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Dismantling the Dream Factory

Dismantling the Dream Factory: Gender, German Cinema, and the Postwar Quest for a New Film Language

Hester Baer
Series: Film Europa
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 318
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  • Book Info
    Dismantling the Dream Factory
    Book Description:

    The history of postwar German cinema has most often been told as a story of failure, a failure paradoxically epitomized by the remarkable popularity of film throughout the late 1940s and 1950s. Through the analysis of 10 representative films, Hester Baer reassesses this period, looking in particular at how the attempt to 'dismantle the dream factory' of Nazi entertainment cinema resulted in a new cinematic language which developed as a result of the changing audience demographic. In an era when female viewers comprised 70 per cent of cinema audiences a 'women's cinema' emerged, which sought to appeal to female spectators through its genres, star choices, stories and formal conventions. In addition to analyzing the formal language and narrative content of these films, Baer uses a wide array of other sources to reconstruct the original context of their reception, including promotional and publicity materials, film programs, censorship documents, reviews and spreads in fan magazines. This book presents a new take on an essential period, which saw the rebirth of German cinema after its thorough delegitimization under the Nazi regime.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-945-1
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  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 Dismantling the Dream Factory: Gender and Spectatorship in Postwar German Cinema
    (pp. 1-18)

    In 1947, Helmut Käutner, one of postwar cinema’s key players, published a programmatic essay in the journalFilm-Echoentitled “Demontage der Traumfabrik.” In his essay, Käutner detailed the positive developments in the German cinematic landscape since the end of World War II.Filmmakers and technicians had overcome personal privation and want in their first attempts to create a new artistic postwar cinema, and they had also received a great deal of beneficial assistance from economic development agencies, cultural funds, and the occupation military governments. Yet despite the best efforts of individual artists and technicians and the help of so many agencies,...

  6. Part I. Relegitimating Cinema:: Female Spectators and the Problem of Representation

    • Chapter 1 How Do You Solve a Problem Like Susanne?: The Female Gaze in Wolfgang Staudte’s The Murderers Are Among Us (1946)
      (pp. 21-48)

      At the end of World War II, only 1,150 cinemas remained standing in Germany, a mere fraction of the 7,000 cinemas operating at the height of the Third Reich. By 1946, there were already 2,125 movie theaters in the Western zones, which sold tickets to approximately 300 million spectators that year (an average of 6.5 visits to the movies for every Western German).¹ Though the Allies at first banned all German films, mandating that cinemas screen dubbed or subtitled foreign productions from the Allied countries instead, a large number of popular films from the Third Reich were approved for exhibition...

    • Chapter 2 When Fantasy Meets Reality: Authorship and Stardom in Rudolf Jugert’s Film Without a Title (1948)
      (pp. 49-72)

      The consumption and production of movies was gaining momentum in all zones of Germany by the third postwar year. In the Western zones, 850 new cinemas opened between 1946 and 1948, and ticket sales continued to increase to a total of 443 million in 1948, an average of nine visits to the cinema for every Western German that year.¹ Cinemas continued to rely on foreign productions, particularly from the Allied countries, to fill their screens, but they could now include increasing numbers of new German movies as well. Thirty feature films were produced in 1948 (twenty-three in the Western zones...

    • Chapter 3 Gendered Visions of the German Past: Wolfgang Liebeneiner’s Love ’47 (1949) as Woman’s Film
      (pp. 73-100)

      The final two years of the decade brought a new period of transition to the postwar German film industry. Economic and political developments such as the currency reform and the founding of the two postwar German states exerted a strong influence on the changing industry and on audience responses to contemporary cinema. As the licensing period ended and the deprivations of the immediate postwar years gave way to a new consumerism, viewers rejected the realism of the contemporaryZeitfilmand demanded more escapist fare. Despite the challenges presented by the new economy, the film industry continued to expand. Another 385...

    • Chapter 4 Unsolved Mysteries: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in Helmut Käutner’s Epilogue (1950)
      (pp. 101-124)

      The film industry entered a new phase of consolidation in 1950, responding to the effects of the currency reform, which had initiated not only a series of economic and cultural transformations, but profound political changes as well. Signaling the first escalation of the emergent Cold War, the Soviet blockade of Berlin began only days after the currency reform in June 1948 and lasted until May 1949.¹ The division of Germany was cemented in 1949 by the founding of the Federal Republic on May 24, followed six months later by the founding of the German Democratic Republic on October 7. With...

