Karl May ★★½

While this does constitute a great primer for Syberberg’s visual sensibilities which I dig, it’s a fucking slog to get through if you expect him to come up with something interesting to say on May himself. Granted, most non-German viewers will likely have not heard of Karl May nor read his novels or watched the film adaptions based on them. (The Winnetou series is more important to my father’s generation, but was also constantly shown on cable when I was young so I basically grew up with them.) Regardless, there is a lot to dig into when it comes to May or his oeuvre as Arnold Schmidt proved with his essential »Sitara und der Weg dorthin« which has its own conceptual trappings, but remains one of the most fascinating studies of May’s work as it takes on a Freudian perspective to read May’s soulscapes through their subtle homoeroticism. Syberberg instead opted for a three-hour bio pic-cum-court drama, which is very much the epitome of a visualized Wikipedia entry and eventually goes the lazy route into lamenting hagiography instead of applying a discursive irony to May and his blurring of fact and fiction. I’ve read that Syberberg’s other films are much more experimental and dense, which I very much welcome after this.

Florian liked this review