« A sense of justice made him a brigand and a murderer. » Heinrich von Kleist
Michael Kohlhaas offers us a close look – as in a laboratory experiment – at the workings of the human being. How can an honest man, deeply motivated by a desire for justice, become – through a combination of external circumstances – the instigator of brutal actions? And how does he manage to align so many people with his cause? In Kleist’s world, the human being is an unstable, non-linear, unpredictable system. A balance built on the brink of chaos.
The famous expression ‘butterfly effect’ has instilled in our imagination the possibility that a small and seemingly insignificant flap of the wings can have devastating effects. In Kohlhaas, a series of actions leading to the destruction of a city is set in motion by the impudent gesture of a local lord, as arbitrary as a throw of the dice. The author invites us to ask: can a single action determine the future in an unpredictable way? And above all, how does a human feeling – according to a precise geometry of passions – turn into its opposite?