Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Screening the East

Screening the East: Heimat, Memory and Nostalgia in German Film since 1989

Nick Hodgin
Series: Film Europa
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 272
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Screening the East
    Book Description:

    Screening the Eastconsiders German filmmakers' responses to unification. In particular, it traces the representation of the East German community in films made since 1989 and considers whether these narratives challenge or reinforce the notion of a separate East German identity. The book identifies and analyses a large number of films, from internationally successful box-office hits, to lesser-known productions, many of which are discussed here for the first time. Providing an insight into the films' historical and political context, it considers related issues such as stereotyping, racism, regional particularism and the Germans' confrontation with the past.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-129-3
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-14)

    By the final decade of the last century, German cinema, once regarded as a serious challenger to Hollywood and later associated with exciting, oppositional filmmaking, had, as the quotation from Werner Herzog indicates, been reduced to banality. Herzogʹs reputation as Germanyʹs ʹvisionaryʹ director seemed justified: the 1990s saw the release of a series of trite, formulaic comedies, whose debt to Hollywood was obvious. These popular mainstream films are, according to Eric Rentschler, part of the ʹcinema of consensusʹ, which shuns the perceived obscurantism of the New German Cinema and, instead, ʹcultivates familiar genres and caters to public tastesʹ.³ The satisfaction...

    (pp. 15-36)

    Angela Merkelʹs accession to Chancellor of Germany in October 2005, which counted as a double triumph since she was both the first woman and the first east German to head the German government, would appear to disprove any suspicion that the east Germans have been denied the opportunities for advancement in the new Germany or sidelined from positions of power. But what was interesting in judging Merkelʹs rise through the CDU is quite how much her eastern background was used as a point of reference. Although she emphatically criticized the former GDR regime, something that was necessary if she was...

    (pp. 37-64)

    The early years after unification witnessed the release of several ʹfirst encounterʹ films in which the east and west Germans come face to face for the first time. Drawing from a reserve of symbols and ideas that were to become fixed tropes in Wende discourse, these early films encapsulate many of the preconceptions about the east Germans. Stereotypes that have been variously deployed in the years since unification are central to Peter Timmʹs film,Go Trabi Go, the most successful and perennially popular film of the Wende, and appear in other banal comedies such as Manfred StelzerʹsSuperstau(Super Traffic...

  8. Chapter 3 LOST LANDSCAPES
    (pp. 65-101)

    By drawing on the Heimatfilm heritage, the unification comedies discussed in the previous chapter are able to present a sanitized version of the transition in which genial east Germans overcome various challenges and disappointments. The films typically centre on small communities in the east, which, despite limited means, manage to withstand the vulgar pressures of western commercial interests. Combining aptitude with a sense of collective purpose, the fictional communities stand firm against the corrupt power of anonymous corporations. Though the heroes of the films are east German everyman figures, their east German identity is not inscribed with either the politics...

    (pp. 102-130)

    The depiction of the east as a geographically remote and culturally stunted region, a ruined Heimat located at the edge of German culture and civilization, has proved to be an enduring one in post-unification films. This is not to say that the regional film boards were keen to continue financing the depressing representations of the east that characterized the films discussed in the previous chapters. While several of those films earned their directors critical kudos from international film festival panels, critics and film scholars, they did not fare well at the box-office. Inclusion on university syllabi may have assured some...

    (pp. 131-153)

    In contrast to the provinces, which were represented as geographically and historically distant, existing outside time, the city – or at least Berlin – came to define the times. Short notes that the city is invariably ʹa metaphor for social change, an icon of the present at the edge of the transformation of the past into the futureʹ, adding that ʹattitudes about the city reflect attitudes about the futureʹ.² It comes as no surprise, then, that directors have frequently turned to Berlin as the setting for their post-unification dramas. The reasons are self-evident: Berlin provides the symbolic expression of the...

  11. Chapter 6 GOOD BYE, OSTALGIE?
    (pp. 154-187)

    Perhaps the most significant development within unification discourse and in the discussions about east German identity was the rise of Ostalgie. As outlined in the first chapter, this neologism originally described a simple, localized nostalgia for the GDR that enabled some east Germans to guard their experiences from post-unification histories of the GDR. It later developed into a lucrative industry (for retailers and television and film producers alike) in which enterprising individuals provided nostalgic east Germans with material reminders of their past, a profitable business, given that ʹmost peopleʹ, as John Gillis observes, ʹfind it difficult to remember without having...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 188-198)

    Although the films considered in this book address a broad range of issues and represent dissimilar approaches to screening the east, the majority coincide in their representation of the east Germans as a separate community. FromGo Trabi GotoGood Bye, Lenin!the majority of post-unification narratives emphasize the continued differences between east and west. Even those films that allow for a degree of reconciliation or mutual understanding do so while underlining the cultural distinctiveness of the two communities (though, in truth, the west barely features in any meaningful way). While this was to be expected in the films...

  13. Filmography
    (pp. 199-202)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-214)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 215-222)