My second name is Marc, but due to an error made by the registry office, I was called Marx Julian Radlmaier on my first passport. I guess you could say I was fated to be a Marxist, even if I can’t decide between Karl and the Marx Brothers. The former wasn’t popular at my school in early 2000s Nuremberg. In my last year of high school, our textbook on German philosophers dedicated only a half page to Marx and it was to explain why he was wrong in every respect and not even a philosopher — just an idiot! But despite this and what I’d learned in school, which was that good learners will climb the social ladder and lazy people will stay down, the Marxist perspective gave me a way to understand my surroundings, including my own family — which was made of so many class backgrounds.
When I moved to Berlin in 2005, I got interested in the dissonance between the lived reality of people in a communist state, like the DDR, and Marxist theory. It was strange that someone’s philosophy promising the emancipation of humankind turned into something so different in practice. This was also during the time of the financial crisis, so I got deeper into the workings of capitalism and critiquing it. I even joined a Marxist reading group and we would sit in my friend’s kitchen having discussions, pretty much as shown in Blutsauger (Bloodsuckers: a Marxist Vampire Comedy).
What I’m interested in is what Marx called the Value Theory. In capitalism, the working class gives all their time in order to create the wealth of a system that doesn’t come back to them. That’s the blood-sucking vampire metaphor you find in Das Kapital and that I use in my film.
Why “Marxist” films? To be honest I don’t think you can escape being political in a film. There’s nothing worse than subconsciously reproducing stereotypes and biases: so better choose a deliberate stance. Filmmaking is like a laboratory where you’re mixing different elements that all enter into a line of communication, and for me Marxist theory is one of them. Then to approach it with humour is vital for me, it keeps my film away from dry lecturing or propaganda.
I have this utopian view that we should try to overcome class-based divisions. On set, the question of exploitation is always present. It can be difficult when making a film on a small-budget to ensure that we offer the best working conditions for everyone, but we try not to fall into the worst traps of exploitation.
Julian Radlmaier is a 37-year-old Bavarian-born filmmaker and the director of Blutsauger: Eine marxistische Vampirkomödie (Bloodsuckers: A Marxist Vampire Comedy) as well as 2017’s Self-Criticism of a Bourgeois Dog.