Do we finally get a close and personal look at this shy, multifaceted author?
Ranveig Eckhoff
Norwegian journalist and regular critic at Modern Times Review.
Published date: February 20, 2018
Bin im Wald – kann sein, dass ich mich verspäte
Country: Germany

Director Corinna Belz goes on an exclusive house visit to Peter Handke.

I’m in the woods – will possibly be late. Thus goes the title of Corinna Belz’s documentary film about the writer Peter Handke. She found it on a note he had left on the iron gate. The message was written with a pencil, most likely one of the countless crayons Handke always has at hand. Belz, an award-winning German filmmaker, is among the few who’re allowed to set foot beyond the iron gate in Chaville, outside Paris, where Handke lives.

«Wie soll man leben?»

Even more exclusive is Handke’s approval of her film project. After months of waiting, the question Belz had to answer when they first met was: “But what do you want to film? To write is something you obviously cannot portray the way you can portray a painter’s work.” This was clearly the hardest nut for Belz to crack. Judging by the result, Belz largely wanted to capture die Weglassarbeit – a word coined by Handke translating roughly as “the effort of discarding, of not dealing with something.”

From angry young man to recluse

Those expecting a complete Handke-package from A to Z will feel sadly cheated. The Handke-universe encompasses more than 60 books; novels, essays, poems, plays, movie scripts, news articles, translations; a 75-year long life of writing with a broad geographical and thematic scope. It spans a long arch from angry young man (writer colleagues were dismissed as purveyors of “impotent, stupid and silly prose”) to a shy recluse whose main aim is to live in the language, to keep refining his form of expression, to always seek himself in the imaginative. (“To be able to create from the imagination isn’t normal. It’s rare. Without vision it can’t be done.”) Corinna Belz has narrowed down this vast universe to a series of close-ups of a taciturn, though still smouldering man in his cave, with his colour crayons, his embroidery, his sofa and, hanging uncommented above it, a large painting depicting Asians on a river journey.

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