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No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home: Locations of Heimat in German Cinema

Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 318
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  • Book Info
    No Place Like Home
    Book Description:

    This is the first comprehensive account of Germany's most enduring film genre, the Heimatfilm, which has offered idyllic variations on the idea that "there is no place like home" since cinema's early days. Charting the development of this popular genre over the course of a century in a work informed by film studies, cultural history, and social theory, Johannes von Moltke focuses in particular on its heyday in the 1950s, a period that has been little studied. Questions of what it could possibly mean to call the German nation "home" after the catastrophes of World War II are anxiously present in these films, and von Moltke uses them as a lens through which to view contemporary discourses on German national identity.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93859-5
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Locating Heimat
    (pp. 1-18)

    ″Repeat after me: there′s no place like home …″ Having just learned that she already possesses what she has been looking for, Dorothy clicks together the heels of her ruby slippers and dreamily chants the most famous line fromThe Wizard of Oz(1939), a film full of memorable sound bites. As the resolution of the film′s dramatic structure, which takes Dorothy away from home, through Oz, and back again, the words ″there′s no place like home″ contain the ideological message of the film. They condense its central concern with the meaning of home into a neat, iterable formula. Judy...


    • 1 Evergreens: The Place of Heimat in German Film History
      (pp. 21-35)

      Second only to Nazi cinema, which has recently become the object of sustained critical reevaluations, the 1950s arguably remain the quintessential ″bad object″ of German film historiography. Though the decade is now being reevaluated by cultural historians in particular,¹ the years from 1949 to the Oberhausen Manifesto of 1962 still constitute a gap in the conceptualization of the history of (West) German cinema.² Where the cinema of the 1950s does make an appearance in monographs or anthologies, it tends to function historiographically as a postscript to Nazi cinema or simply as a cinematic wasteland awaiting rebuilding by the pioneers of...

    • 2 Therapeutic Topographies: From Ludwig Ganghofer to the Nazi Heimatfilm
      (pp. 36-70)

      Bridging the various moments I have touched upon in the history of theHeimatfilm, the continuous presence of Peter Ostermayr stands out. Ostermayr personifies the sustained association between Heimat and the cinema from the beginning of the twentieth century through the heyday of theHeimatfilmafter World War II. Though largely forgotten today, he was widely recognized in the 1950s as the ″father of the Heimatfilm.″¹ Even outspoken critics of the genre would temper their views when speaking of the Ostermayr tradition, which was associated with a particular set of literary sources, high production values, and unflagging continuity.² With a...


    • 3 Launching the Heimatfilmwelle: From the Trümmerfilm to Grün ist die Heide
      (pp. 73-92)

      Rudolf Jugert′sFilm ohne Titelbegins in the country, where we find three filmmakers gathered under a tree, engrossed in the effort of coming up with ideas for a ″zeitnahe Komödie.″ A scriptwriter and a director are beset by doubts about the feasibility of such a project, arguing that any attempt at producing a ″light film″ would appear ″banal or cynical against the bleak background of our times.″ Their star, however, insists on the need for entertainment. Played by Willy Fritsch playing himself, he is keen on using the project as a vehicle for his well-established image as a romantic...

    • 4 Heimat/Horror/History: Rosen blühen auf dem Heidegrab
      (pp. 93-113)

      A symptom of his displacement, Lüder Lüdersen′s poaching unsettles the space of Heimat. In the presence of the displaced landowner-turned-poacher, tranquil images of grazing deer and mist-covered forests give way to sylvan scenes of alarm and pursuit. At the sound of a shot, the forest idyll turns into a crime scene, an intractable terrain in which the hunter becomes the hunted, and which he uses for cover. The heath, a meeting place for lovers only moments earlier, is now a threatening space—too open for Helga, who fears that her father′s dark secret may be discovered, and too expansive for...

    • 5 Nostalgic Modernization: Locating Home in the Economic Miracle
      (pp. 114-134)

      When we first encounter the young Ludwig in his new VW convertible, leaving the bustle of the city,Rosen blühen auf dem Heidegrabalso introduces a secondary character, Albert Berndsen, who shares the road with Ludwig on his motor scooter. A figure apparently included mainly for comic relief in the film′s dramaturgy of horror and Heimat, Berndsen also brings into view a subplot that is paradigmatic for theHeimatfilmof the 1950s. Berndsen is a persistent but innocuous salesman with a heavy Berlin accent who brings the modern age to the village as a traveling salesman for electric gadgets from...

    • 6 Expellees, Emigrants, Exiles: Spectacles of Displacement
      (pp. 135-169)

      Wolfgang Liebeneiner′sWaldwinteris a remake of the 1936 version directed by Fritz Peter Buch. Both films are based on Paul Keller′sHeimatromanby the same title from 1902. Buch′s adaptation is a story of convalescence in the mountains. In the opening sequences, we see the two main characters leave their modern lives in high society for an escape to the solitude of the countryside. Just married to a ″cold and heartless egotist″ of a husband, Marianne von Soden (Hansi Knotek) spontaneously decides to abandon him on the train en route to their honeymoon. Elsewhere, a journalist by the name...

    • 7 Collectivizing the Local: DEFA and the Question of Heimat in the 1950s
      (pp. 170-200)

      In November of 1955, the East German distributor Progress announced the premiere of a new DEFA film at the Babylon theater in Berlin. The evening featured Richard Groschopp′s 52Wochen sind ein Jahr, based on Jurij Brezan′s novel by the same title. The film chronicles a year in the life of Krestan Serbin, an aging farmer who is working toward the day when he can retire and leave the farm to his daughter, Lena. The film is set in the Lausitz region of East Germany, home to an ethnic minority, the Sorbs. A prologue informs us of their persecution under...


    • 8 Inside/Out: Spaces of History in Edgar Reitzʹs Heimat
      (pp. 203-226)

      ″Suddenly, they′re back again: the valleys and the mountain peaks, the forests and the meadows, the pastures and fields.”¹ Writing inDie Zeitin 1972, Wolf Donner noted a rebirth of the motifs and characters of theHeimatfilmon West German screens. After the early successes of the Young German Cinema, which included ambitious literary adaptations such as Volker Schlöndorff’sDer junge Törleß(1966) and complex formal experiments such as Alexander Kluge′sAbschied von Gestern(1966), here was a surprising run of films by young directors featuring hunters and priests, God-fearing villagers and local barons. Had not the renewal of...

    • Epilogue: Heimat, Heritage, and the Invention of Tradition
      (pp. 227-238)

      At the conclusion ofThe Country and the City, Raymond Williams notes the astonishing persistence of these two opposing terms. Writing in 1973, Williams already saw ″us″ (he was writing mainly about Britain and the British) living in many forms of social and physical organization that are no longer adequately described as either ″the city″ or ″the country;″ and yet, ″The ideas and the images of country and city retain their great force.″¹ Indeed, for the twentieth century, Williams notes an inverse relationship between the declining economic importance of the countryside and the unabated cultural importance of rural ideas.² Among...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 239-272)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-290)
  11. Index
    (pp. 291-302)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 303-304)