Class Relations (1984)
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The film is based on Kafka's unfinished novel "Amerika". It was shot in Europe which is appropriate since Kafka never visited America and the novel is not about the real United States but it is rather a kind of allegory. Straub and Huillet's version is indeed about class relations and about the society that is created by capitalism, which is utterly cruel, capricious and ludicrous.
One interesting aspect is that it appears to take place at no specific time in history. It is neither exactly in the present or the past. Rather the characters wear the costumes that best express their position in society, whether it is a nouveau riche industrialist in a large vulgar 1970's bow tie or a policeman in the uniform of the Keystone Kops .
The film is photographed beautifully and simply in black and white. The framing and relationship between shots tells you everything about the relationship between the characters. For example there are long passages of shot/reverse shot with no resolution or establishing shot. It shows us how disconnected the protagonist, Karl Rossman is from the world around him.
There are some interesting actors in the film, note for example Laura Betti who was in many Pasolini films. Also the director Harun Faroki plays one of the characters.
I only wish more of Straub/Huillet's work was available in the USA.
In general, I felt this was a very uninspired work. There is a decent moment here and there like the boy being sad about losing the only picture of his parents, but these moments are hurt by the extremely wooden line delivery by all the actors, especially lead actor Heinisch. I cannot imagine that experienced filmmakers like Huillet and Straub would not have recognized it or cast him, so they are probably the ones to blame as they wanted it that way. The result is a film that feels like a theater play for the most part, but I must say this problem with the dialogues as well as the extremely boring and dragging story made this almost a painful watch. And even beyond the talking, with focus on the body language, the acting isn't really any better. There is no denying that Huillet and Straub are not easy to find an access to as an audience member, but if you start with this film here from their body of work, you will probably have zero interest in checking out another work from the duo. I was genuinely bored here and I could not wait for the film to end. Highly not recommended.