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Alexander Kluge

“Strongman Ferdinand” is a detailed depiction of the psychology of a right-wing functionary, a person who has only one goal in life – to subdue other people in order to serve his rich masters as efficiently as possible. He is afraid that people’s democratic freedoms will be used by them as a cover for their desire to subvert his government and his security zones, and he is spying on people in order to trap them, arrest, intimidate, violently interrogate, torture and force them to confess their “criminal intentions”. For Ferdinand serious culture (cultivating independent thinking) and democracy (cultivating versatility of life styles) are nothing but swamps breeding anarchic monsters.

Ferdinand’s bizarre destiny is to shift from being an anti-terrorist to becoming a terrorist himself, to blur the very distinction between anti-terrorism and terrorism. For him advanced anti-terrorist activity includes terrorist activity as a part of itself. The logic of transformation of anti-terrorism into terrorism is analyzed by Kluge’s film with a prophetic power.

Kluge emphasizes the deadly boredom of his anti-hero’s universe, his emotional poverty and pathological limitations of his imagination. In his personal relationships Ferdinand is practically autistic; absence of any eroticism makes him, in order to satisfy his sexual needs, resort to persistent manipulation of women. His cultural horizon is identical with his job description. He combines the psychological features of a conservative dogmatists and a Soviet functionaries of communist doctrine.

Kluge’s film is exact prediction of the situation we, Americans, know today, in the 21st century, so well – when anti-terrorist powers in order to win over terrorist groups, became super-terroristic themselves (acting not only extra judicially, outside laws and beyond universal common sense decency, but very often irrationally and in agreement with megalomaniacal impulses typical for psychology of terroristic behavior). In addition, today intelligence and security apparatus are more and more outsourced to outside contractors who are not held accountable under a more strict checks and balances.

Kluge’s cinematic style and actors’ manner of acting in the film can be called ascetically sarcastic. They are dedicated to emphasizing the essence of the meaning of the described socio-political and psychological phenomena, not only to depiction of these phenomena as such. It is, as if, Kluge is training the viewers’ ability to take pleasure from discovering the surprising truth behind the conventional socio-political façade and not stay in their perception on the level of observable facts.

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Alexander Kluge (in the center of the middle picture) is talking to Heinz Schubert who plays Ferdinand.

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Ferdinand is inspecting security procedures

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Ferdinand with his extremism irradiated by his emotional fanaticism is on the collision course with the “rational” decision-makers (representing the financial interests). During the historical period represented in the film the discrepancy between right-wing politicians and on the other side, administrators and “democratic” financial bosses was obvious – this constellation has almost completely disappeared in US today where financial powers have become substantially “Ferdinandized”.

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Eventually, Ferdinand from being an anti-terrorist becomes a terrorist himself. He wanted so much to beat the terrorists that he unconsciously started to imitate terrorist tactics and became influenced by their absolutist worldview. In his limited brain of ultra-conservative, Ferdinand belongs to the psychological archetype of an “extreme fight“, when people are ready to do anything without exception to win over the other side. By fighting “terrorists” Ferdinand endangers the lives of innocent people who have right to live and life in general.

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Ferdinand is presiding over a “wide surveillance” project

Posted Feb 11 2012 –   Alexander Kluge’s “Strongman Ferdinand” (1977) – When Today’s “Rich-Men Ferdinands” Were Occupied With Direct Power/Control Over the Population by Acting-Out Politics