20 January 2014 | t_atzmueller
One of the most authentic depictions of contemporary Bavaria (despite being almost 50 years old)
Jagdszenen aus Niederbayern" is wonderfully shot and acted, and needs not to shy from comparisons to other contemporary works, just to mention Werner Herzogs or Herbert Achternbuschs films, which often take place in a similar environment. But rather than discussing the film and its qualities, I would like to discuss the social and cultural implications. Much has been said about Jagdszenen aus Niederbayern" being a metaphor for the fascism under the Third Reich, the butchering of the "unwanted" in the concentration camps, etc. All this is true and intended by the director, but if you take those metaphors and allegories away, you'd still have a very precise portrayal of rural live in the Bavarian countryside.
If you want to compare Bavaria to Germany, you could think of Italy and the difference between Milano and a Sicilian hamlet. Or think about the States and the "cultural" differences between Boston and an Appalachian mountain-village, you should get the point.
If you should ever visit Germany, going south and crossing the "Weißwurstäquator" (or "White-Sausage-equator", an imaginary border that divides Bavaria from the rest of Germany), you'll notice that you're indeed in another country. Cuisine, language, fashion, indeed, physically things are very different in the free-state. People in those areas are proud to be the most traditional (if not tribal) of all German states or "down to earth", as they frequently put it. Bavarians from the small villages and hamlets will often joke, that the Autobahn is the only reason that saved those villages from degenerative inbreeding and refer to any outsiders / non-Bavarians as "Prussians". Bavarians will often declare that they are a monarchy (despite the last king having been declared insane and committed suicide more than a hundred years ago). They'll likely point out that Bavaria is a free-state, which is correct, albeit purely symbolic and without political consequences. This is meant as a tongue-in-cheek joke, usually told with a wink of the eye. But once you've spent more time in those parts, you'll notice that the joke only paper-thin and that, yes, these people actually mean it.
The film (and the play upon which it is based) also refers to the Bavarian tradition of "Haberfeldtreiben", which is a symbolic lynching: during those occasions, the mob (generally the whole village) will gather in front of the house of an undesired person, usually people who have broken a taboo or against the moral standards of the village (unmarried mothers, liberals, often intellectuals or the rich; in more recent times, homosexuals and people afflicted with AIDS). The villagers would recite the "crimes" of the target, sometimes in the forms of rhymes and accompany the recitals by making as much noise as possible. Unlike in a real trial, the "delinquents" are not given the chance to justify or defend themselves. Bavarians are quick to point out that, other than to the dignity of the "offender", no physical damage is done during the "Haberfeldtreiben" – which is only partly true, since there have been many such events recorded which ended in violence, lynching and death. The last officially reported "Haberfeldtreiben" took place in 2009.
In essence, "Jagdszenen aus Niederbayern" is a look at an archaic culture, deeply rooted in the 18th and 19th century, which in many ways is backward, stuck in outdated ways of thinking and very proud of it. Needless to say that there was much outrage in the south when this film was released. People were quick to point out, that director Fleischmann depicted most of the villagers as stereotypical – which is perhaps true but not to much the fault of the director as the fault of the stereotypes themselves. In other words: it wasn't the dignified outrage of people who felt that they were being lampooned unjustified, but rather the outrage of people who were shown a mirror and weren't comfortable with the reflection.
As for the film: it is a piece of art and highly recommendable to anybody who wishes to look a little deeper into the Bavarian psyche, beyond tourist-attractions like the castles of King Ludwig II and the bucket-sized beer-mugs at the Oktoberfest.