Postwar German Cinema Mid-term Study Guide

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Postwar German Cinema Mid-term Study Guide

Postwar German Cinema Mid-term Study Guide 1


Lecture 1 + 2 (same) – 3

Lecture 3 - Eliora Noetzel 4

Lecture 3 - Thorough list of IDs 6

Lecture 5: Taking Leave of Yesterday - Ruth Aliza Engel 8

Lecture 6 10

Lecture 7: Young German Noir– Sophie 11

Lecture 8 – The Munich School Kristen 12

Lecture 9 – Brecht and Sirk’s influence on Fassbinder - Ralph ( 13

Lecture 10 – Niall Prendergast

Lecture 11 – Daniel Cahoon - 15

Lecture 12 – Hannah Yohalem 16

Lecture 13 18

Lecture 15 –American Friend/Images Hannah Lincoln < 21

Lecture 16 22

** FILMS ** 23

“Die Morder sind unter uns”- The Murderers are Among Us 23

The Death Mills 24

Young Törless - Lily Erlinger 25

Brutality in Stone 27

Yesterday Girl - Ruth Aliza Engel 28

Red Sun - Kristen 29

The American Soldier“ (1970) - Sophie 30

Merchant of Four Seasons – Ralph ( 31

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul 32

The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser - Frances Idania Martel 33

Alabama (2000 Light Years) - KJ Popkin 36

Alice in the Cities 37

Reverse Angle 38

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum 40

Germany in Autumn - Hannah Yohalem 41

** READINGS ** 43

Sebald, On the Natural History of Destruction (1-104) 43

NOTE: Rentschler, "The Place of Rubble in the Trümmerfilm” in Lecture 3 44

Adorno, "What Does Coming to Terms with the Past Mean?" 45

West German Filmmakers on Film (1-13) 46

Hansen, "Space of History, Language of Time" (Web) 48

Rentschler, "Spectacle and Specularity" 49

West German Filmmakers on Film (59-85, 186-187) 50

Wollen, "Godard and Counter Cinema" (Web) 52

West German Filmmakers on Film (40-54, 187-188, 213-220) 54

Rentschler, "Zombie Jamboree" (Web) 56

Johnston, "A Star is Born" (Hollis) 57

Elsaesser, Fassbinder's Germany (7-71) 58

Fassbinder, The Anarchy of the Imagination (3-15, 41-44, 77-96) 59

Judith Mayne, "Fassbinder and Spectatorship" (Hollis) 60

Cronin, Herzog on Herzog (32-134) 61

West German Filmmakers on Film (97-123) 65

Graf, from The Cinema of Wim Wenders (Web) 67

Rentschler, "The US as Image and Imaginary" 71

Dawson, from Wim Wenders (Web) 73

Wenders, selected essays and interviews 79

Böll, The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum 80

Zipes, "The Political Dimensions" (Hollis) 81

Mayr, "The German Autumn of 1977" 82

** Hand outs ** 84

a-Mourning and Melancholy – 84

b-Karl Jaspers on German Guilt 85

c-Flashbacks in Film 86

d-The Inability to Mourn 87

e-Adorno on Aufarbeitung COMBINED IN ADORNO SUMMARY 89

g-The Culture Industry 90

j-Histoire and Discours 92

k-Brecht and Epic Theater 93

l-Melodrama and Cinema 94

m-Fassbinder and Sirk 95

n-Lessons from Fassbinder 96

o-Edgar Reitz on Holocaust 97

p-Kluge and Spectatorship 98


Lecture 1 + 2 (same) –


“Sick Germany”: psycho-cultural aggressiveness



June 5: the Allies divide Germany

June 26: founding document for UN (51 countries)

Nov: Nuremberg trials (24 prominent Nazi officials)
Over 60 million people died as a result of WWII.
The “malady” of being German was a reversal of the way Germans used to look at Jews. The Germans made others of the Jews, now the international world at large made others of the Germans. The Germans were charged with psycho-cultural aggressiveness,“Sick Germany” due to Germany’s long history of blindly following passionate leaders

