It was no modest demand being made by a group of 26 signatories when they read out a manifesto at the VIII West German Short Film Festival in Oberhausen in February 1962, calling for nothing less than a radical break with the West German film industry in a statement that culminated with "the old cinema is dead. We believe in the new cinema." In the early 60s, the state of German film was not just artistically desolate, but also economically finished. It was practically impossible for young, critical filmmakers to find their place in the German film industry: as the classic method of getting into film by working as an assistant to an experienced director was stymied by the big age difference between the younger and older generations, this meant they were effectively forced to teach themselves. Peter Schamoni stated that, "back then, there was no way for us to reach the film industry. We had no way of realizing scripts or ideas within existing German film production, so we began to make short films that we ourselves produced." The 26 signatories – directors, cameramen, producers and one actor, not a single one of them a women - were a loosely connected group, which had formed from the DOC 59 association founded by Haro Senft and Ferdinand Khittl in Munich in 1959. Discussed in the press with interest and approval, the film branch itself reacted derisively to the manifesto, giving the young filmmakers the name "Obermünchhausener".
The manifesto was only 22 lines long, contained little actual content and was largely concerned with sending out a signal. It was carried by a feeling of necessity and an atmosphere of change and set out clear intentions: "We state our demand to create a new kind of German feature film." Although the signatories did not develop a genuine aesthetic language of their own, they were bound together by a critical attitude towards the years of plenty brought by the economic boom. As far as cultural policy was concerned, the manifesto paved the way for the foundation of the "Kuratorium junger deutscher Film" in 1965 and laid the groundwork for the New German Cinema of the late 60s and 70s. In this way, the manifest became a symbol of renewal in German cinema. However, a clear discrepancy exists between the manifesto’s impact and the fact that the vast majority of its signatories were unable to enjoy a lasting career in film. Apart from a few exceptions, such as Alexander Kluge and Edgar Reitz, who have both found their place in German film history, most of the signatories are completely forgotten today.
As part of the "Provoking Reality – 50 Years of the Oberhausen Manifesto" project, nearly 40 short films by the signatories have been restored and preserved for posterity in collaboration with the Federal Film Archive and the Deutsche Kinemathek.
We are showing seven full-length films made between 1961 and 1967, which give an impression of the first feature films made by the Oberhausen group. In a series of six thematic short film programs curated by Ralph Eue, the films made by the Oberhausen group are also placed alongside those made by their companions and contemporaries.
Hansjürgen Pohland's feature debut TOBBY (May 11, introduced by Ralph Eue and with a post-film discussion with Christoph Hochhäusler, & May 19) was made before the manifesto in 1961 and is different to everything "that there had been in West German cinema until that point" (Olaf Möller). The story about musician Tobby is drenched in the rhythm and attitude of jazz, as he plays in small time cellar venues and spurns the lucrative offers made by concert promoters. Pohland is fascinated by movement, by the city, by life in the pub; everything is music to him much like it is for Tobby, giving the film an unrivalled freshness and immediacy in comparison to other films from the time. The Berliner Hansjürgen Pohland was the only signatory of the manifesto that didn't live in Munich.
One film that has undeservedly fallen into comparative obscurity is Die PARALLELSTRASSE (Ferdinand Khittl/GBF Production, West Germany 1961, May 12 & 24), a uniquely strange and visionary work. After trying his hand at numerous other professions, Khittl only ended up in the film business by accident and started shooting advertising and industrial films from 1954. In 1959 and 1960, he went on two round the world trips with his cameraman Ronald Martini (another signatory of the manifesto) and brought back ethnographical footage from Asia, Africa and South America. This material was then embedded into a framing narrative, in which five men, led by a clerk, are supposed to bring some order into 308 different documents – the footage from around the world. They must, like all those before them, fail, both intellectually and existentially. In a review from 1963, Helmut Färber describes the setting in the following manner: "In a Kafkaesque room, five Ionescu characters find themselves in a Sartre-type situation and work on a Camus-like problem." While the film was celebrated abroad, the responses in Germany ranged from perplexed to dismissive. It was to be Khittl’s only feature film.
DAS BROT DER FRÜHEN JAHRE (Herbert Vesely, West Germany 1962, May 17 & 28) received its world premiere at Cannes and became the Oberhausen group's "debut film", albeit somewhat at random, given that the film was already in the final stages of production at the time of the manifesto. Herbert Vesely had already presented the first experimental feature film in West Germany in 1954 in the form of Nicht mehr fliehen. DAS BROT DER FRÜHEN JAHRE is also characterized by a keenness to experiment in formal terms by means of unusual camera positionings, rapid editing and non-chronological narration. The film is based on a short story by Heinrich Boll and tells the story of a young electrician who is engaged to his boss's daughter and is well on his way to a secure existence. After he comes across a girlfriend from his youth however, he then breaks out of this predetermined path.
The most famous member of the Oberhausen group today is without doubt Alexander Kluge, who also became its film political mastermind. The practically programmatic title of his feature debut ABSCHIED VON GESTERN (West Germany 1966, May 18 & 31) tells the story of a young Jewish woman named Anita G. who comes to West Germany from East Germany, is unable to integrate, is subjected to the attempts of lawyers and parole officers to reeducate her and finds herself on the run again and again. A sober, clinical and often ironic description of middle class behavior and social conditions.
