All 330 shots from 'Nachrede auf Klara Heydebreck'.
Nachrede auf Klara Heydebreck | Film analysis, 2014
Word, Brain

For my final thesis I took an in-depth look at 'Nachrede auf Klara Heydebreck', the documentary debut of German filmmaker Eberhard Fechner (*1926, †1992), which is considered one of the most influential works in German documentary film history.

Fechner was always interested in the lifes of common people. His intention was to present history from the perspective of the oppressed by conducting long-term interviews with contemporary witnesses and editing the statements in a contradictory way. In consequence, the viewer is constantly challenged to reconsider different positions in order to make his own assessment.

In 'Nachrede auf Klara Heydebreck' Fechner reconstructed the personality of a childless single woman from Berlin (born in 1896), who had been living on the edge of survival until 1957 and eventually commited suicide at the age of 72. It turned out that Klara was a gifted individual, always fighting for her independence and continually educating herself. But the interviewees tell a different tale: Relatives and neighbours describe her as an outsider, a strange maid who supposedly maintained no contacts to others and 'refused' to get married. With the aid of countless interviews and her estate, Fechner tried to discover the reason, why Klara Heydebreck decided to depart willingly from her own life.

First and foremost the thesis covers various approaches to documentary film theory in order to define the subject matter and continue the discourse regarding the difference between fiction and nonfiction. In the next step, the film is put into its historical socio-political context of the sixties, when german journalists of the '45 generation enforced an extensive critical coverage in the media. Not coincidentally, the film was also preceded by the new women's movement's claim that the private is political. What had been kept private for centuries was now transformed into a political issue, and the dualism of private and public life was called into question.

The actual analysis consists of the protagonist's personality profile, the dramaturgical structure of the film, which shares similarities with Brecht's epic theatre, and Fechner's dialectical montage. It is further discussed, whether his social criticism is related to the Hegelian-Marxist idea of alienation as the absence of a meaningful relationship to oneself and others. Last but not least the thesis tries to examine parallels between Fechner's working techniques and the historical research method oral history, but most importantly answers the question, if 'Nachrede auf Klara Heydebreck' can be considered an early contribution to people's history, also known as history from below.

Bachelor thesis - 'Zur Rekonstruktion eines vergangenen Lebens' [ 16,08 MB ] Download

Klara Heydebreck at the Grunewald, 1934