Karl Marx in film
The Marxist theories of socialism, communism, class struggle, ideology and political economy influenced early Soviet-era filmmakers such as Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein. Eisenstein’s theory of montage owed its “intellectual basis to Marxist dialectics”. However, in addition to his philosophical influence on 20th century cinema and film-makers, Marx’s life and times and his principal works have all been represented in film as subjects in their own right.
Eisenstein’s project, dating from 1927, to film Marx’s book Das Kapital was never realised, although in more recent years the German film director and author Alexander Kluge completed a lengthy homage to Eisenstein’s unrealised film entitled News from Ideological Antiquity: Marx - Eisenstein - Das Kapital.
Jean-Luc Godard’s Week End is a story of a bourgeois Parisian husband and wife who decide to escape to the countryside for the weekend only to be confronted there by the social contradictions of their consumer lifestyle. The film makes frequent references to Marx and revolution, reflecting the wider social issues of French society at the time of its production.
In Sweet Movie, directed by Dušan Makavejev, a boat with a giant Karl Marx figurehead sailing along a river is a consistent narrative motif. The film includes several characters, such as 'Mr. Kapital' (played by John Vernon), who refer to Marx and Marxist themes.
News from Ideological Antiquity
Alexander Kluge’s News from Ideological Antiquity: Marx - Eisenstein - Das Kapital, is an experimental film which explores “the Marxian attention to the production, distribution and consumption at work behind the phenomenological surface of everyday life and experience.” The film is composed of what the Marxist critic Frederic Jameson calls “fragments”, akin to “Freudian free association”, rather than a conventional and linear narrative. Instead of representing Marx’s book Capital, the film is therefore a study of the difficulty facing Eisenstein, or any other director, in trying to represent such a work and the ideas contained in it.
Apart from the more conceptual passages in the film - whose overall running time is a lengthy 570 minutes - comedian Helge Schneider impersonates Marx in several scenes.
Marx Reloaded, written and directed by the British theorist Jason Barker, is a partly animated documentary film which investigates the contemporary relevance of Marx’s ideas in the context of the global economic and financial crisis of 2008—09. The film asks whether “(we) should ... accept the crisis as an unfortunate side-effect of the free market” or whether there is “another explanation as to why it happened and its likely effects on our society, our economy and our whole way of life.” The film interviews several leading Marx-inspired philosophers and critics including Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, Nina Power, Jacques Rancière, Peter Sloterdijk, Alberto Toscano and Slavoj Žižek.
Monty Python's Flying Circus
At least two episodes of the BBC TV comedy series Monty Python's Flying Circus include sketches depicting Marx in modern-day settings, and which lampoon the presumed gravity of his thinking. In one episode Marx competes in a TV quiz show for a lounge suite but fails to win when the show's host poses him a prosaic question about football.
Films in which Karl Marx is represented and/or in which his ideas or principal works comprise the main narrative theme:
- 1968 Mohr und die Raben von London (Moor and the Ravens of London). Directed by Helmut Dziuba.
- 2014 Marx Ha Vuelto (Argentina)
- 2015 Young Karl Marx. Directed by Raoul Peck.
- 1983 Marx and Marxism: The Spectre of Marxism ITV
- 2003 Series 2, episode 6. Karl Marx, from The Mark Steel Lectures.
- 2005 Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism Episode 1 (PBS, US)
- 2008 Karl Marx - Ein Philosoph macht Geschichte (Karl Marx: A Philosopher Makes History). Directed by Gernot Jaeger and Carsten Jaeger.
- 1979 Karl Marx. Die jungen Jahre. USSR. Parts 1-7.
- 1999 Wandering Marxwards. Directed by Michael Blum and produced at the Banff Center for the Arts, Alberta, Canada.
- 2008 Nachrichten aus der ideologischen Antike - Marx/Eisenstein/Das Kapital (News from Ideological Antiquity: Marx - Eisenstein - Das Kapital). Directed by Alexander Kluge.
- 1970 Monty Python's Flying Circus, episode 25: 'World Forum - Communist Quiz'.
- 1972 Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus, episode 2: 'The Philosophers' Football Match'. Directed by Ian MacNaughton.
- "Sonic Truth: Marx returns to bail out finance capital". Originalsonictruth.blogspot.com. 2011-01-20. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "Marxism and early cinema - Marxism - film, movie, documentary". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "News from Ideological Antiquity: Marx – Eisenstein – Das Kapital". Cornerhouse. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "Ellipsis #25 « The Seventh Art". Theseventhart.info. 2010-12-26. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "Senses of Cinema interview with Dušan Makavejev". Retrieved 2011-03-16.
- Duff, Oliver (2007-02-27). "The Independent, 27 February 2007". London. Retrieved 2011-03-16.
- See David Sterritt, The Films of Jean-Luc Godard: Seeing the Invisible (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 83.
- "New Left Review, July–August 2009". Retrieved 2011-03-16.
- Jason Barker. "Marx Reloaded Film". Marxreloaded.com. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- Francis Wheen, Karl Marx (London: Fourth Estate, 1999), p. 116.
- Frederic Jameson in New Left Review, July-August 2009.
- Karl Marx: Ein Philosoph macht Geschichte at Amazon.
- 'World Forum - Communist Quiz' in Monty Python’s Flying Circus, episode 25 at YouTube.
- Mohr und die Raben von London at the Internet Movie Database.
- News from Ideological Antiquity at the Goethe Institut.