October 2018, arsenal cinema


As an epilogue to September’s Hollywood Blacklist retrospective, we are showing two extraordinary films by Wolf-Eckart Bühler which draw on the biography of Sterling Hayden as a means of engaging with the Black List and its consequences. Hayden was a seafarer, war hero, Hollywood star, writer, and FBI informer. Impressed by his life, director and editor of “Filmkritik” magazine Wolf-Eckart Bühler set out in search of Hayden to talk to him about making a film of his autobiography “Wanderer”, eventually finding him on a boat in Besançon, France. The direct result of this meeting, LEUCHTTURM DES CHAOS (West Germany 1982, 3.10.), is not, however, an adaptation of the book, but rather a stirring documentary both with and about Sterling Hayden. The film team spend seven days with him, during which there is a lot of talk about the sea, seafaring, and his alcoholism. Yet the central theme of the film is Hayden’s testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee at the start of the 50s. Hayden joined the Communist Party for a brief period after the Second World War and in the face of the anti-Communist witch hunt saw himself forced to give the names of other Communists to the infamous committee, a decision he was to regret bitterly for the rest of his life.

One year later, Wolf-Eckart Bühler then condensed the essence of Hayden’s autobiography “Wanderer” into DER HAVARIST (West Germany 1983, 4.10.). With Burkhard Driest, Rüdiger Vogler and Hannes Wader, a total of three different actors interpret various moments from Hayden’ life, although here too the era of the Black List and his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee represent the heart of the film. “A literary adaptation, far-reaching analysis, political learning play, digression into film noir, in the spirt of Straub & Huillet, Brecht, Peter Weiss, and Keller’s ‘Der grüne Heinrich’. A political film – today more than ever. Conformity and self-betrayal are everywhere.” (Alf Mayer) Both films will be presented by Wolf-Eckart Bühler. (hb)