Harun Farocki is one of the great German filmmakers. He is unbelievably prolific and has worked in any number of cinematic forms (essay, narrative, installation) through which he has maintained a fascinating point of view and rigorous political engagement.

Inextinguishable Fire is an early entry in what continues to reveal itself as a very lengthy and profound career.

The two moments that stuck with me from my first watching (maybe five years ago) and my most re-watching yesterday at my favorite place in my new city were the opening recitation (and its attendant, scarring final image) and the final passage. I had more or less forgotten the strong if slightly procedural middle section, in which the groundwork is laid for his discussion of how highly advanced and unbelievably brutal weapons are made. Specifically, his interest lies in the way a highly “intensified division of labor” and the military industrial complex enable these horrific weapons to be made by unassuming (though typically willingly uninformed) workers. It’s fascinating and an excellent reminder of our own engagements with a society that does nasty things we may not approve of but enable through complicity. It’s also proof of my own naiveté that I remain shocked by the heights of technology utilized in a war more than 40 years ago.

The final section remains my favorite in part because of its formal playfulness. There’s also something to the strange German rigidity that seems to work better with direct address than with the stilted narrativity of the middle section. Plus, there’s this:

More here and here.

About Jesse Malmed

Jesse Malmed is an artist and curator living/working in Chicago. Santa Fe may always be his home, but Tivoli, San Francisco and Portland have all made their cases.
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  1. matt says:

    Inextinguishable Fire is an amazing film, thanks for posting this. it is also very interesting to see it on YouTube- this film was so hard to come by in the 80s and 90s that filmmaker Jill Goodmilow made what was essentially an exact re-make so that American audience could see it ( What Farocki Taught).

    • jesse says:

      Thanks for the reminder, Matt! I actually saw the two films side by side on my first encounter. Hers is also incredible but in part because it brings up so many interesting issues regarding reenaction, repetition (which the original is also heavily indebted to) and the historical/political context in which essay films are made. There’s a good primer here (by Tom Gunning) on Godmillow’s version. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way to show the work on the blog.

      [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

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