The “good life” – what is it supposed to mean, for each one of us, for all of us? As a pursuit, the good life is an integral part of political debates on social justice and participation.Yet it remains intangible, only to be experienced. In the film A cold case or happiness, the pursuit of the good life becomes palpable – in interpersonal interaction, in the loss of human bodies, in modernist architecture. Shot in Los Angeles during spring of 2023, the film draws on a year’s research into the work of writer and filmmaker Erika Runge (*1939 in Halle an der Saale). Out of the present-day’s sense of urgency, the artists ask the question: what does the good life mean, for all and not just for a few?
Through the format of the interview, Erika Runge’s work as a journalist aimed to uncover the good life in everyday life. An intersubjective cross-section of her research and interview practice exposes the larger contexts of her interest: capitalism, analysis, and solidarity. These themes were explored through interviews with German and migrant workers, women, and communists, among others, and touched upon topics such as changing the work sphere; family, sex and relationships; gender issues; racism and anti-racist resistance; East/West Germany; nuclear disarmament; and the feminist struggle. While intersecting, Runge observed these struggles throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The cut-up technique that Runge developed in her writing practice enabled her to tell parallel stories, let lives coexist, and to connect historical and contemporary narratives.
“The destruction of communication skills has become part of the system in which we live,” Runge wrote in her 1976 essay Überlegungen beim Abschied von der Dokumentarliteratur / Reflections Upon Saying Farewell to Documentary Literature. The actors in A cold case or happiness move through this associative space, come together, move apart again, live an everyday life, where commonplace actions become metaphors, and in which understanding and being understood can no longer be assumed but has to be worked through.