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The New German Cinema

The New German Cinema: Music, History, and the Matter of Style

Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 331
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  • Book Info
    The New German Cinema
    Book Description:

    When New German cinema directors like R. W. Fassbinder, Ulrike Ottinger, and Werner Schroeter explored issues of identity-national, political, personal, and sexual-music and film style played crucial roles. Most studies of the celebrated film movement, however, have sidestepped the role of music, a curious oversight given its importance to German culture and nation formation. Caryl Flinn's study reverses this trend, identifying styles of historical remembrance in which music participates. Flinn concentrates on those styles that urge listeners to interact with difference-including that embodied in Germany's difficult history-rather than to "master" or "get past" it. Flinn breaks new ground by considering contemporary reception frameworks of the New German Cinema, a generation after its end. She discusses transnational, cultural, and historical contexts as well as the sexual, ethnic, national, and historical diversity of audiences. Through detailed case studies, she shows how music helps filmgoers engage with a range of historical subjects and experiences. Each chapter ofThe New German Cinemaexamines a particular stylistic strategy, assessing music's role in each. The study also examines queer strategies like kitsch and camp and explores the movement's charged construction of human bodies on which issues of ruination, survival, memory, and pleasure are played out.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93715-4
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: “Strategies of Remembrance”
    (pp. 1-26)

    The relationship between history and film style and music is a long and uneven one. It tends to heat up when exaggerated, nonverisimilitudinous forms are used with “serious” or sensitive subject matter. Critics foundOne Day in September(McDonald, 1999), the recent documentary on the Black September terrorists who disrupted the 1972 Munich Olympics, too “MTV-like” in its sensationalized display of the victims, its flashy editing, and hard rock score. Putting aside its judgment of the film, this critique presumes that an “appropriate” form of music and style existed for the film, but was not selected. It also implies that...


    • 1 Mourning, Melancholia, and “New German Melodrama”
      (pp. 29-69)

      The airing of the U.S. miniseries “The Holocaust” on German television in 1977 was a milestone in the history of the New German Cinema. Enormously well received by a mass audience, its virtues were fiercely contested among intellectuals and filmmakers. Edgar Reitz opined that “the Americans have stolen our history”¹ and retaliated with an even longer family drama,Heimat. The first installment begins with a shot of a rock on which “Made in Germany” is written, emphasizing the homegrown, “authentic” nature of his work. Reviled though the American miniseries may have been among elite cultural producers, it nonetheless paved the...

    • 2 Modernism’s Aftershocks: Peer Raben’s Film Music for Fassbinder
      (pp. 70-104)

      Adorno wrote these words about Gustav Mahler, but they describe the collaborative work between Raben and Fassbinder with eerie prescience. Adorno maintained that Mahler moved beyond musical expressionism, subjectivity, tragedy, and unity, not for the sake of novelty, nor even for a modernist jolt, but out of a larger, general fatigue that was passionate yet, as is commonly said of Mahler, ironic. The style of his symphonic movements, for instance,repudiatedfantasies of symphonic wholeness while simultaneously acknowledging their allure. Thus Mahler’s music conveys “the truth of the unattainable”—another comment that describes Fassbinder and Raben well.¹ Others construct Mahler...


    • 3 Kluge’s Assault on History: Trauma, Testimony, and Difference in The Patriot
      (pp. 107-137)

      Benjamin’s desire for explosive historiography describes the project of many New German Cinema directors. It operated in the different appearances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony discussed in the Introduction. Literal “blasts” occur in a wide array of other films—not surprising for a movement concerned with World War II and its aftermath. Even those not set on the battlefield dramatize the explosive efforts needed to force Germany to come to terms with the past:Germany, Pale Mother, Lili Marleen, andMaria Braunall have explosions that connect their female protagonists to war and, in the case of Maria Braun, to memory...

    • 4 Undoing Act 5: History, Bodies, and Operatic Remains: Kluge’s The Power of Emotion
      (pp. 138-170)

      Just as trauma and allegorical readings disable conventional narrative/historical forms, so too does opera, at least in the hands of Kluge, whose extraordinaryThe Power of Emotionblasts open its nineteenth-century forms. Scattered across the text like so many interrupted arias, unidentified rehearsals, performance fragments, manipulated film footage, stereoscopic mattes, time-lapse set changes, ironic voice-overs, fictional interviews, dozens of operas, and other European art music become the stuff out of which this 1983 film is literally made.

      Why opera? For one thing, because opera generates and trades in fantasy, spectacle, music, and emotion. Music’s affiliation with human feelings, besides providing...


    • 5 Restaging History with Fantasy: Body, Camp, and Sound in the Films of Treut, Ottinger, and von Praunheim
      (pp. 173-230)

      Known for staging socio-historical, political and psychical issues, the New German Cinema used different musical and stylistic techniques to construct bodies as prop-laden figures rather than as psychologically credible beings. But, as we have seen, the history lessons enacted through (or upon) the bodies of Gerta Baethe and others leave certain questions unanswered, even unposed. How are bodies differentiated? What about the identifications, agency, pleasure, and desires of filmgoers? Turning to the work of Monika Treut, Ulrike Ottinger, and Rosa von Praunheim, I want to show how music, sound, and style can counter their often fatalistic depictions in other films...

    • 6 Introjecting Kitsch: Werner Schroeter, Music, and Alterity
      (pp. 231-265)

      What Nietzsche attempts to resurrect in the remark above is precisely the “killed-off hope” that Heinrich Mann militates against. In this chapter, I turn to an especially demeaned form of aestheticism—kitsch—which can offer not just a sense of “hope,” but new ways for viewers of the New German Cinema to approach the past, particularly its less pleasant (and perhaps most removed) aspects. As the above quotes demonstrate, kitsch, as a form of aestheticism, is usually associated with unproductive decadence. We’ve already seen how queer German directors openly challenge that condemnation of decadence in their use of camp. For...

  8. Coda: Working the Pieces
    (pp. 267-278)

    When Daniel Libeskind began designing the museum in Berlin to commemorate Jewish victims of the Shoah, he changed the project title from “Extension of the Berlin Museum with the Jewish Museum Department” to “Between the Lines.”¹ The change affirms that one cannot add on the experience of Jewish people to rectify or complete German history any more than one can tack on additions to the museums that institutionalize it. His intentions were “to integrate physically and spiritually the meaning of the Holocaust in the consciousness and memory of the city of Berlin. . . . [O]nly through the acknowledgment and...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 279-312)
  10. Index
    (pp. 313-323)