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Of Journeys from Berlin

Yvonne Rainer’s Journeys from Berlin/1971 (1980) reveals and explores various acts of terrorism by extreme pro-leftist/socialist groups and individuals. These include the Russian woman who attempted to kill Russian functionary/official Trepov; Emma Goldman’s involvement with the attempted murder of steel magnate H.C. Frick by Alexander Berkman—and especially—the activities of Germany’s Baader-Meinhof group.

Rainer uses four ‘situations’ or devices—such as readings of the terrorist’s own words—to communicate her message: How and why (especially) certain leftist terrorists acts occur and in particular, what governmental and social conditions compel individuals to such actions. If Rainer has a “beef” (as I believe she does)—it is with (West) Germany’s (mis) handling of some of its citizens’ general dissatisfaction and resulting protests—as well that of the terrorist acts and their consequences.

The four devices Rainer uses are: a conversation between a socially-enlightened woman and man (which offers a visual/audio juxtaposition of peaceful, domestic items—a teacup, a book, the sounds of cooking, with violent ones—a gun, a grenade, descriptions of terrorist acts); a young woman’s personal narrative; a female patient who rambles on in a stream of consciousness to three therapists—a man, a woman and a child, as well as the aforementioned readings.

I believe the film is fairly effective in demonstrating how the cruel actions, legal inconsistencies and social incongruities of a government can—and will—shape the reactions of its people.; however, I also think it is a bit lengthy. The female patient’s ‘rants’ were especially long.

Finally, something I particularly noticed with this film is how much more dependent it seems on its audio–rather than on its visual—features. Most (if not all) of the films we’ve screened previously for this class depend mostly on visuals.  To me, the strongest, most effective ‘tactics’ in this film are the conversations, narratives and readings—everything aural.


About ageer370

I'm in my final semester as a grad student of media studies, I'm also 'Mom' to my 15-year-old autistic son. My interests are film history--its analysis and criticism; the art of rhetoric as well as cultural history from about the Edwardian period to the present.


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