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Andreas Dresen

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Edited By Julian Preece and Nick Hodgin

Andreas Dresen is a leading European filmmaker whose œuvre now spans three decades and includes some of the most acclaimed German films of recent times, such as Halbe Treppe (Grill Point, 2002), Sommer vorm Balkon (Summer in Berlin, 2005) and Halt auf freier Strecke (Stopped on Track, 2011). The essays collected in this volume by leading scholars from the USA, UK and Ireland place him in the tradition of auteur cinema while emphasising his roots in the pre-1990 film industry of DEFA in the GDR. Dresen works with an established team of performers, technicians and scriptwriters, uses improvisation and non-professional actors, and makes music and song an integral component of many of his films. He is a scholar-filmmaker who pushes at the boundaries of his chosen modes and genres (documentary, neo-realism, films about films or literary adaptation); he is socially committed, casting a Brechtian eye on interpersonal encounters in neoliberal environments; and he is always interested to tell universal stories from the localities he knows best, the working-class milieus of Germany’s east.

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Connecting with the Real: Death, Dying and Displacement in Andreas Dresen’s Halt auf freier Strecke (2011) and Michael Haneke’s Amour (2012) (Brigid Haines)

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BRIGID HAINES

Connecting with the Real: Death, Dying and Displacement in Andreas Dresen’s Halt auf freier Strecke (2011) and Michael Haneke’s Amour (2012)

My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.

Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.

What I must do

Is live to see that. That will end the game

For me, though life continues all the same

— CLIVE JAMES1

Halt auf freier Strecke, Andreas Dresen’s uncompromising film about death and dying, appeared within a year of Michael Haneke’s Amour, which treats the same themes. For each director these represent their most personal films to date, and arguably their best.2 This chapter proposes that both films counter the prevailing cinematic language of dying, by exploring both the materiality and inevitability of individual death, and the pain of the onlooker. This contrasts with and critiques commercial cinema’s focus on glamour, thrills and excess and avoidance of thoughts of mortality. Both ← 169 | 170 → Dresen and Haneke raise important ethical questions to do with human vulnerability, the meaning of a ‘good death’, and the place of death in life. They contribute to a debate initiated by Susan Sontag, among others, about the taboo status of death in contemporary Western society and respond to the challenge mounted by Judith Butler for a new language of human vulnerability that can dislodge the hegemonic discourses which make the pain of others invisible. The...

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