Lecture 3 - Eliora Noetzel

Lecture Summary:

Staudte's film, The Murderers are Among Us, deals directly with the physical and emotional state of post-war Germany. Physically, it shows the rubble that surrounds Germany, yet aestheticizes it with camera angles and editing choices, that somehow beautify these visions of destruction. Emotionally, this film witnesses two characters with two different outlooks toward the past and the future: Sussane does not think about the past and wishes to move forward,

The Place of Rubble in the Trümmerfilm Summary

The Place of Rubble in the Trümmerfilm is Professor Rentschler's essay on Trummerfilms, with a special focus on “The Murderers are Among Us.” It is essentially the same exact thing as his lecture, only in a bit finer deatial. Key topics (as related to Murderers are Among Us) include: the historical context for the Trummerfilm, aestheticizing rubble, German guilt, and moving forward.

Outline for Lecture 3 AND Place of the Rubble in the Trummerfilme

Broken Up into Nine Chapters

  1. Intro to Trummerfilms

  • There are two ways films can show rubble:

    • Vertically- in which towering ruins stretched into the sky

    • Horizontally- vast open fields of crumbled debris, the so-called steppes.

    • In The Murders Are Among Us, it is the former that dominates.

  • First movies after “Filmpause” (a year long hiatus after war), showed moral and artistic uncertainty.

  • Germans usually appear as victims or rescuers (rarely perpetrators).

  • Hitler sometimes referred to but never mentioned.

  • Gertrud Koch argues: the rubble film seeks to foster reconstruction by re-instilling a work ethic and reaffirming the importance of diligence, honesty, punctuality, moderation, and the belief that human beings should recognize and serve a higher power.

  1. Murderers are Among Us: First Onscreen German Viewing of War

  • Staudte found support for film from Soviets in East Berlin.

  • Film premiered 14 days after the 22 convictions in the Nuremberg Trials (and one week before resulting 12 executions).

  • Six million people saw it in 23 countries.

  • Critics, on the whole, thought it was a success, or at least a valiant effort.

  1. Nazi Film

  • Many American films, and later, German films, reference Nazi cinema ( Billy Wilder’s A Foreign Affair (1948) mimics Hitler’s descent from the clouds to the Nazi Party Congress.

  • Nazi Kulturfilme celebrated architectural grandeur and hailed Germany’s cities of the futures;

  • Brutalität in Stein (Brutality in Stone, 1960), contrasts the decayed remnants of Nazi structures in the Nuremberg Zeppelinfeld with the pomposity of Speer’s edifices and the giganticism of Hitler’s architectural fantasies. It begins with a shot from Kurt Rupli’s Das Wort aus Stein (The Word of Stone, 1939) and concludes with images rocks, and ruin.”

  1. Meinecke vs. Jasper

  • Friedrich Meinecke

    • Believed German culture to be intact despite being under the rule of a small group of criminals for 12 years.

    • Contrasted the many who have suffered with the few guilty who caused the suffering ( “Indeed, Meinecke distinguishes between the healthy 'we' and the murderous “they”--in other words, the murderers were among us.”)

  • Karl Jasper

    • Insists all Germans pose the questions of their guilt and answer it forthrihtly.

    • Jaspers saw substantial distinctions between who had suffered and under what conditions.

    • “we should not be so quick to feel innocent, should not pity ourselves as victims of an evil fate, should not expect to be praised for suffering. We should question ourselves, should pitilessly analyze ourselves: where did I feel wrongly, think wrongly, act wrongly--we should, as far as possible, look for guilt within ourselves, not in things, nor in the others; we should not dodge into distress” (Jaspers, 114-115).

  • Most Trummerfilms followed Meinecke's way of thinking.

  1. Aestheticizing Rubble

  • Rubble became a central subject for artists, who often made it extremely aethetic.

  • This gave rise to a heated debate.

  • Staudte’s camera, remarked film critic Werner Fiedler, “creates stirrlingly beautiful landscapes of ruins.”

  • Critics who did not believe in making ruins romantic, stressed the importance of the,“Einstellung,” a word that at once connotes a frame, a mental attitude, and a world view. The correct “Einstellung” is the appropriate fix on things; it is in equal measure a formal and a moral disposition.

  • Staudte's opening shows an Einstellung that Sebald castigates as “the temptation to make the real horrors of the time disappear through the artifice of abstraction and metaphysical fraudulence.”

  1. Rubble's Role in Past and Future

  • Images of rubble signify a destructed past, but also get one thinking about a new, and different future.

  • Staudte complicates our vision with dissolves into shots of rubble (often beautiful shots with shadows and symmetry).

  • In Murderers are Among Us, a tourist poster of Nuremberg that bears the caption, “Das schöne Deutschland,” dissolves into views of rubble showing how Nazi plans of grandeur have resulted in rubble.

  1. Homecomings

  • Rubble plays a character in the film. its presence is often almost like a living companion.

  • Hans Mertens

    • In opening he is surrounded by rubble rats and ruin (although we do see children playing) and he is shot on an angle.

    • Casebook example of Freudian melancholy- initially dejected, uninvesteted, and unable to love.

    • Prodigal son who has come back to Germany and has not found a home yet. (looks more comfortable in rubble than later when we see him in Susanne's apartment).

    • For him the past is a disease that shatters his mind, and prevents him from moving forward.

  • Susanne Wallner

    • We first see her emerging from train station where she is almost lit against the crowd.

    • “Released from a concentration camp, where she has spent the last three years of the war, she makes a beeline for her former residence, her make-up intact and her spirits undaunted. No sooner has she reoccupied her apartment than she goes to work clearing away the debris (22:13). For her the past is not an issue; she is willing and able to leave it behind”

    • her attitude will become the ethos that dominates postwar experience in West Germany; it will be the driving force behind the Economic Miracle of the 1950s: look forward, don't look back.)

    • She helps Mertens moved past his memories, and prevents him from becoming a murderer by saying, “We have no right to pass sentence, but we have the obligation to call the guilty to justice, to demand atonement on behalf of millions of innocent people who were murdered.”

  1. More on Hans and Susanne

  • Literally and figuratively a Trümmerfrau, Susanne clears away the rubble, both the bombing debris in the shared flat as well as the war residue in her loved one’s psyche.

  • Hans is very much separated from the murderers However, he looks back at the past and reckons with the guilty party in order that he might salvage his better self.

  • In one sequence, Hans and Susanne walk through the rubble and Hans expresses that he wishes to some day love again. “This dream of restoration, both of living spaces as well as human minds and bodies, is the rubble film’s manifest destiny, a fantasy of an intact national corpus that will, of course, find its definitive incarnation in the Heimatfilm.”

  1. Acknowledgment of the Holocaust

  • vast majority of postwar German features rarely acknowledged the Holocaust: not completely due to oversight, but Allied occupiers were filtering and censoring Trummerfilm images of Nazi past.

  • In Murderers are Among Us, Brukner, the commanding officer who ordered the innocent murders of women and children that haunt Hand throughout the film, eats his sandwich next to a newspaper that reads “2 million people gasses”.

    • He does not see the headline, complains about the ugliness of the rubble. “neither physical nor psychic ruins have a place in his prosperous new existence.”

    • Bruckner is very much the villain. He “embodies an unwillingness to mourn which is not to say that he has no memories; he fondly recalls “the golden days of freedom in a grey uniform.”

  • Americans also put out a film on the Nazi past, called The Death Mills, however, the disturbing affect of the realities of the concentration camps on the German public caused Americans to withdraw the film.

  • Murderers acknowledges German war crimes, but unlike The Death Mills, it denies any wider German culpability for these crimes”

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