Not only was it fantastic to see Christoph Waltz featured in the March 2012 issue of GQ Deutschland, imagine our joy when we realized that he wrote the article himself!
While you will have to purchase the magazine to read the full article in German, we have done an English translation of the article for non-German speakers.
An Oscar winner and slow driver in the 550-horsepower Jaguar – can that work? It does. A critique of civilization by Christoph Waltz.
I’m not crazy about sports cars. For me, these are only means of transportation. Granted, it’s nice, though, that I know I can take 300 mph, in theory, but I’m only going to use 80. For me, a car is not a symbol of manliness. What does it have to do with the meaning of masculinity? What I actually enjoy most is convenience. I love leather seats, or when the steering wheel is heated in the winter and I do not have to wear gloves while driving the car on the school run. If I need something, I can just flick a switch and the rest will happen by itself. Or when the door almost noiselessly closes and locks. The fans of this air conditioner work in the dashboard without me having to actually hear it. They only hum quietly. I like a gentle buzzing sound. I don’t like engine noises. In here, nothing roars. I also can hear my music very softly when I wish.
A car must be stable on the road, glued to the pavement. I enjoy certain types of transverse accelerations that there are possible here. However, speed scares me. I am a safety freak. We constantly underestimate what can happen. In those cars, it’s the noise, the feeling, the sensation of being the only one on the road road, and the illusion of perfect control. I’ve had some accidents. Since then, I am a little nervous. However, in difficult situations a Jaguar is fantastic.
I once had a difficult situation on a highway entrance into Germany. I was practically in a trap: A huge truck would not let me enter the motorway, while a van behind me was jostling to make me drive even more aggressively. This kind of thing happens worldwide. He had, at least, 250 hp. A Spuckerl (Austrian aircraft) that runs has 250hp. The van drove right up behind me and I wasn’t going fast enough. “400 hp should indeed be good for anything”, I thought to myself, and stepped on the gas. And the thing shot off, like nothing. My pulse was then at 150 or higher. Frightening!
As a young boy I was no more or less obsessed with cars than other boys. I had just the normal bulk of youthful knowledge about cars, and a red Matchbox Ferrari, which was something special. My uncle, however, owned a real gold Jaguar in the 60’s. At least, I thought it was gold. He was very proud, but his pride was always on display when I went with him. For me, the car was a hero’s vehicle To ride in it once around the block was an experience. The animal on the hood is an icon. It conjures up ideas of the English upper class.
My first car was not English upper class. That was a Puch 500, made in Austria under license from Fiat. Their mopeds, and cycles were everywhere back then. My first trip was to Venice. Unfortunately, the bottom plate rusted out before I arrived. And then I once had an old Triumph from the 60’s. However, because I had this, people stopped at the red light next to me always asked such rubbish. “How is it? Does is move well?” I always responded, “What do I know? I have no idea about cars.”
Obsessive car people are a mystery to me. In Germany, it feels like blowing on the horn and simultaneously pressing on the gas. I think Hans Magnus Enzensberger has written an excellent description in his book “Mediocrity and Delusion”. He has analyzed the situation with a lot of wit and accuracy. The German limits his aspirations to mediocrity and sets himself on restrictions except for when on the highway because he can act out. On the road, he can be the greatest, if his car’s fastest. Therefore, to allow high speeds on the highways, is virtually in the national interest. In Austria, it is not like that, because it’s more about quality of life, then speed. I once drove to Munich from Vienna at night. I took in the cozy beauty of the Wachau, and the Danube. I innocently went over the German border and with Austria still in my rear view mirror, there was an insane motorist behind me. I swear, but rarely behind the wheel. Arschgesicht* is my preferred insult, which fits most people.
I do understand a certain kind of car obsession. The conductor Carlos Kleiber, for example, especially appreciated beautiful and fast cars. He had all but completely stopped conducting. Then a German car company had asked him to be a conductor for a gala. Kleiber said he would commit only if he got the biggest and newest model as payment. He received it promptly, and the concert was probably great. I can also understand if someone stares in awe of the twelve cylinders of his Maserati from the 60s, because of the beauty. I once lived near a few car fanatic-friends and I think that’s understandable.
Or take the collector of old cars who is more interested in the history of a style of a different technological age, instead of the latest technology. It’s just like when people gather the antique clothes or furniture from the 17th Century thinking that it works totally differently, for another life in another time. Such an old car can be a different type of experience. If, for example, one is flicking a switch, that is a different experience than to constantly have to have their fingers on a touch screen. If it makes a click somewhere, I am very happy. Thus, a slight, short click makes it work.. I once got into an old limousine that belonged to some bigwigs from Russia. It was a 600-Mercedes-blending with curtains and strange technology. The gear shifts were buttons on the dash. The entire car was insanely expensive, but also shabby, like all of the Soviet aesthetics. Not only as an age, but also as an ideology.
I find the most ridiculous cars are these American sleds from the 60s. Too many fins and huge tails. The proportions are disproportionate. At the time, cars possibly had a different meaning. Driving a unique car that came out independently in its’ own way, sometimes even a revolutionary way. This time is over. All cars are now made the same. But for the status concerned, a car is a reflection of self. We care more and more about our life circumstances. We decide what we should wear, and drive what we want.
Especially in Los Angeles, many people drive identical cars. For example, the so-called Soccer Moms, mothers who drive their children to and from the sport.. They all own small SUVs. It annoys me the most when people confirm what the stereotypes are. When I see in front of me a piece of junk sedan in pale blue, and the driver puts on his right indicator but turns left I think, “He drives like an Indian.” After that I’ll give myself an imaginary box on the ear, because a preconceived opinion about others is completely inappropriate. Then I drive by, and then actually the driver inside is an Indian! So I develop an animosity against the driver, not because of racism, but because it confirmed my idiotic stereotype.
For me, the brake is more important than the gas pedal. If you drive at such a high-tech car, it’s easy to not notice your speed. Of course I also like to put it in the curves, especially when a car is biting into the tarmac like this. But I don’t have Formula 1 skills, and this kind of thing is simply childish. And the consequences of overconfidence can be hairy. In Los Angeles you can not drive around like that with impunity. That suits me. Ideally I would not even outrun a coyote. To be stopped by the police very rarely is also a pleasant side effect. Apart from the incredible luxury, by driving slow, the question about why I ever find a car applies to you as well. Clarence said it best in the movie “True Romance”: “Better to have a gun you don’t need, then to need a gun you don’t have.”
*literally: ass face, butthead
Translator note: While all efforts were made to provide an accurate translation, please be aware that mistakes in meaning may have occurred and the only 100% correct and complete version of this article is found in the original publication.