In retrospect it is not difficult to recognize the conflicts within the festival as reflecting the atmosphere in the culture at large. The activities of the terrorist RAF (Red Army Faction) had provoked a radicalisation on all sides. The climate in the media was becoming rougher, the tone used in the debates harsher, and the tendency to polemicise was increasing. In an article for Die Zeit, the journalist und future festival director Wolf Donner described the conflict between Competition and Forum as a choice of conscience between “plush” and “politics”: “The difference really is striking: At the Competition you have red plush, announcements in three languages, stars with bouquets, fancy people, a kind of forced festiveness. At the Forum – more beards and longer hair, scruffy attire, an informal atmosphere, debate.”
Plush and politics
Donner’s two-world characterization shows that the signs of the times marked the everyday atmosphere at the festival, and were also perceived as such. The dividing line between establishment and anti-establishment could still be clearly seen. The conflict was intensified by the undeniable weakness of the Competition programme that year – in contrast to a selection of exciting, and largely even outstanding, films in the Forum. The Competition line-up (including films by Peter Ustinov, Marco Ferreri, Arthur Miller, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Zin-Uh Zeong and Pier Paolo Pasolini) tried all too obviously to steer a middle course and thus, more often than not, succumbed to mediocrity. The Golden Bear awarded to Pasolini’s I Racconti di Canterbury | The Canterbury Tales was regarded as a stopgap measure; after all, Pasolini had already proven his genius on numerous other occasions.
The Forum films on the other hand showed contemporary themes, documented the political struggles of the time, told personal stories of failed lives and spoke in blunt and uncompromising terms. The idea of showing some of the contemporary films side by side with older, thematically similar works, testified to the high historical and intellectual standards of the Forum, and was positively received. Friedrich Luft – a critical observer of the festival and notorious for his radical demands – advocated doing away with the Competition entirely in favour of the Forum. Even the generally more circumspect Karena Niehoff did not want to take up the cudgels for the Competition this year and declared the Forum the “real winner” of the festival.