The complex, some say ponderous, films of director Alexander Kluge are not often fully understood by non-German audiences, yet those who appreciate them hail Kluge as one of the key figures in reviving German cinema and consider him a major force in the genesis and development of New German Cinema. He was among those who penned the inflammatory Oberhausen Manifesto, a document signed by 26 irate young German filmmakers at the 1962 Oberhausen Film Festival. The manifesto demanded they be given the freedom to make innovative films without having to use the tired escapist conventions and commercial restraints that had dulled the sharp cutting edge characterizing pre-WW II German cinema. Originally a lawyer, Kluge became a novelist and political journalist. In 1958, he moved to film as an assistant to Fritz Lang. Two years later, he was directing short films.
Kluge made his feature debut in 1966 with Yesterday Girl. Subsequent films have been satirical and politically motivated; a full understanding of German socio-politics is therefore required to fully appreciate a Kluge film. Many utilize absurdity to rail against all forms of mediocrity and those who promote it. Kluge seems to favor female protagonists and his films create an unbroken link between the past and the present. Some have criticized Kluge for making films that move too slowly, are too dense and too earnest be truly scathing satire. Still he has earned several international awards. Yesterday Girl swept the 1966 Venice Film Festival, taking eight prizes. Other distinguished films include Artists at the Top of the Big Top: Disoriented (1968), Strongman Ferdinand (1976) and The Power of Emotion (1983). In addition to directing, Kluge also produced and wrote the screenplays for his films. Since 1962, Kluge has been the headmaster of the film institute at the Hochschule fuer Gestaltung in Ulm, Germany. In 1988, he began working for German cable television on the RTL and SAT.1 channels. His sister Alexandra Kluge occasionally starred in his films.