Private Project

Close up Marx

A cinematic investigation of the figure of Karl Marx and his monuments from different systems and time frames. From Chemnitz ("Karl-Marx-Stadt" in GDR times) to Trier, in West Germany, the documentary-experimental collage zooms in on the genesis of new and old Marx monuments. Conversations with eye witnesses open up controversial approaches to Marx, his theory and his statues. In Trier he serves as a model for merchandise, in Neubrandenburg, “Marxplatz” became “Market Place” after reunification, and in Jena Marx has vanished into the archive. In Chemnitz, the space around the Marx Monument has inscribed itself as the place where socio-political confrontation takes place.
The interview footage interlinks with found footage from DEFA material to youtube clips. On a third image level, the camera scans the texture of the monuments. It follows the work traces of modeling the sculptures, exploring a perspective in close up details.

  • Justin Time
  • Alex Gerbaulet
  • Katinka Zeuner
  • Sebastian Winkels
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    Close up Marx
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Experimental
  • Genres:
    Politics, History, Economics
  • Runtime:
    37 minutes 19 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    March 31, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    25,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Kasseler Dokfest
    November 17, 2023
    world premiere
  • Mannheim Arts & Film
    Best History Film
Distribution Information
  • arsenal distribution berlin
    Country: Worldwide
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Justin Time

Justin Time is a genderqueer stonemason, filmmaker and artist. His films and installations deal with gender, work, class, and recently, representation in monuments: Thus the memorial for the carrier pigeons of WWI, or the statues and monuments that celebrate Karl Marx, for very different reasons, in East and West Germany. With a queer gaze, Justin Time analyses and dissolves his subjects in a multi-perspective approach based on conversations and interviews, examining metaphors and stereotypes, social structures and collective memory. Contrary to a notion of "objectivity", Justin Time is interested in blurring the certainties and questioning normativity. In this, he searches for a new narrative that challenges the viewers and himself and opens up new spaces. Justin Time lives in Berlin.

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Director Statement

Thinking in contradictions to explain the world on a material basis.

Two systems, five cities, five images. Different ideologies and time levels. What would Karl Marx have said about this? He would not have been pleased with the commercial exploitation of his image, nor with the ideological appropriation that his theories and analyses of capitalism have received. The fact that his head has become a commodity in both East and West probably makes him rotate in his grave.

The film wanders between Trier and Chemnitz on the traces of Marx monuments, confronts found footage with on-site interviews and analyzes myth and propaganda factor, which have been undeservedly attached to Marx for decades. Following in the footsteps of Alexander Kluge and Sergei Eisenstein, CLOSE UP MARX seeks to take on the challenge of turning something as unwieldy as Karl Marx and his theory, all the more unwieldy in the form of five bronze monuments, into a film.

How current are the questions Marx raised in Capital? What does labour, solidarity and class mean today? What role do the respective systems in which people grew up play - or not?

The personality cult of a monument, which in the 19th century was reserved for kings and the aristocracy, has in the 20th and 21st centuries taken hold of the mastermind of economic criticism. Who can muster the economic resources to build monuments? China as a world economic power?

While history is being smoothed over a monument in Trier, cities like Chemnitz and Jena are trying to put an end to the history of the GDR. In the former East, the view of Marx vacillates between god and criminal. And Marx said of himself that he was not a Marxist.

Since the 1970s, the image of Marx statues has been used for propaganda, and even today it provides an ideological projection surface.

More than thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the project CLOSE UP MARX is an investigation of the actual state of places in the German East and West. I am interested in backgrounds and life stories, the analyses that people on the ground make themselves, and the questions that arise when the statements are confronted with each other.

I ask about the narratives of the people and about how the respective city deals with current history and how this relates to more distant history.

Karl Marx cannot be viewed other than in contradictions. His theory has contributed to the genesis of state structures and has been mutilated in the process. The revaluation that labor and workers have received in socialist systems does not correspond to the critique of the formation of value via abstract human labor. What would a new attempt to implement the theory look like?

Justin Time