Courtisane festival, notes on cinema, 23nd edition, 27 - 31 March 2024
Die Macht der Gefühle
“The film’s title (The Power of Emotion) is to be taken literally. For Kluge it is indeed about devising the genealogy of emotions (XIXe and XXe century). An operation that he conducts in a musilo-brechtian fashion, by way of collages, aphorisms and sketches, by considering emotions as objects and opera as the factory that, historically speaking, has fabricated this object on a large scale.“ (Serge Daney)
“I believe that, in the end, it is feelings that affect everything in our world, that move everything, yet these feelings have no institutional power. “They pervade us. You just can’t see them.”
When I started working on Die Macht der Gefühle, I was not in a rational state. I did not say, I have a subject and now I will make a film about it. Instead I was spellbound and observed in my direct surroundings, for example, how feelings move. I have not really dealt with the theme of my mother's death and the fact that she was the one who taught me "how feelings move." Nor have I dealt with how she died. That was an entire palette of feelings: "All feelings believe in a happy end," and everyone believes tacitly that they will live forever: The entire palette is somehow optimistic, a positive attitude towards life having been put on the agenda as long as she was young, as long as her body held out, from one day to the next she collapsed. She just suddenly collapsed, like in an opera where disaster takes the stage in the fifth act. It felt as if I had observed an air raid or a disaster.
The film Die Macht der Gefühle is not about feelings, but rather their organization: how they can be organized by chance, through outside factors, murder, destiny; how they are organized, how they encounter the fortune they are seeking.
What is all this organization of feelings about? Generally feelings tend to be a dictatorship. It is a dictatorship of the moment. The strong feeling I am having right now suppresses the others. For thoughts this would not be the case. One thought attracts others like a magnet. People therefore need affirmation by other people to be sure about their own feelings (to counteract the acquisition of their feelings through outside forces). Through the interaction of many people, for example, in public, the various feelings also have a magnetic attraction to one another just like thoughts do. Feelings communicate through their manifestation in public.
The cinema is the public seat of feelings in the 20th century. The organization is set up thusly: Even sad feelings have a happy outcome in the cinema. It is about finding comfort: In the 19th century the opera house was the home to feelings. An overwhelming majority of operas had a tragic end. You observed a victim.
I am convinced that there is a more adventuresome combination: Feelings in both the opera and traditional cinema are powerless in the face of destiny's might. In the 20th century feelings barricaded themselves behind this comfort, in the 19th century they entrenched themselves in the validity of the lethal seriousness.”
Alexander Kluge, Die Macht der Gefühle (Frankfurt am Main: Zweitausendeins, 1984)
German spoken, French & Dutch subtitles