Jeder schreibt für sich allein
Dominik Graf follows the traces of writers in Nazi Germany in an almost three hour long documentary.
The stories of artists and intellectuals who escaped into exile have been told many times. What is less highlighted and more morally ambivalent are the fates of those who stayed. From today‘s standpoint, for example, it is hard to understand why a writer banned by the Nazis like Erich Kästner, who looked on as his books were burned in 1933, didn‘t leave the country. Gottfried Benn, Hans Fallada, Ina Seidel and many others also stayed. Anatole Regnier wanted to understand their motivations better, not to judge from today‘s standpoint, but to better understand daily live and the worldview back then. The book „Jeder schreibt für sich allein“ is the result of this research. Dominik Graf is friends with Regnier and followed the writing process of the book, reacting to it during the writing process and afterwards with film research. What has emerged is an almost three hour essay film that complements the book.
Graf uses many stylistic devices. The approaches to the individual biographies are all different. The classic documentary vocabulary of archival images, original texts, film excerpts, and interviews with the descendents of those portrayed as well as literary specialists of today are commented on and illustrated by scenes in which the filmmaker takes the liberty to follow his own associations. Symbolic images, a short, almost experimental approach to the term “inner immigration,“ an imagined sequence at a bookstore at night. Together, a complex panorama forms, which Graf describes as a “rugged catastrophe landscape,“ where those portrayed are positioned in very different ways. From the enthusiastic celebration of national awakening (Benn, Johnst, Vesper and other, lesser known Nazi supporters) to “immigration in the countryside“ within Germany (Fallada, Seidel) and the muddle through a kind of inner split which probably helped Kästner survive the Nazi era. There were many types of behaviors.
The film presents a wealth of knowledge and thoughts, but due to its artful, undidactic form, it is also a sensory and emotional experience of a different era. This interests Regnier and Graf far more than moral judgements, but nevertheless you are encouraged to intensively think about moral questions while watching. Lastly, it is a question of personal definition – whether it‘s being a mindless follower, having survival instincts, and being repressed. Sometimes I longed for a more psychological perspective, delving into what enabled some people to be able to split off and isolate themselves while others couldn‘t do the same. However, if a documentary inspires you to keep thinking like this, it has fulfilled its purpose.
Translation: Elinor Lewy
Deutschland/Frankreich 2023, 167 min
Director: Dominik Graf
Author: Dominik Graf, Constantin Lieb
DOP: Markus Schindler
Distributor: Piffl Medien
- OV Original version
- OmU Original with German subtitles
- OmeU Original with English subtitles
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