On the Method of Depiction
Klaus Eder: Klaus Wildenhahn has set off a debate on the documentary film with a polemical essay entitled ‘Industrial Landscape with Petty Traders'.
Alexander Kluge: I see this essay as an invitation to start a debate on theories of the documentary film, on the concept of realism; but it also invites a stocktaking, a critique of all filmic products as such.
KE: For a start, one can take from this essay an understanding of documentarism, to which Klaus Wildenhahn himself feels committed. He talks about ‘art's function of depiction', about the ‘work principle of copying'. For instance, he emphasises in Zola and Dickens ‘the precisely observed and experienced material of their social world, which is initially sketched and then subjected to a poetic condensation process'. Drawing on Kracauer, he refers to ‘film's affinity to the physical detail'. You have to expose yourself to reality, subordinate yourself to it. - Does a depiction of reality describe reality adequately?
AK: I believe that Klaus Wildenhahn is right. If the category of context (Zusammenhang) and the category of radicality (which means going down to the roots) are included in this function of depiction, then stenography, the simple act of copying, is the fundamental form, the fundamental position […]
KE: Günther Hörmann said in our conversation about the dramaturgies of Ulm that it's not reality that is depicted, but the film-maker's relationship to it.
AK: That amounts to the same thing, in effect, since I can't describe reality any other way than subjectively-objectively. There is no direct depiction. Depicting, copying, stenographing, applying authentic method: these labels are all synonymous, and what they signify is the element that film works with. One cannot go beyond this element subjectively and arbitrarily. This copying doesn't occur in a direct and mechanical fashion, however; what the camera records isn't yet a copy. Something like a set-up for the experiment is needed in the first place. If a good film can be understood as an attempt, as a measurable result, then it is an attempt that takes place with living people. This requires caution, reserve, discipline, method. That is indisputable. On this point I happen to agree with Wildenhahn's attitude, his partisan attitude in film.