Von wegen ‘Schicksal’

Von wegen ‘Schicksal’

Helga Reidemeister met Irene Rakowitz whilst working as a social worker in a housing estate in North-West Berlin. Irene, politically active within the estate and recently divorced, agreed to collaborate with Reidemeister to document the reality of working-class family lives. Rakowitz herself said, “Family is absolutely taboo, and I don’t think that’s right. It is also a success of my political thinking process, which started somewhere, that I have learned that family just does not have to be taboo! Because everything that becomes visible from the outside in social or social behaviour, that originates in the family. This is the breeding ground of all social behaviour, and I think that precisely where this comes from must be uncovered.” Von wegen ‘Schicksal’ is an attempt at addressing the power structures between filmmaker and filmed, with Rakowitz an active participant not just in her own life, but in the filmmaking process. (Courtisane)


“My main characters are women because in our society women have the greatest difficulty in finding a bit of happiness in their daily lives. But I wouldn’t call my films ‘women’s films,’ rather family films. I like to think men can equally learn from them. One-sided learning by women is useless, as far as I’m concerned. I take seriously the viewing habits of the so-called masses in order to reach them. That is public which is consistently deceived and neglected by television because their everyday problems are ignored. I don’t make films for the privileged, for intellectuals, although I don’t exclude them. My main project is to make films for the people who are in them and who recognize themselves in them. Beyond that, I also make films for myself and for my friends. The themes in my most recent films – about the capacity to love, about violence, dreams, and hope – these are not questions specific to any one class. My films also attempt to work out problems which remain unsaid and repressed. They are documents of what isolates me, what makes me angry, what I want to experience so that it will change, so that it won’t stay the way it is.”

Helga Reidemeister1


“Everything that has happened to this woman is commonplace: four pregnancies, mistreatment by her husband, a divorce, a youth sacrificed wholly to her children, a desire to love, and a complete ineptitude when it comes to expressing that love. All of this buried in the dark of night, in almost total silence. All of this in the dense totality of the German nation, cast onto the unwanted post-war proletariat. What I am trying to say is that nothing happens in this film except for cinema: the fabulous shattering of a silence thanks to the camera; the translation, by this woman, Irene, of this silence into a language which is never affected, which is only discovered under the gaze of the camera. Just as you might say ‘under the influence of drugs’, here you’d say, under the influence of the camera lens, under the influence of the sound recorder.”

Marguerite Duras2


Is This Fate? resists a fatalistic narrative by focusing not only on Irene’s relationship with her children but on her exit from her marriage – to a man obsessed with fate – into a life of political engagement and sexual exploration. She rebukes Richard for pursuing his hobbies without respecting hers while they were married but now she spends time at home painting flowers while listening to her favourite music, the soaring symphonic poem ‘The Moldau’ by Czech composer Bedřich Smetana, that recurs throughout the film as a refrain that seems to transcend the monotony of the everyday. In a rare outdoors scene, Irene is shown on a daytrip to the lake with her lover, while her lively, sometimes combative, conversations with Helga depict a lateral bond of friendship and collaboration. At the lake, Helga asks Irene what she dreams of and Irene responds that she would love to have a small island where she wouldn’t need anything, a utopian counterpart to the desert island of which she bemoaned the absence in their kitchen conversation years earlier. ‘Oh God! My dreams!’, she exclaims dismissively but Helga earnestly insists that her dreams are important, recalling the opening voiceover of Der gekaufte Traum in which she states: ‘Dreams must not be replaced. It is reality that must be replaced.’ As the credits roll, Irene is shown smiling on a fairground ride.”

Hannah Proctor3


Front Image: Courtesy of Deutsche Kinemathek

UPDATED ON 08.03.2024