Transcript

Intertitle
"It's a mistake to think that the dead are dead" 1929-1995
Running Text
"To be transformed into un-threatenable dust" (B. Brecht) / Heiner Müller died on December 30, 1995 / In an interview from the autumn of 1995, Müller discusses breathing, Hitler, Immanuel Kant, and the contract between the generations, as well as the consolation of transformation and tobacco --
Intertitle
"WHOEVER SMOKES LOOKS COLD-BLOODED and whoever smokes becomes cold-blooded" Interview with Heiner Müller.
Kluge
You know the expression pneuma, Greek for breath. When you breathe, so to speak, on the cigar, you're always inhaling.
Müller
But not the smoke, the smoke only goes as far as the cavity of the mouth, then it's blown out again.
Kluge
Then you blow it out.
Müller
Yes. Since you mentioned breathing: I recently read a really great sentence in a detective novel by a female American author. The sheriff - he's the protagonist - goes to the cemetery and, as always on Memorial Day, pours a Coors, a beer, on the grave of his brother, who died in Vietnam, and suddenly he has the feeling that his breathing is too loud, because the dead can no longer breathe, and he feels like he's being really indiscrete, because he's breathing so loudly. I thought that was a great sentence.
Kluge
Tell me, when you smoke - your doctor told you that you should go ahead and smoke, and: what is that?
Müller
Well, first of all it's a pleasure, it tastes good. And the lungs don't have any taste organs, so you don't need it in your lungs. Your taste organs are in the cavity of your mouth, in your gums. And it's probably a vehicle for stoicism when one smokes. In Brecht's Ui there's a sentence that goes something like: "Whoever smokes looks cold-blooded. And whoever smokes becomes cold-blooded." Maybe that's it. Because you short-circuit with your sexuality when you smoke, especially cigars. I have less of an affinity for cigarettes.
Kluge
That could be, because oxygen deprivation, that would be death. But to the extent that I can use foreign air, that of the tobacco, of the enthusiasm . . . it's a spiritual means to establish a distance from death.
Müller
That could be, yes.
Kluge
The borderline is once again drawn sharply.
Intertitle
Encounter with Rolf Hochhuth / "A Croesus of the Materials"
Müller
We met a few days ago, but very privately. We didn't waste any words on the legal aspect or the property issues, I don't talk about those things and he doesn't talk about them with me, that's a matter for the lawyers, that doesn't interest me. And I think it's fair to leave it at that. We talked about the fact that years ago he promised to write a text for Marianne Hoppe, a monologue by Effie Briest. And I was once again amazed by how much he knew about that. He talked about the problem of Effie Briest with Manfred von Ardenne, who's a relative of hers. And contrary to Fontane's version, she died in Lindau, I think, on Lake Constance, at the age of, I don't know, ninety-six. He's interested in that, and I would also find it interesting if he writes it. One could stage it then. And it would be interesting with Marianne Hoppe in that role. In the end Effie Briest worked primarily as a nurse, and his starting point is a scene with a young soldier who dies, and the great monologue of her life develops out of that. What's astounding, though, is how much he knows about it, he has completely researched everything that one can know about it and talked to all of the relatives who are still alive . . .
Kluge
. . . this material, this interest, it so captivates him, he has such a serious interest in the facts that he can break open this system of encryption that Fontane artfully manufactured . . .
Müller
. . . he can break it open, yes . . .
Kluge
He rejects this notion that interest in a marriage and a divorce arises out of mourning for Effie Briest's death and the dog that sits on her grave. That would be the dramatic element, and he rejects that and is now a Croesus of the materials.
Müller
Yes, yes, yes. Or, for example, there's a story that he told me. I had already heard it in the context of my work staging Ui, but not in such detail. I didn't know the precise details, and he told them to me. There's a report by a public defender from the Nazi era - I don't know the name of the book, it was published by Siedler - a report about the cases he dealt with. The Nazis always appointed public defenders for political defendants, and he tells about his most important cases, which usually ended with the execution of his client, of course. And the case Hochhuth told me about was the Wasa case. A man by the name of Wasa said in 1941, after Stalingrad, "it's not surprising that we're losing the war or that Germany is losing the war with a Führer who has only half a dick." And this man, Wasa, was executed for that, of course. He was there, though, in Braunau - I think he was born in Braunau and grew up there - when three or four boys, along with Adolf Hitler, were playing with a billy goat. It's a grotesque story, but it's documented in the book. They tied the billy goat to a barn door by its dick, and three of them held its mouth open, and whoever the fourth one was took his turn peeing into the billy goat's mouth. And when little Adolf's turn came, the other three let go, either accidentally or intentionally, that's not clear. And the billy goat bit down.
Kluge
His penis was intact and he could have left, and the rumor . . .
Müller
. . . No, no, apparently he was rather . . .
Kluge
. . . injured . . .
Müller
. . . halved, so that a piece was missing. That's the story of . . .
Kluge
According to the legend it was half, yes . . .
Müller
. . . Yes, yes, clearly. And there are so many versions of the story, the war injuries and so on . . . but it appears that the . . .
Kluge
. . . People said of his attitude . . .: He is defending Germany's last unemployed.
Müller
Yes, exactly, yes.
