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East German Cinema

 

Elizabeth Hamilton, Oberlin College, elizabeth.hamilton@oberlin.edu

 

Texts:

available at the Oberlin College Bookstore and on Regular Reserve:

 

1.      Allan, SeŠn and John Sandford. DEFA: East German Cinema, 1946-1992. New York: Berghahn, 1999.

2.      Corrigan, Timothy. A Short Guide to Writing About Film. 4th Edition. New York: Longman, 1998.

3.      selected articles available in Regular Reserve and Electronic Reserve (ERES)

 

Course content and goals:
East German cinema existed even before the formal establishment of the German Democratic Republic in 1949. Together with writers and other artists, filmmakers in the early post-war years sought to and did play a leading role in founding the new socialist society. Following several ideological programs mandated by the Socialist Unity Party, optimistic production was soon displaced by a working atmosphere of aesthetic and social constraint.

Examining representative films from 1946 until 1989, we will explore the development and function of film culture in East Germany. In addition to close textual analysis of films, we will also examine literary, theoretical, and historical impulses in major works produced in the DEFA studios. 

 

The Honor Code: The honor code extends to all assignments in German 335.

 

Week

Monday

Film screening

Wednesday

1  Feb. 4-8

Introduction

Kuhle Wampe (Bertolt Brecht and Slatan Dudow, 1932)

discussion of Kuhle Wampe

2  Feb. 11-15

SeŠn Allan: "DEFA: An Historical Overview"

The Murderers Are Among Us (Wolfgang Staudte, 1946)

Bathrick, David: "From UFA to DEFA: Past as Present in Early GDR Films"

3  Feb. 18-22

Frank Stern: "The Return to the Disowned Home--German Jews and the Other Germany"

The Blum Affair (Erich Engel, 1948)

Christiane MŁckenberger: "The Anti-Fascist Past in DEFA Films"

4  Feb. 25-Mar. 1

Rosemary Stott: "'Letting the Genie Out of the Bottle': DEFA Film-Makers and Film und Fernsehen"

The Story of a Young Couple (Kurt Maetzig, 1952)

Barton Byg: "DEFA and the Traditions of International Cinema" presentations and discussion

5  Mar. 4-8

Uta G. Poiger: "American Culture in East and West German Reconstruction"

Berlin - SchŲnhauser Corner (Gerhard Klein, 1957)

first paper due

6  Mar. 11-15

Uta G. Poiger: "Jazz and German Respectability"

The Singing, Ringing Tree (Francesco Stefani, 1957)

presentations and discussion

7  Mar.18-22

Rachel Alsop: "Rhetoric and Reality: Women's Employment in the GDR"

Sunseekers (Konrad Wolf, 1957)

presentations and discussion

8  Mar. 25-29

Spring Break

Spring Break

Spring Break

 

9  Apr. 1-5

Karen Ruoff Kramer: "Representations of Work in the Forbidden DEFA Films of 1965"

The Trace of Stones (Frank Beyer, 1966/1990)

 

presentations and discussion

10  Apr. 8-12

Pop music: die Puhdys

presentations and discussion

The Legend Of Paul And Paula (Heiner Carow, 1972)

presentations and discussion

11  Apr. 15-19

presentations and discussion

Apaches (Gottfried Kolditz, 1973)

presentations and discussion

12  Apr. 22-26

presentations and discussion

Jacob the Liar (Frank Beyer, 1974)

presentations and discussion

13  Apr. 29-May 3

Andreas Rinke: "From Models to Misfits: Women in DEFA Films of the 1970s and 1980s"

Solo Sunny (Konrad Wolf, 1979)

presentations and discussion

14  May 6-10

presentations and discussion

Coming Out (Heiner Carow, 1989)

concluding discussion and course evaluations

15  May 13-17

Reading period

Just for fun: Hot Summer (Joachim Hasler, 1968)

Reading period

Finals begin


Course Assignments 

 

All of this semester's assignments may be understood as parts of a larger project: to grapple with films produced in the German Democratic Republic from 1946-1989 and consider the significance of their contributions to cinema and German culture. These overarching questions should guide your analysis: How and to what end should we examine East German cinema? Do DEFA films have enduring aesthetic value, or is their value only to be found in their testimony to the failed experiment of the GDR?  

