In this Book

summary

During the last decade, contemporary German and Austrian cinema has grappled with new social and economic realities. The “cinema of consensus,” a term coined to describe the popular and commercially oriented filmmaking of the 1990s, has given way to a more heterogeneous and critical cinema culture. Making the greatest artistic impact since the 1970s, contemporary cinema is responding to questions of globalization and the effects of societal and economic change on the individual.

This book explores this trend by investigating different thematic and aesthetic strategies and alternative methods of film production and distribution. Functioning both as a product and as an agent of globalizing processes, this new cinema mediates and influences important political and social debates. The contributors illuminate these processes through their analyses of cinema’s intervention in discourses on such concepts as “national cinema,” the effects of globalization on social mobility, and the emergence of a “global culture.” The essays illustrate the variety and inventiveness of contemporary Austrian and German filmmaking and highlight the complicated interdependencies between global developments and local specificities. They confirm a broader trend toward a more complex, critical, and formally diverse cinematic scene.

This book offers insights into the strategies employed by German and Austrian filmmakers to position themselves between the commercial pressures of the film industry and the desire to mediate or even attempt to affect social change. It will be of interest to scholars in film studies, cultural studies, and European studies.

1

Cinema of Dissent? Confronting Social, Economic, and Political Change in German-Language Cinema

Gabriele Mueller & James M. Skidmore

Presents an overview of the book, establishing that the authors in this collection are contributing to a growing body of academic work on contemporary German language film that understands the current cinematic landscape as a product and agent of social, political, and technological change.

2

The Counter-Cinema of the Berlin School

Marco Abel

This chapter discusses the filmmaking movement known as the “Berlin School” and argues that these films constitute a counter-cinema in the sense that they manage to critically engage the neo-liberalization of contemporary Germany because of, rather than despite, their particular aesthetics. These aesthetics, defined as “a-representational realism,” allow these films both to foreground critically the issue of mobility as one of the central socio-cultural aspects affecting contemporary German political discourse and to afford their viewers a chance to become affected by a (utopian) sensation of mobility that is currently absent in their actual existing, neoliberal social spaces.

3

The Triumph of Hyperreality: A Baudrillardian Reading of Michael Haneke’s Cinematic Oeuvre

Sophie Boyer

This chapter explores Michael Haneke’s cinematic oeuvre, focusing on one of its recurring themes: postmodern society’s media-manipulated reality, a theme clearly informed by French theorist Jean Baudrillard’s provocative thought. This investigation starts with Haneke’s application of the concepts of hyperreality and simulation; it then turns to his reflections on (and critique of) the proliferation of images and the ensuing breakdown of communication; finally, it addresses the Baudrillardian notion of fatal strategy at play in Haneke’s artistic statement.

4

Subversions of the Medical Gaze: Disability and Media Parody in Christoph Schlingensief’s Freakstars 3000

Morgan Koerner

Christoph Schlingensief’s 2003 film Freakstars 3000 is explored here as an intervention in the current discourse on disability in Germany. A parody of mainstream television and the freak-show performance tradition, Freakstars 3000 documents a casting and variety show for disabled participants. Originally shown as a series on German television and later cut into a feature film, Freakstars 3000 critiques the    inclusion of disabled actors from mainstream media. The film subverts medical definitions of disability and assumptions that preclude people with disabilities from the realm of performance, and it extends representation of them in Germany into the genre of sketch comedy.

5

Literary Discourse and Cinematic Narrative: Scripting Affect in Das Leben der Anderen

Roger Cook

This chapter examines how Das Leben der Anderen juxtaposes the statepropagated literature in the East to the free literary production of the West. It arguea that in keeping with its bias in favour of a Bildungsliteratur cut from a Western mould, von Donnersmarck’s film subordinates cinema as a visual medium imbued with presence to the textual semiotic of literary narrative. Cook then analyzes how this embrace of literary discourse situates the filmic text with respect to the circulation and modulation of affect in the free-market “society of control” in contemporary Germany.

