The film essay "From the West" opens with a child’s question of what “the West” means beyond the cardinal direction, then goes on to retrace how “the West,” as a model of society, inscribed itself in the Federal Republic of Germany’s postwar history and architecture.
Long panning shots through unidentified West German cities alternate with interior footage of a house being cleared out. Long drives – down highways, through suburbs and industrial zones – traverse urban sprawl and car-friendly cities to 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 a passed-down memory of a “hemmed-in West Germany,” recalling the years of her parents’ membership in a 1970s communist splinter group. Over and over, the rallying point is the single-family 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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