← Part of the Collection: Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub

Relishing his political and sexual prospects in postwar Germany, a former Nazi colonel muses on the stupidity of the bourgeoisie, who can be easily duped in the voting booth and in the bedroom.


“Even though it was their first film, Machorka-Muff represents a fully developed apparatus for capturing reality. Its effectiveness lies in Huillet and Straub's unquestioning belief in the power of text-image articulation. The images are always accompanied by a voice-over reading aloud a short story by Heinrich Böll. The text is strictly adhered to. Stricter still are the accompanying shots: a man says he's reluctant to pick up the phone, and we see a hand that hesitates to pick up a receiver. Thanks to this scrupulous cutting alone, the laughable Machorka-Muff is so believable: an ex-officer of the German army, he plots the advent of a new military force in hotel lobbies and living rooms. With his equally laughable companions, he doesn't raise any armies. Instead, he engages in all manner of symbolic acts to preserve or restore what he considers irreducible despite the defeats: the class hierarchy and the nobility of Germany. With its uniforms emblazoned with medals and buttonholes, its ranks and its sense of sacrifice, the army is the very symbol to which material support is constantly given. Just look at the last scene of the film, when the long-awaited undertaking takes shape in the middle of a wasteland: Machorka-Muff christens a granite top cemented to a few bricks, which is meant to establish the legitimacy of a military memory in the world and ensure its continuity through the centuries. This ridiculous protocol is nonetheless the panoply of Nazism that clings - even in times of defeatwherever the will to rule stubbornly persists. So, what could Huillet and Straub make of this ideological existence? They certainly couldn't get anything out of it (and would have been indebted to it), so they inflicted a body of images on it. In this case, the symbolic cannot escape the little reality that is truly its own: small and banal.”

Agathe Presselin1

  • 1Agathe Presselin, "Machorka-Muff," Balthazar, 2023.
UPDATED ON 10.01.2024
IMDB: tt0057267