Helga Reidemeister | 1979 | Germany | 120’ | digital | German spoken, English subtitles
During the heady months of insurrection that marked 1968 across the globe, Helga Reidemeister (then a social worker) became part of a student-led struggle on behalf of the neglected residents of the Märkisches Viertel, the biggest housing estate in West Berlin at the time. Apprehensive about the way her fellow leftists were treating its inhabitants as theory and disappointed by militant (male) filmmakers’ exclusive focus on sites of production like the factory, Reidemeister began work on Der gekaufte Traum (completed 1977), giving one resident family a Super-8 camera with which they could film their own site of domestic reproduction.
Her second film, Von Wegen ‘Schicksal’, is an even more intense and unflinching document of the neighbouring Bruder family and one in which the filmmaker’s interventionism and will constitute an important metatextual layer. The film opens with the family’s determined but exhausted matriarch Irene watching rushes on an editing table, in which one of her four children denounces Reidemeister’s desire to film their familial conflicts. “[The children] just don’t see that our family’s problems are not unique to us,” Irene says, countering Tolstoy’s thesis that “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. Violence is the focus of Von Wegen ‘Schicksal’ and it is what the verbose and charismatic cast of six variously analyse, refute and justify. The film is a unique document of the second and third generation’s reckoning with their nation’s legacy – though despite the mother’s keenness to blame society, this geographically specific spectre is never named. But it is also a brilliant and universal case study for ideas about nature vs nurture, the “good-enough” mother, the welfare state, and how to live together.
Co-presented with Another Gaze in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut London
With an introduction by Daniella Shreir and Kris Woods