Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Film Front Weimar

Film Front Weimar: Representations of the First World War in German Films from the Weimar Period (1919-1933)

Bernadette Kester
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 332
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Film Front Weimar
    Book Description:

    This first book-length study shows how Germany tried to reconcile the horrendous experiences of the FirstWorld War through the films made in 1919-1933. Drawing on the analysis of twenty-five such films, and covering a wide range of documentaries as well as feature films on the reasons for the outbreak of the war, life at the front,war at sea and the home front, the author sketches out the historical and cultural context, including reviews and censors' reports, in which these films were made and viewed. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0519-7
    Subjects: Sociology, Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. 9-10)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 11-32)

    ʹThe war experience is an ultimate confirmation of the power of men to ascribe meaning and pattern to a world, even when that world seems to resist all patterning.ʹ¹ This quotation from Eric John LeedʹsNo manʹs landputs the main concern of the present study in a nutshell, that is, the problematic nature of ascribing meaning and form to an unprecedented historical experience, the experience of the First World War. It is the reflection of research into German films about the First World War that were made during the Weimar Republic.² This study will focus on cinematic representations of...

  5. 1 ‘Lehrreich und amüsant’ Historical films in the period 1896-1933
    (pp. 33-58)

    For a long time, the historiography of German cinema, understood as a complex entity of industry, films, audience and criticism, has been oriented mostly towards the years following the First World War. General studies begin with a description of the first German film screenings, only to make a carefree jump across two decades to the 1920s, a period in which film as art was said to have flourished. Gradually, this historical gap is being closed. Attention to early film has increased enormously since the famous 1978 FIAF conference in Brighton, and it has not passed by German film historians either....

  6. 2 ‘Die Legende von der Unschuld’ Films about the run-up to the war, especially 1914. Die letzten Tage vor dem Weltbrand
    (pp. 59-86)

    The Weimar period was characterised by numerous burning questions which each in their turn, or simultaneously, troubled public opinion. One of these was receiving attention almost constantly: the negotiations surrounding the Treaty of Versailles and the issue linked to them, that is, the question whether or not Germany was to blame for the outbreak of the First World War. In order to prove that Germany did not bear any guilt for the war – and would therefore not have to pay for it – large-scale research was carried out into the period that had preceded the war. This chapter deals...

  7. 3 ‘Das Dokumentarische gewinnt die Oberhand’ Archival footage and constructions in war films
    (pp. 87-122)

    The importance of the idea of a ‘historically accurate’ and ‘ideologically sound’ representation of the past is shown by the reactions sparked by the historical film 1914. Die letzten Tage vor dem Weltbrand. Adapting the run-up to the war for the screen on the basis of official documents had in the case of this film resulted in a theatrical and rather static approach dominated by studio sets and dialogue. But it was not so much the stageing that got reactions from the press but the contents of the dialogues: were the assertions made by the characters and their mutual relationships...

  8. 4 ‘Wenn wir Helden wären, wären wir schon längst daheim’ Realism and anti-war tendencies in four films
    (pp. 123-160)

    Films such as Namenlose Helden (1925), Westfront 1918 (1930), Die andere Seite (1931) and Niemandsland (1931), like the war documentaries, can be related to New Objectivity. Westfront 1918 especially showed ʹstriking similarities to the basic doctrine of the New Objectivity’, according to Kracauer.² These four films represent another approach to the war than has been discussed so far. Lacking archival footage, or making only limited use of it – with the exception of Namenlose Helden, which appeared to have quite a lot archival footage – these films tried to get as close as possible to the western front experience by...

  9. 5 ‘Auf dem Meere, da ist der Mann noch etwas wert’ Films about the German navy during the First World War
    (pp. 161-192)

    The battle at sea was an important part of the war. After England had declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914 following the German armyʹs violation of neutral Belgian territory, plans were afoot ʹ(England) in die Knie zu zwingenʹ, to force England to its knees. Two powerful weapons would be deployed to this end, the Zeppelin and the U-boat. Not surprisingly, expectations were high. Even before the war, the navy had gained a special place in the German consciousness. This national pride continued after the war, in spite of the disappointing results that the navy had achieved during the...

  10. 6 ‘Neid, Leid, Tränen – das ist der Krieg’ Gender and war films
    (pp. 193-218)

    Although male characters such as soldiers or marines dominated war films in numbers, female characters also played a substantial role. One need only think of the respective spouses of czar Nicholas II, in 1914. Die letzten Tage vor dem Weltbrand, of Karl in Westfront 1918 and of troop captain Von Arndt in Tannenberg. Captain Liersʹs mother in Morgenrot, and the many lovers featured in nearly all war films either in the foreground or the background should not be forgotten. These characters often played a decisive role in the story. They represented not only the home front but also the female...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 219-226)

    Most of the German films about the First World War that were made during the Weimar Republic have been discussed in this study. Twenty-five of the more than thirty war films have been extensively reviewed, all of them films in which the fates of the individual characters are influenced by the war in a very explicit way. All of the films that have been dealt with in this study, except for one, were made in the period 1925-1933.

    One of the starting points for this book was the premise that the films contributed to Germanyʹs efforts to come to terms...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 227-290)
  13. Credits Weimar War Films
    (pp. 291-302)
  14. Archives and Libraries
    (pp. 303-304)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 305-318)
  16. Index of Names
    (pp. 319-324)
  17. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 325-330)