Die Parallelstraße is Ferdinand Khittl’s only feature film, and it remains an absolute outlier in German cinema. Released in 1962 to an almost non-existing audience, and only recently rediscovered, it manages to transform a two-year journey around the world into an impossible, globe-spanning travelogue that treats the fragmentary form of its own material with constant suspicion and great irony. About a third of the film’s runtime is devoted to a group of analysts who, in a thoroughly absurd setting and increasingly desperate mood, are trying to make sense of the images they are presented with. What makes their task even more hopeless is that Khittl’s footage marks a radical departure from the tradition of European ethnographic cinema, as he persistently refuses, or sometimes intentionally fails, to transform the people and places he encounters into objects of reflection. Instead, Khittl, whose background in industrial film shines through in many of his shots, and whose camera does not discriminate between the mysteries of chemistry, religion, labor, architecture or color, delivers an equally distanced and delirious monologue in which the centuries of colonial history that his narration traverses–the extraction of natural resources, the construction of transportation networks, the self-perpetuating crimes of war and the never-ending rituals of love and death–retain all their horrors, as horrors.

Sebastian Lütgert is the co-founder of Pirate Cinema Berlin and the 0xDB movie database. He lives and works in Berlin as an artist, writer and programmer.