Signs of Vigorous Life, made in 1976 for the BBC, focuses in on an important movement in cinema history right as it was happening. Werner Herzog, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Volker Schlöndorff, Wim Wenders, and Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, all in their absolute prime, are featured in this superb documentary charting the rise of New German Cinema and its key figures—works that proved esoteric in a country already damaged by decades of false hope and typically neglected by the masses in favor of lighter entertainment. From its early conception in the ’60s—which paved the way for young, political filmmakers to examine a post-Nazi Germany from a distance and reclaim the country’s filmic roots—through the mid-’70s, the half-hour special hones in on the somber masterworks that gave prominence to the country’s individualistic wunderkinds.
It cannot be stressed enough: this is a must-watch for anyone with even the slightest interest in any of the aforementioned directors or cinema history in general—a remarkable and candid encapsulation of an era.
NOTE: This documentary can also be found on Criterion’s release of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul.