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An adventurer in the inner world

I am in the forest – can say that I am late
Regissør: Corinna Belz

Director Corinna Belz on an exclusive house visit with Peter Handke. Are we finally getting thanks to the shy and multifaceted author? 


Is in the woods – may be delayed. This is what the title of Corinna Belz's documentary about the author Peter Handke reads. She found it on the patch he had attached to the iron gate.

The message is written in pencil, probably with one of the countless colored pencils Handke has always left ready. Belz, an award-winning German filmmaker, is among the few who ever set foot inside the Chaville iron gate outside Paris, where Handke lives. And even more exclusive is Handke's yes to her film project. After months of zero contact, they met for an initial meeting, and the question Belz had to answer was: "But what do you want to film? Writing is impossible to produce, just as one can produce a painter's work. ”This was obviously the hardest nut to crack. Judging by the result, it was a big deal the Weglass labor - by the way a Handke word with the meaning "the work of discarding, not dealing with".

From angry young man for a single person. Anyone expecting a glove package from a to z will feel sad. The Handke universe contains more than 60 books: novels, essays, poems, plays, film manuscripts, newspaper articles, translations; an 75 year of life with geographical as well as thematic spaghetti. It spans a long bow from angry young man (Writer colleagues had their passport inscribed with "description-impotent, stupid and foolish prose") to a shy loner with the main project of living in the language, constantly refining the form of expression, always seeking his self in the inventive. ("Being able to tell from the imagination is not normal. It is rare. Without vision it is impossible.")

Who should live? 

Corinna Belz has shrunk this universe into close-ups of a still, albeit slightly smoldering, man in his cave, with his crayons, his embroidery and his sofa under a (uncommented) large format image of Asians on the river. We see a thin figure with back-brushed dictator's hair striving to thread the thread into a needle, peeling mushrooms – both sound and image are extreme closeup. The forest walks are important to Peter Handke: “I am one Pilztrottel»- a mushrooming. Of course, he has also written about this. "This little world. It's my rescue. ”Rescue from what? The answers are thought of as shimmering dust in the sunstroke from a window, wordless: "Have you ever experienced a successful day?" (Theme covered in the essay Try on the matched tag – «Attempting a Successful Day ”.) A deep and existential struggle gives him four quiet words: Who should live? How to live?

A bit to grab. So this is miles from being one talking headsdocumentary. The only characters besides the main character who get some talk time in the movie are exone number 2 Sophie Semin and daughter Amina. We also meet the daughter as a child through her father's polaroid pictures. French Sophie talks about the Handke project My year in the Niemandsbucht (My year in the Bay of Ingenmann) and (ex) husband's need to be alone while writing. Writing makes Handke quite continuous. Conversation around a table shows us father and daughter. There is talk of an earlobe – we sense some unpleasant vibrations. By the way, we are witnessing recurrent cross-cutting where the young Beatnik Handke, confident and already a literary size, is interviewed and from the open scene offends the audience, on the occasion of the play Public insult ( "Crowd bollocking").

Really little to grasp. Picanties like the hotel stay with French film queen Jeanne Moreau shine with her absence. Even films, Belz's own medium, in which Handke has written screenplays, including Wim Wenders films, give up on the director (except for a few second-length clips with Hanna Schygulla). Why? Perhaps because, above all, she sees Peter Handke as an adventurer in the inner world, something he also carries as his noble brand.
By all means, he did not shy away from flammable political themes. This made him even more controversial when he wrote about his impressions of the Balkan war and was attacked for his alleged defense of the Serbs and, in particular, for his presence – and his speech – in Slobodan Milosevic's funeral.

Corinna Belz was from an early Handke reader, and she appears whisper in the film, outside the camera's eye. IN an interview in connection with the film launch, she says: “I wanted to open for moments where the viewer gets the opportunity to feel the reading pleasure that was the starting point for the film. It feels to me like coming home and at the same time discovering a world I have not yet belonged to. ”In doing so, she dares to let words play the lead in a visual medium, through the author's reading and quotes across the screen.

For Norwegian-language readers, it may be a handicap that after the time of the Serbia quarrel, minimal literature was translated with Handke literature. But something exists, and the book Wishless misfortune ("Claimless Accident", 1972), in which the author writes about his mother's suicide, has gained many readers. It is a relatively short text, in an unusual realistic style for Handke, with many pure autobiographical features. In Handke admirer Karl Ove Knausgård's words: "Handke describes his mother without interfering with her integrity, what was unique to her, while he himself consciously seeks the emotional, sentimental."

Creating something significant requires solitude, often at the expense of others, self-examination, ruthless self-discipline…

The room where language is created. Corinna Belz's film project is to portray literature – with a writer as a medium. She wants to open the room (be it the living room or the forest) where his language comes into being. As so often with great artists, we are looking in vain for answers to the Secret, the source of inspiration, the one who in this case makes Peter Handke one of the German poets' finest poets.
But as we might as well admit here – had we been able to reveal this secret, we would have either had a mass gathering of geniuses, which is a definition of contradiction, or we would have had to realize that a hidden secret remains true to itself. But so much does the film make crystal clear: Creating something meaningful requires solitude, often at the expense of others, self-examination, gentle self-discipline; It is often conflicted and includes self-prioritization, by others not rarely perceived as selfish. Or, as Ibsen in his time so aptly remarked: “To live is – war with trolls in the vault of heart and brain. To dictate – it is to hold judgment on oneself. ”

Also read: Peter the Great's abdication?

Ranveig Eckhoff
Ranveig Eckhoff
Eckhoff is a regular reviewer for Ny Tid.

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