  7. Part II. Art on Film:: Representing Gender and Sexuality in Popular Cinema

    • Chapter 5 “Through Her Eyes”: Regendering Representation in Willi Forst’s The Sinner (1951)
      (pp. 127-160)

      The turn to genre film paved the way for cinema’s increasing popularity in the new Federal Republic. Audiences flocked to the cinemas: with 555 million tickets sold, each German citizen averaged twelve visits to the movies in 1951.¹ Notably, these viewers preferred German films to foreign imports, and the majority of the top ten most popular films of the year were German films.² Domestic film production held steady in 1951, with seventy-six new feature films released, including a range of popularHeimatfilme, suspense thrillers, comedies, and melodramas.

      No doubt contributing to film’s overall popularity, the German cinema also witnessed its...

    • Chapter 6 Looking at Heimat: Visual Pleasure and Cinematic Realism in Alfons Stummer’s The Forester of the Silver Wood (1955)
      (pp. 161-182)

      As the pace of reconstruction hastened and theWirtschaftsw underbegan to take shape, film culture benefited immensely from new economic developments. Not only did the film industry continue to expand during the first half of the 1950s, but this period also saw a proliferation of filmrelated institutions and a growing interest in all forms of cinema. Film festivals began to spring up in many cities, among them the Berlin Film Festival, started in 1951 in West Berlin. New forums for the promotion and reception of documentary and short films emerged, including theFilmwochenin Mannheim (1952) and theFilmtage...

    • Chapter 7 Degenerate Art?: Problems of Gender and Sexuality in Veit Harlan’s Different From You And Me (§175) (1957)
      (pp. 183-206)

      The year 1956 marked the height of cinema’s popularity in West Germany. A remarkable 817 million tickets were sold, 120 feature films were made, and the top seven most popular films were German or Austrian.¹ Beginning in 1957, however, West Germany witnessed a precipitous decline in the fortunes of its domestic film industry.² Brought about in part by changes in the structure of the industry, the decline in ticket sales for German films was fueled by increased competition from abroad, the rise of television, and the rapid economic development of theWirtschaftswunder, which led to new leisure-time activities such as...

  8. Part III. Towards the New Wave:: Gender and the Critique of Popular Cinema

    • Chapter 8 Pleasurable Negotiations: Spectatorship and Genre in Helmut Käutner’s “Anti-Tearjerker” Engagement in Zurich (1957)
      (pp. 209-234)

      The year 1957 marked the beginning of a steady decline in both film production and ticket sales in the Federal Republic. With 111 feature films made and 801 million tickets sold (fourteen visits to the movies per person), West German cinema remained immensely popular among audiences.¹ But the phenomenal success the film industry enjoyed during the first half of the 1950s had begun to wane, and it would never be regained. An increasingly sophisticated West German public was growing weary of the provincial quality of West German films. The appeal of foreign films and especially of television ushered in a...

    • Chapter 9 Sound and Spectacle in the Wirtschaftswunder: The Critical Strategies of Rolf Thiele’s The Girl Rosemarie (1958)
      (pp. 235-256)

      The West German cinema rallied in 1958.¹ Due in large part to the efforts of the film industry to respond to changing audience tastes, eight of the top ten films of the year were West German.² The popularity of these domestic movies brought to fruition the strategy of innovation pursued by filmmakers bent on appealing to new audiences while also winning back old viewers. In addition to introducing new stars and genres, several of the top films of 1958 found success by combining tried and true strategies of popular cinema with elements of formal experimentation. These films kicked off a...

    • Chapter 10 Gender and the New Wave: Herbert Vesely’s The Bread of Those Early Years (1962) as Transitional Film
      (pp. 257-278)

      The year 1962 has generally been understood as a caesura in postwar filmmaking,¹ in large part due to the notorious “Oberhausen Manifesto” the declaration of twenty-six young filmmakers who proclaimed “the collapse of the conventional German film” on February 28, at the Oberhausen Short Film Festival.² Already in decline for some time, attendance at the movies did experience a further sharp fall in popularity in 1962. Only 443 million tickets were sold that year, 75 million less than the year before, and down by almost 50 percent since 1956. Similarly, only sixty-four feature films were produced in West Germany, half...

    • Epilogue Adapting the 1950s: The Afterlife of Postwar Cinema in Post-Unification Popular Culture
      (pp. 279-282)

      On December 23, 1996, the first film in the much-touted series “German Classics” debuted on the private television channel SAT.1. Showered with acclaim prior to its premiere and seen by 8.83 million viewers in Germany, this remake ofThe Girl Rosemarieconstituted a success for Bernd Eichinger, the powerhouse producer who returned to the director’s chair for the first time since his film school days to bring this adaptation to the small screen. Eichinger’s own film was followed in the next weeks by three more remakes of popular classics from the 1950s, all produced by Eichinger and adapted by successful...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 283-290)
  10. Index
    (pp. 291-304)