The film essay From the West opens with an innocent question concerning what exactly ‘the West’ is beyond a geographical location. The film then unfolds the question to retrace how ‘the West’ as a model of society has inscribed itself on the Federal Republic of Germany, looking particularly at the post-war history and architecture of the country.
Long panning shots through unidentified West German cities alternate with interior footage of a house being cleared out. These panning shots take the form of a long drive, observing austere highways, quotidian suburban areas, and large industrial zones. This urban sprawl is set against the rhythm of abstract, mellow music inspired by evening news theme tunes.
In the film’s searching movements, the narrator shifts among reflections on modern architecture and property relations, detailed scenes from childhood, and an inherited memory of a ‘hemmed-in West Germany,’ recalling the years of her parents’ membership in a 1970s communist splinter group. Repeatedly the rallying point is the single-family home. A home which Konrad Adenauer and his contemporaries once touted as a bastion against the East and which Engels, much earlier, had decried as a tool for quashing rebellion. For all its deconstruction, West Germany also appears in the film as a site of childhood longing where everyone was ‘still tuned in to the same TV show.’
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