6

Heimat 3: Edgar Reitz’s Time Machine

Alasdair King

According to filmmaker Edgar Reitz, we are experiencing the end of the provincial in spatial terms and must instead reconfigure Heimat as a temporal category. Heimat 3 works as a complex filmic “time machine,” recording the changing nature of everyday life after the fall of the Wall, chronicling the social impact of historical change in Germany, and registering the being-in-time of its key characters. The third part of his trilogy is an attempt by Reitz to use cinema to construct a “safe home” in time, a Heimat composed of time-images—everyday, historical, durational.

7

Troubled Parents, Angry Children: The Difficult Legacy of 1968 in Contemporary German-Language Film

Joanne Leal

Leal investigates ambivalent responses to 1968 and its aftermath in three recent German-language films that are—to differing extents—also critical of social and political developments in post-unification Germany. Specifically, she demonstrates how Oskar Roehler’s Die Unberührbare, Christian Petzold’s Die innere Sicherheit, and Hans Weingartner’s Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei, even while they disparage the role played by the 1968 generation at different moments in the development of the Berlin Republic, evaluate more positively the ideological legacy of the student movement, offering a critique of contemporary Germany from a perspective not dissimilar to the 1968 generation’s own anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, and anti-imperialist stance.

8

Creative Chaos as Political Strategy in Recent German-Language Cinema

Mary-Elizabeth O’Brien

Against the two-sided coin of political idealism with its call for a perfect society and its use of force to obtain such lofty goals, O'Brien examines two films that present “creative chaos” as a strategy to protest against the loss of utopian dreams. Hans Weingartner’s Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei and Marcus Mittermeier’s Muxmäuschenstill are black comedies about young people who want to teach ordinary citizens about equality, civility, and responsibility in a world beset with injustice. These films reflect a growing discomfort with the lack of political and moral high ground, and they seek creative means to redefine German national identity in a globally responsible framework.

9

“Looking for an Old Man with a Black Moustache”: Hitler, Humour, Fake, and Forgery in Schtonk!

Florentine Strzelczyk

Helmut Dietl’s 1992 comedy Schtonk! evokes Hitler’s incessant presence in postwar Germany of the early 1980s and exposes the German fascination with fascism by fictionalizing the 1983 scandal around the Hitler diaries. Hitler and the Third Reich as the main objects of desire in the film remain absent, yet are also ever-present through the fetishes that the characters of the film are invested in. Schtonk! plays with notions of original and forged Nazi relics to point satirically to Germany’s contemporary fetishization, simulation, and commodification of Third Reich history.


10

Haha Hitler! Coming to Terms with Dani Levy

Peter Gölz

While Dani Levy’s Mein Führer—Die wirklich wahrste Wahrheit über Adolf Hitler (Mein Führer—The Truly Truest Truth about Adolf Hitler, 2007) continues the tradition of Hitler comedies such as The Great Dictator, it is the first feature comedy made in Germany that pokes fun at the Nazi dictator. The degree to which the film either succeeds or fails as a comedy will be discussed in this chapter. While representations of Hitler humour in other media remain acceptable to the broader audience, this feature film challenges the notions of what constitutes “acceptable” Vergangenheitsbewältigung in Germany.

11

German Fascination for Jews in Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Ein ganz gewöhnlicher Jude

Myriam Léger

This chapter discusses Oliver Hirschbiegel’s film as the site both of an imagined contemporary struggle for German-Jewish identity and the construction of the spectator’s problematic involvement in it. As the Jewish protagonist unravels the powerful discourse of postwar German–Jewish relations in which he feels trapped, the chamber-drama style of the film as well as its cinematography mark the spectator as a fascinated and implicitly German observer, who gazes at the protagonist’s intimate engagement with his troubled self-image. This film comments on the existing cultural alienation between Germans and Jews that continues to shape this discourse, and perpetuates a German fascination for “things Jewish.”


12

Border, Bridge, or Barrier? Images of German–Polish Borderlands in German Cinema of the 2000s

Jakub Kazecki

Drawing upon border studies and using the notions of the frontier, boundary, and borderland as sites of hybridity, this chapter investigates how Poles and their country are perceived in contemporary German cinema. It explores images of German–Polish relationships in selected German films such as Vergiss Amerika (Vanessa Joop, 2000), Herz im Kopf (Michael Gutmann, 2001), Klassenfahrt (Henner Winckler, 2002), Milchwald (Christoph Hochhäusler, 2003), and Schröders wunderbare Welt (Michael Schorr, 2006).

13

The Transnational Deutschkei in Yilmaz Arslan’s Brudermord

Michael Zimmermann

This chapter examines representations of the effects of globalization and transnational migration in Yilmaz Arslan’s film Brudermord. The film portrays migrating children as victims within the German host nation who are forced into a marginalized existence on the periphery of society. This essay discusses the ways in which the film problematizes aspects of the Turco-Kurdish culture in Germany.

14

Diasporic Queers: Reading for the Intersections of Alterities in Recent German Cinema

Alice Kuzniar

Rather than see non-normative race, ethnicity, residency status, and sexuality as separate categories, each of which can individually cause its bearer to be subject to ostracism and abjection, this chapter seeks, by focusing on Yüksel Yavuz’s Kleine Freiheit (2003) and Angelina Maccarone’s Fremde Haut (2005), to investigate the intersection and interdependence of alterities across categories, a movement that calls into question the very viability of such divisions and our assumptions about them.

15

The Construction of Reality: Aspects of Austrian Cinema between Fiction and Documentary

Barbara Pichler

Austrian cinema is known for its affinity to realist filmmaking. But is that attitude shared by Austria’s youngest generation of filmmakers? Four case studies provide an opportunity to explore notions of authenticity and veracity in contemporary Austrian film. While some of these films owe a debt to more established filmmakers such as Michael Haneke and Ulrich Seidl, the diversity of aesthetic and narrative structures in these films indicates that Austrian filmmaking’s most likely shared trait is a desire to challenge the expectations and mindsets of its viewers.

Table of Contents

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  1. Cover
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. v-vi
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  1. List of Illustrations
  2. p. vii
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  1. Acknowledgements
  2. p. ix
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  1. 1 Cinema of Dissent? Confronting Social, Economic, and Political Change in German-Language Cinema
  2. pp. 1-21
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  1. CHALLENGING VIEWING HABITS
  1. 2 The Counter-Cinema of the Berlin School
  2. pp. 25-42
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  1. 3 The Triumph of Hyperreality: A Baudrillardian Reading of Michael Haneke’s Cinematic Oeuvre
  2. pp. 43-58
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  1. 4 Subversions of the Medical Gaze: Disability and Media Parody in Christoph Schlingensief’s Freakstars 3000
  2. pp. 59-75
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  1. REASSESSING AND CONSUMING HISTORY
  1. 5 Literary Discourse and Cinematic Narrative: Scripting Affect in Das Leben der Anderen
  2. pp. 79-95
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  1. 6 Heimat 3: Edgar Reitz’s Time Machine
  2. pp. 97-114
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  1. 7 Troubled Parents, Angry Children: The Difficult Legacy of 1968 in Contemporary German-Language Film
  2. pp. 115-132
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  1. 8 Creative Chaos as Political Strategy in Recent German-Language Cinema
  2. pp. 133-154
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  1. 9 “Looking for an Old Man with a Black Moustache”: Hitler, Humour, Fake, and Forgery in Schtonk!
  2. pp. 155-171
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  1. 10 Haha Hitler! Coming to Terms with Dani Levy
  2. pp. 173-188
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  1. QUESTIONING COLLECTIVE IDENTITIES
  1. 11 German Fascination for Jews in Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Ein ganz gewöhnlicher Jude
  2. pp. 191-206
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  1. 12 Border, Bridge, or Barrier? Images of German–Polish Borderlands in German Cinema of the 2000s
  2. pp. 207-224
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  1. 13 The Transnational Deutschkei in Yilmaz Arslan’s Brudermord
  2. pp. 225-243
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  1. 14 Diasporic Queers: Reading for the Intersections of Alterities in Recent German Cinema
  2. pp. 245-264
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  1. AN INSIDER’S VIEW
  1. 15 The Construction of Reality: Aspects of Austrian Cinema between Fiction and Documentary
  2. pp. 267-281
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  1. Filmography
  2. pp. 283-286
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  1. Notes on Contributors
  2. pp. 287-289
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 291-302
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