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The Nazi Past in Contemporary German Film

The Nazi Past in Contemporary German Film: Viewing Experiences of Intimacy and Immersion

Axel Bangert
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 294
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  • Book Info
    The Nazi Past in Contemporary German Film
    Book Description:

    How has the German image of the Nazi past changed since the reunification of East and West? And what role have cinema and television played in this process? This intriguing study argues that since 1990, the two media have turned towards inner German experiences of the Third Reich. From intimate portrayals of ordinary Germans and Nazi leaders to immersive spectacles of war and defeat, German film has focused on portraying the Nazi past from within. Stimulating and accessible, combining close readings with broad contextualization, this monograph shows how profoundly cinema and television have transformed collective remembrance of the Third Reich. The first publication on the topic to embrace the two decades since 1990, it provides a comprehensive account of cinema and television productions, presenting case studies of national film events such as Stalingrad (1993) and Downfall (2004), and assessing the influence of international blockbusters from Schindler's List (1993) to The Reader (2008). Targeted at a wide readership, the book will be a central reference point for university teachers offering courses on German film or cultural memory, will give guidance to both undergraduate and postgraduate students, and will make a lasting impact on research in the field of German screen cultures. Axel Bangert holds a doctorate from the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, University of Cambridge. He is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Homerton College, Cambridge.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-419-2
    Subjects: Film Studies, History

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-xii)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    What did it mean to experience the Third Reich? The desire to find answers to this question has driven volumes of historical inquiry both scholarly and popular. Yet it is also a question that is regarded as misleading, impeding us from understanding deeper causes and acknowledging the many points of view that exist on any historical moment. Capable of transporting us through time and space, and allowing us to see the world as if through someone else’s eyes, film is a central point of contention in this debate. Its powers to simulate past events have been applauded and condemned in...

  7. 1: Close Views of Private Pasts
    (pp. 23-54)

    After the reunification of germany, when the country had regained unity and sovereignty, the image of the Nazi past was reframed with a view toward the private. Using documentary as well as fictional genres, cinema and television were crucial in bringing about this profound change in cultural engagements with the period. The two media literally changed the face of the Nazi past by moving away from distanced accounts of political history and toward intimate portrayals of private lives during the Third Reich. On the one hand, these could be the lives of ordinary Germans, exposing their experiences of war and...

  8. 2: Seductive Encounters with Nazi Perpetrators
    (pp. 55-101)

    The turn toward private experiences of the Third Reich is particularly critical when it takes the form of close encounters with the regime. Films showing such encounters confront us with two interrelated but contested aspects of the Nazi past: on the one hand, the appeal of Nazism, its representatives, aesthetics, and ideology, on the other, one’s agency in the face of these. By the mid-1990s, German film began to explore the potential for and dangers of seduction in encounters with Nazism and its perpetrators in a new way. What distinguishes these films from earlier portrayals is that they offer their...

  9. 3: Immersive Spectacles of Public Pasts
    (pp. 102-135)

    Like the films th at, after 1990, started to foreground the private side of the Nazi past, those about collective histories also sought extreme closeness with people and events. Particularly after the turn of the millennium, fictional as well as documentary formats aimed at not merely a confrontation with but also an immersion into German experiences of war. Compared with earlier productions from East and West Germany, these films mobilize an unprecedented degree of emotion and affect. Fictional representations partly remake West German war movies from the 1950s and partly adopt Hollywood aesthetics of the spectacle to heighten the viewing...

  10. 4: Unifying Legacies of National History?
    (pp. 136-161)

    In the previous chapters, we saw how German film after 1990 offered its viewers intimate and immersive experiences of the Third Reich. But cinema and television also approached dictatorship, war, and genocide as historical experiences in the process of becoming public legacies. Such productions explore the impact that the Nazi past continues to have on the present and assess its relevance for the future. As the question mark in the title of this chapter indicates, the question is whether the legacies presented in postreunification German film about the Third Reich unite or divide, and where the boundaries between those united...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 162-170)

    In reunified Germany, cinema and television have allowed viewers to experience the Third Reich in close-up and from within. Efforts within the media industry to find new audiences contributed as much to this shift in perspective as did changes in popular memory. On the economic level, the liberalization of the audiovisual sector since the mid-1980s paved the way for intimate portrayals of the Nazi past. Its main features are amateur snapshots of life under the swastika, personal testimonies filmed in a studio or with avérité-style documentary camera, as well as dramatized inside views of the regime. But liberalization also...

  12. Filmography
    (pp. 171-176)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 177-188)
  14. Index
    (pp. 189-199)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 200-200)