Volker Schlöndorff

Scen.: Volker Schlöndorff. F.: Michael Ballhaus. M.: Gisela Haller. Mus.: Friedrich Meyer. Int.: Valeska Gert, Pola Kinski, Volker Schlöndorff. Prod.: Eberhard Junkersdorf per Bioskop Film GmbH, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen
16mm. Bn e Col

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Nur zum Spass, nur zum Spiel – Kaleidoskop Valeska Gert, a movie about the then seventy-seven-year-old actress and dancer, was Schlöndorff’s first full-scale feature documentary. It grew out of Schlöndorff s experience working on Coup de Grâce with the actress, whom he had admired ever since seeing her early films at the Cinémathèque in Paris. He describes in his documentary how he became so fascinated with the stories and experiences she recounted while they worked together that he decided to make a film about her. In its connection to Coup de Grâce and Brecht, Valeska Gert looks back to Schlöndorff’s early 1970s attitudes; but in its involvement with irrationality, emotion, the grotesque, the German exile tradition, and indeed something of a revisionist attitude toward Brecht, it signals many of the changes that were to follow it in Schlöndorff’s creative production.

Gert was an avant-garde performer of the 1920s and 1930s, one who shocked audiences with a mode of dance and pantomime that was impolite, blunt, outspoken, and harsh in its portrayal of reality. Schlöndorff’s Nur zum Spass, nur zum Spiel is a collage film that edits together various footage – interviews with Valeska Gert; performances by the actress herself (both drawn from archival materials and done for Schlöndorff’s camera); performances of her works by her younger protegees; and other materials documenting her past. The movie’s format and eclectic sources suggest the kaleidoscope of its full title, but the picture is nonetheless carefully structured. After introducing us to Valeska Gert and some aspects of her art, Nur zum Spass, nur zum Spiel takes a more or less chronological approach to reviewing the main periods and stages in the woman’s career.

Schlöndorff is clearly interested in Gert and her career, but from the material he takes about Gert, one can see emerge in the film two other preoccupations: death and the cultural heritage of the German Left. These are, in effect, the thematic abstractions that Schlöndorff draws from his specifics. The filmmaker clearly wanted to record Gert for posterity before her death, an event that occurred a year after he made the movie.

Hans-Bernard Moeller, George Lellis, Volker Schlöndorff’s Cinema: Adaptation, Politics, and the ‘MovieAppropriate’, Carbondale and Edwardsville University Press, Southern Illinois 2002

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