Jean-Marie Straub, Elke Marhöfer, Mikhail Lylov

A Thousand Cliffs

Cambridge: MIT Press & Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2021

Berlin: Archive Books, 2014

Elke Marhöfer: This question deals with a model that Jacques Rancière outlined in relation to your films, namely the shift from a dialectical dispositif towards a lyrical dispositif after Dalla nube alla resistenza, the film you made in 1978. (1) In Rancière’s view, the earlier, dialectical dispositif presents a form of “workers’ communism” that centers on a model of disagreement and disassociation. On the other hand, the lyrical dispositif is a type of “peasant communism” based upon agreement and affirmation. How would you describe your and Danièle’s films in relation to this concept of peasant communism? I’m referring here to Trop tôt, trop tard, Dalla nube alla resistenza, and Operai, contadini.(2)

Jean-Marie Straub: But that’s not me at all. Rancière is Rancière. I can’t comment on Rancière. I don’t even quite understand what he means. What am I to say about it? That Rancière got it right? About something, which for me is quite abstract. Perhaps that is concrete for him, though I ought to read his book, or read it again. I can’t make out what all that is supposed to mean. I don’t make a film to illustrate or to represent “peasant communism”. Besides, Operai, contadini is not only about peasant communism. It is also a love story between Ventura and the woman. A love story based upon mutual respect. These are people that built a community after the war. They tried to live their lives out together, and then afterwards this community is destroyed from without, for that’s when McCarthy (3) comes along, and after McCarthy comes the Italian Christian Democratic party and it colludes with the Americans to such an extent that they even plan assassinations in cahoots with the CIA for the sole purpose of preventing them from working together with the Italian Communist party.