satire on the obsessive culture of rote rehearsals, role-playing, and fear-mongering. . .” (Acquarello, Strictly Film School website)
STRONGMAN FERDINAND (Der starke Ferdinand, 1976, 91 mins., 35mm on video).
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