The Straubs always base their movies on existing texts (novels, poems, essays, plays or operas), choosing material, they say, that 'resists' them in some way. The idea is that their films become battlegrounds where the original author's words are confronted by the rigorous materialism of the Straubs' approach to film-making. In this case the source is Kafka's last novel Amerika, and the problem is that it doesn't yield much of a skirmish. This is the closest the Straubs have ever come to a straightforward literary adaptation: young Karl Rossman, newly arrived in a very German America, moves through a series of brutal encounters that destroy his 'New World' idealism and educate him in the verities of power and class difference. This is not to say that the film plays like a BBC 'classic serial', but the axeing of the book's philosophical speculations leaves the Straubs plodding rather than soaring through Kafka's political undercurrents. The stark images none the less have the 'minimalist' beauty that drives some viewers to distraction.
Cast and crew
Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet