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The Collapse of the Conventional

German Film and Its Politics at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century

Edited by Jaimey Fisher and Brad Prager

Publication Year: 2010

While difficult questions of history, culture, and politics figured less prominently in the lighter cinematic fare of the 1980s and 1990s, German filmmakers have recaptured the world’s attention since the turn of the millennium with vital, dynamic, and engaged works. In fact, today’s filmmakers have turned back to many themes that were important in the 1960s and 1970s, when a movement of young filmmakers proclaimed the collapse of existing filmmaking conventions. In The Collapse of the Conventional: German Film and Its Politics at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century, editors Jaimey Fisher and Brad Prager present contributions from prominent German film studies scholars to examine the current politically charged and provocative moment in German filmmaking historically, ideologically, and formally as another break with cinematic convention. Fisher and Prager introduce the volume with a look back at the history of German film to define New German Cinema and identify the themes and motives that characterize its films and filmmakers. In the first section, essays explore the cinematic treatment of German national identity in historical films, including those that confront Germany’s Nazi past, such as Downfall, The Miracle of Bern, and the TV-film Dresden. The second section takes on German cinema’s examination of life in East Germany and the consequences of reunification by analyzing the films Good Bye, Lenin and The Lives of Others. The Collapse of the Conventional also examines new groundbreaking work by filmmakers such as Christian Petzold, Fatih Ak?n, and Christoph Hochhäusler to investigate how German film critically approaches globalization and the end of the cold war. This collection shows that today’s German filmmakers are delving into new modes of cinematic production in a global context. Students, scholars of film, and anyone interested in German and cultural studies will appreciate this volume.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series


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pp. 1-38

Since the turn of the millennium German cinema has been hailed as having “returned”—it has again captured the world’s attention and is again vital, dynamic, and engaged. Many see in it an aesthetic and substantive quality that had apparently diminished in the two decades before 2000. In light of renewed attention, filmmakers and critics find...

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Imitation of Life: The Aesthetics of Agfacolor in Recent Historical Cinema

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pp. 46-62

In recent years, critics have begun to speak of a rebirth of German cinema. In 2003, the Internationales Filmfest Braunschweig, citing the audience and critical acclaim garnered by Tom Tykwer’s Lola rennt (Run, Lola, Run, 2001), Caroline Link’s Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere in Africa, 2001), and Wolfgang Becker’s Good-Bye, Lenin! (2003), declared in...

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Public Viewing: Soccer Patriotism and Post-Cinema

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pp. 63-80

Sönke Wortmann’s 2006 Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen (Germany: A Summer’s Fairy Tale) begins with images of despair, melancholy, and mourning of truly Heinean proportions. The camera first shows a pile of soccer jerseys, pants, and socks heaped up on the floor as if meant to become part of an act of ritual cleansing. Next, it offers a medium shot...

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More War Stories: Stalingrad and Downfall

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pp. 81-108

Although German postunification cinema is often perceived as playful and fun-loving—it has, as Eric Rentschler claims, “a much lighter touch and is far more user-friendly”1—there are also a number of films that appear to continue the project of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, or the attempt to come to terms with the Second World War and the Holocaust...

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Neo-feminist Mütterfilm? The Emotional Politics of Margarethe von Trotta’s Rosenstrasse

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pp. 109-135

Released in 2003 in Germany to critical acclaim, Rosenstraße (Rosenstrasse) indicated that Margarethe von Trotta, Germany’s foremost female film director, who has offered the most sustained and successful female variant of Autorenkino in postwar German film history, is alive and well.1 It is worthwhile asking, however, what kind of politics—feminist...

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Dresden: The Return of History as Soap

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pp. 136-156

If we recall for a moment the stir caused in the German public sphere by W. G. Sebald’s theses vis-à-vis the Air War a mere decade ago, we may find ourselves amazed by the tempo at which real-existing or perceived memory gaps have been filled in the German public arena. In the mid- 1990s, Sebald could point to a near complete absence in popular memory...

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Terrains Vagues: Landscapes of Unification in Oskar Roehler’s No Place to Go

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pp. 157-185

During the waning hours of a November night in 1989, a middle-aged woman dons an enormous black wig, wraps herself in an extravagant Dior coat, and steps into the deserted street. She has been put up for the night in a makeshift apartment on the outskirts of East Berlin, but now even her trusted sleeping pills fail her, and she feels as though she is living...

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German Historical Film as Production Trend: European Heritage Cinema and Melodrama in The Lives of Others

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pp. 186-215

In their articles on Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others, 2006), Wolf Biermann and Thomas Brussig—both prominent former citizens of East Germany and both active in creating art about it—profess their amazement.1 Biermann, a popular folk-rock performer who had been banished from the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1976 for...

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A World of Objects: Consumer Culture in Filmic Reconstructions of the GDR

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pp. 216-237

In 1991 the infamous film and theater director Christoph Schlingensief made one of the first feature films about German reunification and the fall of the Wall. This was no teary-eyed reminiscence of a day whose consequences, both good and bad, still reverberate through German culture. In his horror farce,...

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Playing Hide-and-Seek with Tradition: Games, Aesthetic Form, and Social Critique in German Cinema following the Wende

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pp. 238-257

A couple of games that function as “theories” have become associated with the two decades of commercial German cinema since the fall of the Wall. The first, marking the playful side of the field, is evoked at the beginning of Tom Tykwer’s Lola rennt (Run, Lola, Run, 1998). The spirit of Sepp Herberger, West German soccer’s equivalent to Yogi Berra, literally...

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Imaging Germany: The (Political) Cinema of Christian Petzold

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pp. 258-291

In my contribution to this volume, I would like to pick up its central argument— that German cinema at the turn of the century has once again become a politically charged arena—by turning to the work of a director many observers in Germany consider among the most significant of the post-Wall era: Christian Petzold. On the most general level, focusing...

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Christoph Hochhäusler’s This Very Moment: The Berlin School and the Politics of Spatial Aesthetics in the German-Polish Borderlands

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pp. 292-308

Christoph Hochhäusler’s 2003 debut feature-length film, Milchwald (This Very Moment), is a translation of the traditional “Hansel and Gretel” fairy tale into a contemporary idiom. The film recycles the well-known story according to an easily recognizable set of narrative components: two young siblings are a burden in the house of their remarried father;...

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Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei: Edukating the Post-Left Generatio

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pp. 309-332

German filmmakers and their domestic audience are exuding a new confidence about German film. International audiences have also rediscovered Germany, but unlike the reception of New German Cinema in the 1970s this interest is not generated by a few high-profile auteur directors— such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders, or Werner...

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The Global Elsewhere: Ursula Biemann’s Multimedia Countergeography

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pp. 333-359

Ursula Biemann’s videos, installations, and web archives offer an artistic and political response to contemporary globalization with particular emphasis on how labor migration, gender, and sexuality intersect. Her work most often centers on liminal spaces between nations to negotiate the global with the national and the local. In addition to video work,...

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Glimpses of Freedom: The Reemergence of Utopian Longing in German Cinema

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pp. 360-386

For the directors of the New German Cinema, utopian longing is an important source of inspiration both on and off the screen. When the protagonist of Margarethe von Trotta’s Das zweite Erwachen der Christa Klages (The Second Awakening of Christa Klages, 1978) receives an anonymous donation to the children’s home for which she has spent the...

Works Cited

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pp. 419-422


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pp. 423-432


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E-ISBN-13: 9780814336885
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814333778

Page Count: 440
Illustrations: 36
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series