SCHONZEIT FÜR FÜCHSE (Peter Schamoni, West Germany 1966, May 23 & 31) A young journalist vacillates between the world of his upper class background and that of his middle class girlfriend. All his attempts to break out remain half-hearted, the temptations of affluence proving just too strong. The film "tells of a youth who would like to rebel but never actually moves beyond unproductive gestures of rejection, a symbolic stance of resistance – sons die before their fathers, as Thomas Brasch would put it; what you end up remembering about SCHONZEIT FÜR FÜCHSE more than anything are the scenes of stately sophistication, an ordered world of rituals which has survived different eras, governments and regimes and will continue to do so according to the way in which Schamoni shows it." (Olaf Möller)
MAHLZEITEN (Edgar Reitz, West Germany 1967, 21 & 30 May) Photography student Elisabeth meets idealistic medicine student Rolf. She's interested in everything he does; they go on outings together and feel like they’re at the beginning of a great, romantic love story. Children soon follow, one after the other; Rolf gives up his studies and tries his hand at various menial professions. It is a marriage which "consumes" the husband, so to speak – "Rolf gives his whole life to Elizabeth and receives children and poetic thoughts of love in return", as the production notes put it. "MAHLZEITEN presents in exemplary manner the extent to which the male directors of the New German Cinema were fascinated by strong, vital female characters full of life, while the male characters were usually held back by navel-gazing or laychromosity." (Thomas Kramer)
DER SANFTE LAUF (Haro Senft, West Germany 1967, May 22 & 26) Young electronic engineer Bernhard (Bruno Ganz) falls in love with the daughter of a rich building contractor and becomes his protégé without even realizing it. In his debut film, Senft shows a postwar generation in danger of stagnation by being torn between rejecting the values of their parents' generation and finding their place in the world of affluence. "Senft’s images and words are austere, he says just as little and expresses himself just as laconically in his attitudes, whether in terms of camera or editing, as his hero Bernhard does." (Ernst Wendt)
Short Film Program "People and Cities" (May 13): MENSCHEN IM ESPRESSO (H. Vesely, 1958), BAU 60 (D. Lemmel, 1961), NA UND (M. Bohm, 1966), DER STADTSTREICHER (R. W. Fassbinder, 1966).
Short Film Program “The Provinces” (May 16): NOTIZEN AUS DEM ALTMÜHLTAL (Strobel / Tichawsky, 1961), ÖDENWALDSTETTEN (P. Nestler, West Germany 1964), KURZPORTRAIT EINER LANDSCHAFT (P. Koch, 1964), GRANSTEIN (C. Doermer, 1965).
Short Film Program "Streets and Cars" (May 20): AUTOBAHN (H. Vesely, 1957), RENNEN (A. Kluge, 1961), GESCHWINDIGKEIT. KINO EINS (E. Reitz, 1963), AUTORENNEN (V. Kristl, 1964), AUTO, AUTO (H. Senft, 1964), DER OSTERSPAZIERGANG (P. Schamoni, E. Patalas, 1959).
Short Film Program "Working Environments" (May 22): SALINAS (R. Ruehl, 1960), KAHL (H. Senft, 1961), DER HEISSE FRIEDEN (F. Khittl, 1964), ZWISCHEN 3 UND 7 UHR MORGENS (K. Wildenhahn, West Germany 1965).
Short Film Program "The German People" (May 25): GARTENZWERGE (W. Urchs, 1961), MACHORKA-MUFF (J.-M. Straub, 1962), ES MUSS EIN STÜCK VOM HITLER SEIN (W. Krüttner, 1963), ARME LEUTE (V. Kristl, 1963), MARIONETTEN (B. von Borresholm, 1964), PORTRAIT EINER BEWÄHRUNG (A. Kluge, 1965).
Short Film Program “The Media” (May 27): DAS MAGISCHE BAND (F. Khittl, 1959), DAS MANNEQUIN (B. Dörries, 1960), MANNEQUINS (H. Pohland, 1961), KOMMUNIKATION (E. Reitz, 1961), JUGEND FOTOGRAFIERT (P. Schamoni, 1960), HOLLYWOOD IN DEBLATSCHKA PESCARA (U. Schamoni, 1964).
More information about the short films can be found at www.oberhausener-manifest.com
Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation.
Der verhexte Scheinwerfer Carl Lamac Germany 1934 16 mm 21 min
Der Theaterbesuch Joe Stöckel Germany 1934 16 mm 24 min
Im Schallplattenladen Hans H. Zerlett Germany 1934 16 mm 18 min
With Liesl Karlstadt and Karl Valentin From 8 years onward
Kurzfilmprogramm Straßen und Autos:
Autobahn Herbert Vesely 1957 35 mm 12 min Rennen Alexander Kluge 1961 Beta SP 9 min *Geschwindigkeit. Kino Eins Edgar Reitz 1963 35 mm 13 min
Autorennen Vlado Kristl 1964 35 mm 10 min
*Auto, Auto Haro Senft 1964 DigiBeta 15 min
Der Osterspaziergang Peter Schamoni, Enno Patalas 1959 35 mm 11 min
Mavro Livadi Black Field
Vardis Marinakis Greece 2010 35 mm OV/EnS 104 min
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie John Cassavetes USA 1976 35 mm OV/GeS 109 min