Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Clown (Heinrich Boll's Asichten eines Clowns) (1976)

The question: Does any one know anything about Ansichten eines Clowns, the 1976 German film directed by Vojtech Jasny and based upon the wonderfully depressing novel, The Clown, by famed German author Heinrich Boll? The answer: No, apparently not, at least not in the U.S.

When something cannot be found, it is best to write about the search for that thing. That's been the philosophy and mission statement of this site for some time. But sometimes, so little can be unearthed that the search itself becomes the story. That is the case with this elusive film.

For those seeking out this film, the Internet offers very little information. Like all films, it has a token IMDB entry, and even a threadbare Wikipedia entry, but little else. The first meaningful link I could find was to the film's entry at a foreign film index, which yielded a number of stills from the film, which I've embedded into this post for your perusal (along with a few other stills I've managed to locate at other sites). As for other sites dedicated to the film, I also located this site, this site, this site and this site, though all are in a language other than my own.

Boll's novel follows the maudlin exploits of a alcoholic pantomimist in post-war Germany. The novel is sad with some very tender human moments. I wonder how the tome's great sense of melancholy was translated to the screen. When I first learned of a film adaptation, I sought it out, to no avail. Back in the 1990s, when everything was coming to videocassette, and then DVD, I thought surely it would arrive somewhere somehow. But no. The film starred the late German actor Helmut Griem as Hans, the title character, whose career has suffered greatly due to his alcohol addiction. But the loss of his career is not what haunts him most; rather, it is the destruction of his relationship with his beloved Marie, played in the film by Hanna Schygulla. The narrative is set against the backdrop of the end of the second World War.

Here's how the back cover of the McGraw-Hill Paperbacks version of the novel I have summarizes its plot:
Hans Schneir, a professional clown and mime, is an artist who specializes in capturing revealing incidents in people's lives and recreating them in pantomime. By way of reminiscing after a particularly disastrous performances, the clown gives a moving description not only of his personal history but also of German society under Hitler and in the postwar period. The clown-narrator's ability to go to the heart of every human being and every issue with tenderness and compassion as well as devastating insight parallels Heinrich Boll's own artistry and immense writing talent. The reader is compelled to share Schneir's obsession with the existential condition of man and to understand his revulsion and heartbreak at the Germany he has seen emerging from the war.
Why, I wonder, has this book not been adapted into a brooding indie film in which the title character is a self-loathing, sorrowful, boozed-up stand-up comedian? This seems like it would make a fine film, whether it be set in post-war Germany or fall 2001 New York City.

Whatever the case, what few stills I could locate are assembled below:

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