Intertitle
Schiller's dramatic work / "Theater deals with dying - \-"
Kluge
If you compare Friedrich Schiller's dramatic work, which also develops substances very strongly, colportage elements, so that he deals, in the form of dialogues, with things that excite him. If you compare that, is there a similarity?
Müller
Absolutely. Above all, though, the moral impetus that Hochhuth so clearly has, Schiller had that too. World history is the last judgment, and theater is the vehicle of this last judgment.
Kluge
What's your opinion of the theater?
Müller
It's not as high of an opinion, in any case. Not as moral of one. Maybe it's . . .
Kluge
. . . it's the funeral home of world history . . .
Müller
. . . a funeral home, yes, it's hard to say. But maybe it's an opportunity to codify collective experiences and hence make it possible to pass them down.
Kluge
To keep them visible.
Müller
To make them visible and hence capable of being passed down. By way of the experience of the spectator, if you're lucky.
Kluge
So one generation imparts . . .
Müller
. . . imparts its experiences . . .
Kluge
. . . imparts its experiences to the next one, so that it's not the case that the stage corresponds with the audience, but really it's the case that both correspond with their descendants and their ancestors. Is that right? So that it's really a journey through time that one takes in the theater.
Müller
Yes, and the essential thing about theater is then - and here we are once again touching on Ovid - the essential thing is transformation, and the last transformation is death, dying. And the fear of this last transformation is universal, it's dependable, one can use it as a foundation, and it's also the fear of the actor and the fear of the spectator. And what's specific to the theater is not the presence of the living actor or of the living spectator, but rather the presence of the person who has the potential to die.
Kluge
If you were to hear a sentence by Kant: "The starry heavens above me and the moral law within me," what would your associations be?
Müller
Really, that's terror.
Kluge
. . terror . . .
Müller
. . . That sentence is terror . . .
Kluge
. . . Terror, yes, the combination is the terror, isn't it?
Müller
Yes, yes, I think so.
Kluge
"The starry heavens above me" might exist, but they would be a blank check. They would be an authorization for every conceivable transgression of the moral law.
Müller
I have, in any case, a troubled relationship to Kant, because at age ten I read Kant for the first time - my father had that lying around - it was the Metaphysics of Morals. And naturally the first chapter I read was the one on onanism. And that disturbed me deeply, because he considered it completely reprehensible and in every respect the worst and the most undignified thing that exists . . .
Kluge
What's his argument for that?
Müller
It's against the laws of nature, against God's will . . .
Kluge
If nature has given human beings the power to procreate, then it's reprehensible not to use it.
Müller
Exactly, that troubled me deeply at that time. And then I was so happy when, years later, I read an anecdote to the effect that Kant supposedly masturbated once a week, or even more often, on the same oak tree in the park where he always took his walks. That reassured me. And from then on I was no longer very interested in Kant.
Kluge
He had been refuted.
Müller
He had been refuted, yes.
Kluge
Did the GDR perish as a result of its puritanism or as a result of its economic weakness?
Müller
Well, puritanism was only a program, it wasn't a reality.
Kluge
But you write about fuck-cells, so apartments that were built to be too small . . .
Müller
The whole problem with this architecture - and the stress analysts figured this out - was that there was only one corner in these ten-, twelve-, fourteen-story buildings where you could put the bed. And if everyone had fucked at the same time, the stability of the building would have been seriously endangered.
Intertitle
How long does the CONTRACT BETWEEN GENERATIONS remain in force? / Ovid's Metamorphoses, 2000 years old
Kluge
How long does such a contract between generations actually last? So when you now buy yourself an Ovid book, it's more than 2000 years old. So the man who didn't pursue a bureaucratic career, because he, no matter what kind of briefs he was writing, they always came out in verse, right? A man whom some consider frivolous, but who is now considered profound, and rebellious and disrespectful towards the state. It's as if he were your cousin.
Müller
Yes, the awful thing about that is really . . . Last night, because I couldn't sleep, I woke up at some point and couldn't fall asleep again, I pulled a book out from somewhere, it was a trivial book about cruelty and sexuality, the torture devices, methods of torture, and so on that have existed in the history of mankind, from the Persians to Rome to the present, and so on. It's quite spooky, when you flip through something like that and see what all has been invented. And basically, all of that is already there in Ovid.
Kluge
In the friendliest of forms.
Müller
And very elegantly formulated.
Kluge
But without any reduction?
Müller
Yes, yes. And that's quite strange, and it helps me to understand what Klaus Heinrich means, that Ovid wrote these Metamorphoses as an attempt at constituting, at founding a civilization. But that never works.
Intertitle
"The consolation is the TRANSFORMATION" / "If you become a stone, then nothing more can happen"
Müller
The consolation is the transformation. If you become a tree, nothing more can happen to you. If you become a stone, nothing can happen to you either.
Kluge
If you die, then nothing more can happen to you.
Müller
Nothing more can happen to you then, either. In any case we assume not, on the basis of our ignorance of the situation after death.
Kluge
Does the obstinacy that you sometimes have, the doggedness, also come from considerations like these?
Müller
That could be, yes. There's a poem by Brecht that's relevant in the context of Ovid and the Metamorphoses, and that also has a lot to do with Kafka in terms of its attitude.
Intertitle
"WHOEVER SMOKES LOOKS COLD-BLOODED and whoever smokes becomes cold-blooded" / Interview with Heiner Müller
Müller
He conveys that he now wants to be nothing but paper on which something is written.