 

Keeping these questions in mind, you are required:

 

         to view all of the scheduled films and discuss them in class. (20%)

 

         to read and reflect upon historical-critical analyses and respond in writing to at least four articles. Submit your one- to two-page reflection papers to the CourseInfo site. These will not be graded for content or style, merely for completion. Others in the class are encouraged to respond to new postings with helpful comments and constructive criticism. (20%) 

         to complete four five-page analyses in which you examine one film within a given context. One may be presented orally in lieu of a written paper. If you choose this option, please sign up for oral presentations by February 11th. Specific topics for your papers /presentation must come from four of the following categories. I have provided some starting points below each category heading as suggestions for your studies. Other topics will emerge from class discussions. (Do not choose a category more than once.) (60%) 

1.      Film and aesthetic theory / film and philosophy

socialist realism, resistance to modernism and "formalism," dialectical materialism, Karl Marx, Ernst Bloch, Bertolt Brecht, utopianism, Georg LukŠcs, Johannes R. Becher; What critical questions exist for DEFA films that might not apply to other national cinemas?

 

2.      Film and film:  film style, film history

pace, camera angle, heroic imagery, similarites to UFA, similarities between DEFA and Hollywood, periodization; compare two films by the same director, two from the same time period, or two that share a common theme; Where can you identify adherence to Party ideology? Where can you identify ambiguity, divergence or "filming between the lines"? What connections do these films make to (or break from) other film traditions?

 

3.      Film and literature

presence of exile writers in the East, status of literature in communist systems, examine the influence of works by Bertolt Brecht, Anna Seghers, Wolf Biermann, Christoph Hein, Stefan Heym, Arnold Zweig, Heinrich Mann, Christa Wolf, Jurek Becker, Ulrich Plenzdorf, Volker Braun, Irmtraud Morgner, GŁnter de Bruyn, Heiner MŁller, Peter Hacks; consider the role of classic or contemporary literary texts within specific films, such as  Nathan der Weise, Das siebte Kreuz, Des Teufels General

 

4.      Film and geography: places of national history and political events

Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg, city and national border, movement between the zones of occupation, architecture, the divided city, the Berlin Wall, denazification, Stalinallee, expatriation of Wolf Biermann, 17 Juni 1953; How does this film use place to assess political events and processes? What position does this film take on the event(s) portrayed?

 

5.      Film and society: lived experience

work, education, youth, gender roles, sexuality, marriage, humanism, anti-fascism, the self, the use of language: German, English or Russian, internalization of a socialist or nationalist identity; class consciousness

 

Reserve Materials

 

Photocopied articles (also available on ERES)

 

1.  Poiger, Uta A. "American Culture in East and West German Reconstruction." Jazz, Rock, and Rebels: Cold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany. Berkeley: U of California P, 2000. 31-70.

 

2.  Poiger, Uta A. "Jazz and German Respectability." Jazz, Rock, and Rebels: Cold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany. Berkeley: U of California P, 2000. 137-167.

 

3.  Stern, Frank. "The Return to the Disowned Home:  German Jews and the Other Germany." New German Critique. 67 (1996): 57-72.

 

4.  Allan, SeŠn. "DEFA: An Historical Overview." DEFA: East German Cinema, 1946-1992. Allan, SeŠn and John Sanford, eds. New York: Berghahn, 1999.

 

5.  Alsop, Rachel. "Rhetoric and Reality: Women's Employment in the GDR." A Reversal of Fortunes? Women, Work and Change in East Germany. New York: Berghahn, 2000.

 

6.  Bathrick, David. "From UFA to DEFA: Past as Present in Early GDR Films." Contentious Memories: Looking Back at the GDR. Hermand, Jost and Marc Silberman, eds. German Life and Civilization 24. New York: Lang, 1998. 169-188.

 

7.  MŁckenberger, Christiane. "The Anti-Fascist Past in DEFA Films"

Allan, SeŠn and John Sandford, eds. DEFA: East German Cinema, 1946-1992. New York: Berghahn, 1999. 58-76.

