This essay suggests that a lingering critical suspicion toward historical films that focus on the redemptive arc of individuals at the expense of historical context is indebted to a critique of the normative ideology of the literary Bildungsroman. It draws on studies of the literary genre that acknowledge its polyphony and regard its protagonist or Bildungsheld less as a site of guaranteed social mobility and more as a catalyst for a clash of perspectives and value systems. The essay transposes a less essentialist and more functional and performative conception of the genre to a highly successful if critically contested historical feature film, Die Fälscher (The Counterfeiters, 2007). It argues that Sally Sorowitsch, the film’s closely observed Bildungsheld, stimulates viewer experience as a catalyst for an exploration of different phases of Jewish diasporic history. Sally’s indecisiveness and increasing moral maturity allow the viewer to reflect on various themes in recent Holocaust historiography, including the complexity of judging privileged prisoners and the contemporary pertinence of Hannah Arendt’s conception of the banality of evil.


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pp. 653-676
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