Dir.: Wim Wenders; Documentary with Anslem Kiefer, Daniel Kiefer, Anton Wenders; Germany 2023, 93 min.
To call Wim Wenders’ portrait of German artist Anselm Kiefer a documentary would be selling the work of both artists short. ANSELM is a potted history of post war Germany, rooted in the society where both men were born, in 1945. Neither of them escaped unhurt, even though Kiefer, a more confrontational character than Wenders, took the brunt of criticism. But “Das Rauschen der Zeit” is first and foremost a chronicle of a country still not ready to face its racist past. Their output is shrouded in enigma and ambivalence. There is always confusion and reverie: Wenders’ American set films and Kiefer’s French based creations are flights of imagination. But the shadow of the Third Reich looms large, and cannot be negotiated with art or gestures.
Anselm Kiefer, represented as a young man by Daniel Kiefer, and as a school boy by Anton Wenders, gained prominence in 1971 as Joseph Beuys’ master student in Dusseldorf. This was followed by a scandal in Venice, at the Biennale in 1980, when Kiefer was accused of being a neo-Nazi, with him insisting he just wanted to refer to the victims of the Holocaust, wearing his father’s Wehrmacht’s Uniform and greeting the public with the Nazi salute. In 2022 Kiefer would make a triumphant return to the city.
But by now his work output was colossal – both in yield and form: He created topographic landscapes in an old brick factory in Germany, and landscapes in the South of France. And continues to this day with mega installations in his new studio in Croissy near Paris. There are architectural constructions, numerous pavilions, underground crypts and a gigantic, roofed amphitheatre. Everything is larger than life, and Kiefer is still at it, in a big way, always moving forward to the next project. Flame throwers are his favourite “weapons” of art, giant lift constructions lead him to the top of the world. Literally.
Then we return to the beginning with Paul Celan (1920 – 1970), holocaust survivor, poet and translator, who drowned himself in the Seine. The author Ingeborg Bachmann (1926-1976) a member of the circle of artists striving for a new beginning, not another cover-up. She died in an “accidental” fire in her own bed. But they were outnumbered by the ex-Nazi supporters who went into “inner exile” while still supporting the regime, like the philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), who never apologised or even tried to explain. There is a moving snapshot of Celan trying to meet Heidegger – but like Richard Strauss, leader of the NSDAP “ReichsmusikKammer” (Musicians had to be Aryans to take part), Heidegger could not even be bothered to say sorry, keeping his international reputation intact.
There is brilliance on both sides of the camera, thanks to DoP Franz Lustig, and it is a credit to both artists to return to the failed new beginning, because the huge majority of Germans preferred to feel sorry for themselves and were busy with collective denial. Wenders and Kiefer are still attempting to evade the past. But try as they may, it still outruns them. AS
CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | SPECIAL SCREENING