 

8.  Stott, Rosemary. "'Letting the Genie Out of the Bottle': DEFA Film-Makers and Film und Fernsehen." Allan, SeŠn and John Sandford, eds. DEFA: East German Cinema, 1946-1992. New York: Berghahn, 1999. 42-57.

 

9. Byg, Barton. "DEFA and the Traditions of International Cinema." Allan, SeŠn and John Sandford, eds. DEFA: East German Cinema, 1946-1992. New York: Berghahn, 1999. 22-41.

 

10.  Kramer, Karen Ruoff. "Representations of Work in the Forbidden DEFA Films of 1965." Allan, SeŠn and John Sandford, eds. DEFA: East German Cinema, 1946-1992. New York: Berghahn, 1999. 131-145.

 

11.  Rinke, Andreas. "From Models to Misfits: Women in DEFA Films of the 1970s and 1980s." Allan, SeŠn and John Sandford, eds. DEFA: East German Cinema, 1946-1992. New York: Berghahn, 1999. 183-203.

 

Videos

 

1.  Apaches (Gottfried Kolditz, 1973)

 

2. Berlin - SchŲnhauser Corner (Gerhard Klein, 1957)

 

3.  Coming Out (Heiner Carow, 1989)

 

4.  Destinies of Women (Slatan Dudow, 1962)

 

5. Hot Summer (Joachim Hasler, 1968)

 

6. The Legend Of Paul And Paula (Heiner Carow, 1972)

 

7. The Murderers Are Among Us  (Wolfgang Staudte, 1946)

 

8. The Story of  a Young Couple (Kurt Maetzig, 1952)

 

9.  The Singing, Ringing Tree (Francesco Stefani, 1957)

 

10.  Solo Sunny (Konrad Wolf, 1979)

 

11.  The Trace of Stones  (Frank Beyer, 1966/1990)

 

Books

 

1.  Allan, Sean and John Sandford, eds. DEFA: East German Cinema, 1946-1992. New York: Berghahn Books, 1999.

 

2.  Corrigan, Timothy. A Short Guide to Writing About Film. 4th Edition. New York:

Longman, 1998.

 

3.  Silberman, Marc. German Cinema: Texts in Context. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1995.

 

4.  Timm, Angelika.  Jewish Claims Against East Germany: Moral Obligations and Pragmatic Policy. Budapest: Central European UP, 1997.

 

5.  Herf, Jeffrey.  Divided Memory: the Nazi Past in the Two Germanys. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1997.

 

6.  Kuhirt, Ullrich, ed. Kunst der DDR, 1960-1980. Leipzig: E.A. Seemann, 1983.

 

7.  Nisbet, Peter, ed. Twelve Artists from the German Democratic Republic: Gerhard Altenbourg ... [et al.] Cambridge: Harvard University, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1989. 

 

8.  Zipser, Richard, ed. Fragebogen--Zensur: zur Literatur vor und nach dem Ende der DDR. Leipzig: Reclam Verlag, 1995.

 

9.  Borneman, John, ed. Gay Voices From East Germany. Interviews by JŁrgen Lemke.

Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

 

10.  Firchow, Peter E. and Evelyn S. Firchow, eds. East German Short Stories: An Introductory Anthology. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1979.

 

11.  Nothnagle, Alan L. Building the East German Myth: Historical Mythology and Youth propaganda in the German Democratic Republic, 1945-1989. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999.

 

12.  Kuehn, Karl Gernot. Caught: the Art of Photography in the German Democratic Republic. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

 

13.  HŲrnigk, Therese and Alexander Stephan, eds. The New Sufferings of Young W. and Other Stories from the German Democratic Republic. New York: Continuum, 1997.

 

14.  Norton, Roger C. ed.  Voices East and West: German Short Stories Since 1945. New York: Ungar, 1984.

 

15.  Naimark, Norman M.  The Russians in Germany : a History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945-1949. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1995.

 

16.  Dodds, Dinah, and Allen-Thompson, Pam, eds. The Wall in My Backyard: East German Women in Transition. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994.

 

17.  Kuzniar, Alice. The Queer German Cinema. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.

 

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