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This report is taken from PN Review 41, Volume 11 Number 3, January - February 1985.

The Guardian and his Poet Mark Finch

'This is where Robert Walser died' announces the actor playing Walser. To make sense of this abrupt dislocation requires thinking of the actor as someone who stands for someone else. This is not a difficult task (we learnt it from Brecht), yet it illustrates the way in which Percy Adlon's film, The Guardian And His Poet differs from the type of fictionalized history or mutant melodrama that British television or American cinema more frequently offer us (this was made for West German television in 1978, and is now being screened in English cinemas). Adlon attends to Walser's relationship with the publisher Carl Seelig; the poet's death - an albescent event in the Swiss landscape - is quite unlike Gerald become mad in the Alps at the end of Ken Russell's Women in Love, or demonic Jack Nicholson frozen in mid-sneer by Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Dementia and winter's corrosion are potent in combination; Adlon deploys this image with that rarely well-measured but constantly praised quality: subtlety. His concern is with documentary and the evocative potential of collage; the film gently shifts in 'style' if the multiplicity of viewpoints will aid its argument.

In conversation it is clear that Adlon has no fondness for Seelig. He thinks that the guardian's account of Walser's hospitalization (for schizophrenia) is imbued with an offensive, muddy sentimentality. When it is suggested that the Walser/Seelig conjunction echoes Kafka's relations with Max Brod; 'Yes, the bad bits,' responds Adlon sharply, 'The man who deals ...

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