Karl Marx in film  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Karl Marx and his ideas have been represented in film in genres ranging from documentary to fictional drama, Art house and comedy.

The Marxist theories of socialism, communism, class struggle, ideology and political economy influenced early Soviet-era filmmakers such as Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein. Eisenstein’s theory of montage owed its “intellectual basis to Marxist dialectics”. However, in addition to his philosophical influence on 20th century cinema and film-makers, Marx’s life and times and his principal works have all been represented in film as subjects in their own right.

Eisenstein’s project, dating from 1927, to film Marx’s book Das Kapital was never realised, although in more recent years the German film director and author Alexander Kluge completed a lengthy homage to Eisenstein’s unrealised film entitled News from Ideological Antiquity: Marx - Eisenstein - Das Kapital.

In the 1960s French new wave directors, notably Jean-Luc Godard, used Marxist themes in their work, including in the films Week End, La Chinoise and Tout va bien.

In the 1970s the Serbian director Dušan Makavejev made films which were critical and/or satirical of Marx and Marxist ideology.

In 2007 it was reported that the Haitian director Raoul Peck was writing and directing a Karl Marx biopic about Marx's early life, although the film is yet to be released.

The 2011 documentary film Marx Reloaded combines a Marxian analysis of economic crisis with satirical animation sequences involving Marx and Leon Trotsky.

Contents

Week End

Jean-Luc Godard’s Week End is a story of a bourgeois Parisian husband and wife who decide to escape to the countryside for the weekend only to be confronted there by the social contradictions of their consumer lifestyle. The film makes frequent references to Marx and revolution, reflecting the wider social issues of French society at the time of its production.

Sweet Movie

In Sweet Movie, directed by Dušan Makavejev, a boat with a giant Karl Marx figurehead sailing along a river is a consistent narrative motif. The film includes several characters, such as 'Mr. Kapital' (played by John Vernon), who refer to Marx and Marxist themes.

News from Ideological Antiquity

Alexander Kluge’s News from Ideological Antiquity: Marx - Eisenstein - Das Kapital, is an experimental film which explores “the Marxian attention to the production, distribution and consumption at work behind the phenomenological surface of everyday life and experience.” The film is composed of what the Marxist critic Frederic Jameson calls “fragments”, akin to “Freudian free association”, rather than a conventional and linear narrative. Instead of representing Marx’s book Capital, the film is therefore a study of the difficulty facing Eisenstein, or any other director, in trying to represent such a work and the ideas contained in it.


Apart from the more conceptual passages in the film - whose overall running time is a lengthy 570 minutes - comedian Helge Schneider impersonates Marx in several scenes.

Marx Reloaded

Marx Reloaded, written and directed by the British theorist Jason Barker, is a partly animated documentary film which investigates the contemporary relevance of Marx’s ideas in the context of the global economic and financial crisis of 2008—09. The film asks whether “(we) should ... accept the crisis as an unfortunate side-effect of the free market” or whether there is “another explanation as to why it happened and its likely effects on our society, our economy and our whole way of life.” The film interviews several leading Marx-inspired philosophers and critics including Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, Nina Power, Jacques Rancière, Peter Sloterdijk, Alberto Toscano and Slavoj Žižek.

In addition to its Marxian analysis the film follows “The Matrix-themed cartoon adventures of Karl Marx, lost in an Alice-style commodity-induced nightmare with only one way out.”

Monty Python’s Flying Circus

At least two episodes of the BBC TV comedy series Monty Python’s Flying Circus include sketches depicting Marx in modern-day settings, and which lampoon the presumed gravity of his thinking. In one episode Marx competes in a TV quiz show for a lounge suite but fails to win when the show's host poses him a prosaic question about football.

Marx Filmography

Films in which Karl Marx is represented and/or in which his ideas or principal works comprise the main narrative theme:

Fiction

  • 1968 Mohr und die Raben von London (Moor and the Ravens of London). Directed by Helmut Dziuba.
  • 2009 Karl Marx, in production. Directed by Raoul Peck.

Documentary

  • 2008 Karl Marx - Ein Philosoph macht Geschichte (Karl Marx: A Philosopher Makes History). Directed by Gernot Jaeger and Carsten Jaeger.

Art film

Comedy

See also

Cinema of the Soviet Union
Dušan Makavejev
Jason Barker
Jean-Luc Godard
Marx Reloaded
Sweet Movie
Week End




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Karl Marx in film" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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