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Postwall German Cinema

Postwall German Cinema: History, Film History and Cinephilia

Mattias Frey
Series: Film Europa
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 218
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  • Book Info
    Postwall German Cinema
    Book Description:

    Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there has been a proliferation of German historical films. These productions have earned prestigious awards and scored at box offices both at home and abroad, where they count among the most popular German films of all time. Suddenly, however, a significant departure has been made from the country's prominent cinematic take on history: the radical style, content, and politics of the New German Cinema. With in-depth analyses of the major trends and films, this book represents a comprehensive assessment of the historical film in postwall Germany. Challenging previous paradigms, it takes account of a postwall cinema of retro-flection as a complex engagement with various historiographical forms and, above all, with film history itself.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-948-0
    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. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    One of the most remarkable features of contemporary German film is the prominence of the historical genre. In 2003, eight of the fifteen highest-grossing German films on the home market were historical films. In international distribution, the situation is even clearer. With the exception of a few romantic comedies (e.g.,Bella Martha[Mostly Martha,2001]) and auteur-inflected problem films (the “Berlin School”;Gegen die Wand[Head-On,2004]), the global presence of German cinema is associated almost exclusively with one genre. German historical films have dominated the Best Foreign Film category at the Academy Awards since the turn of millennium.Nirgendwo...

  6. Chapter 1 Rebirth of a Nation: Das Wunder von Bern, the 1950s, and the Reactions to the New German Cinema
    (pp. 19-46)

    For the leftist student movement associated with the generation of 1968, the 1950s was a decade no better than the Nazi period. Indeed, in its radical interpretation of national history, the continuity of former National Socialists’ career trajectories and the prevalence of “everyday fascism” in the parenting and education of young people meant that there was in fact no true caesura, no “Zero Hour” in 1945; a more or less submerged Nazism still existed.¹

    This stance is reflected in many of the later New German Cinema’s historical films which treat the 1950s. Feminist projects such as Jutta Brückner’sHungerjahre(Years...

  7. Chapter 2 Pop Retro-vision: Baader, Der Baader Meinhof Komplex, and the RAF Film
    (pp. 47-82)

    In the first years of the new millennium, the Red Army Fraction (RAF), West Germany’s homegrown terrorists of the 1970s and 1980s, enjoyed a renewed prominence. The iconography of the Baader-Meinhof Group was transformed into what the popular press termed “radical chic.” The “RAF goes pop,” diagnosed journalist Reinhard Mohr while describing the commercial appropriation of the German criminal organization which had coordinated scores of bombings, kidnappings, and murders before formally disbanding in 1998.¹ A new take on the group was clearly underway. In the year of the World Trade Center attacks, the designers Maegde und Knechte marketed underwear adorned...

  8. Chapter 3 The Ambivalent View: 23, Historical Paranoia, and the 1980s
    (pp. 83-106)

    In September 1998, after sixteeen years of conservative CDU/FDP rule under the helm of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the Social Democrats and Greens won elections that allowed them to govern the country in a coalition for the first time. The election precipitated a change of political parties, but also marked a generational shift. With Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Interior Minister Otto Schily, and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, the central figures of the new government were politicians whose past had an intimate connection to the project of 1968 and its consequences.

    A few months later, according to the film critics of the era,...

  9. Chapter 4 “Ostalgie,” Historical Ownership, and Material Authenticity: Good Bye, Lenin! and Das Leben der Anderen
    (pp. 107-138)

    On 9 February 2003, one year afterBaader(2002) flopped at the Berlinale,Good Bye, Lenin!premiered at the festival to great acclaim. Four days later, Wolfgang Becker’s film about a young man who deceives his frail mother into believing the GDR still exists found general cinematic release in Germany, where it would become a huge box-office success.American-level advertising saturation, festival coverage, and word of mouth led 360,000 Germans to the cinema in its first four days; more than six million people had seen the film by the end of the year.¹

    Good Bye, Lenin!continued Becker’s career-long preoccupation with the...

  10. Chapter 5 Unification, Spatial Anxiety, and the Recuperation of Material Culture: Die Unberührbare
    (pp. 139-166)

    Much of the critical discourse on postwall German historical cinema focuses on productions that take a reverent approach to authenticity, fromAimée & Jaguar(1999) andDer Untergang(Downfall, 2004) toGood Bye, Lenin!(2003) andDas Leben der Anderen(The Lives of Others, 2006). These films, which received much journalistic notice and scholarly regard, enjoyed relatively brisk box office both at home and abroad. Their aesthetics and ethics of historical representation and high production values—their very status as European “quality films”—made them viable for export abroad, and help to explain their popular success (within the circumscribed expectations of...

  11. Chapter 6 The Future of the German Past
    (pp. 167-178)

    Jaimey Fisher and Brad Prager, the editors of the collectionThe Collapse of the Conventional: German Film and Its Politics at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century, note how “German cinema at the turn of the century can best be approached as a politically charged polyvocal arena.”¹ Although they acknowledge their own “nostalgia for the political cinema of the late 1960s and the 1970s” and conceive of the collected essays as being concerned primarily with “the films’ politics—their orientation toward Germany’s divided past, their working out of wartime guilt, and their willingness to challenge audiences with formal innovation,” the...

  12. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 179-200)
  13. Index
    (pp. 201-206)