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Stories from Another Realm: Films by Herbert Achternbusch

A prolific novelist, poet, dramatist, painter, and anarchist filmmaker from Bavaria, Herbert Achternbusch—despite the evidence of twenty-seven feature films he has made to date—remains the least known director from the New German Cinema, the movement that brought the work of Fassbinder, Wenders, Herzog, and others to international prominence. If he is known at all in the West it is perhaps as author of the story from which Werner Herzog derived his film Heart of Glass. The prodigious author of some thirty books, eighteen plays, and numerous radio dramas, Achternbusch claims to have taken up filmmaking because it hurt to sit after writing so much. To characterize Achternbusch’s work is not easy.

A short list of a few of his professed influences gives an indication: Jerry Lewis, John Ford, Charlie Chaplin, Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu, and perhaps most important, Bavarian satirist of the Roaring Twenties, Karl Valentin. Situated in a no-man’s land between dream and reality, yet laced with references to actual events and to his own life, Achternbusch’s films comprise one of the most fiercely individualistic oeuvres in film history. "Resisting easy admiration or facile cubbyholing," as German film scholar Eric Rentschler explains, "Achternbusch remains New German Cinema’s most difficult and most direct filmmaker, an anarchist whose raw surrealism stems from a profound regard for the inextricable bonds between the public and the private."

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