and the New German Cinema
University of Chicago,
Winter, 1997 CMS 226, German 222/412, English 284/484, GSHum 211/311
The whole week the rumor had gone around in Berlin that the film was to be
forbidden, and that in other cities it had led to rioting....
Already after the first minutes of the film the unrest began in the theater.
After the demonstration, the construction workers had sprung naked into the
pond, and when a policeman ordered them out, the giant brigade-member came up to
him, grabbed his leg and pulled him into the water. The policeman paddled
helplessly around, the workers laughed, and from the loudspeakers on the
construction site came the slogans of the speeches: Socialism. Freedom.
Disgusting! called a voice from the darkness. Mockery of our state power!...We
will not allow our state to be mocked in our cinemas! I saw how
Robert got up out of his seat and turned around
to the man: Whose state? Not yours, said the man, without looking at
Robert. We demand that the screening be broken
off immediately, he screamed. Everywhere in the auditorium men now stood up and
shouted, were pulled back into their seats, and on the screen stood the
construction workers, moving their mouths, but without being comprehensible. Who
permitted this film? screamed the man next to me. It insults the honor of the
workers. Not mine, I said... Now I noticed for the first time that the screen
was dark... The director of the cinema appeared in front of the screen. Under
these circumstances the projection of the film cannot continue, he said. Those
in charge of the cinema refuse to show a work of art to a public which erupts
into tumultuous discussion, rather than paying attention to the film.
Thomas Brasch, fictionalized description of the East Berlin screening of Frank
Beyer's Spur der Steine before its ban in 1966, Vor den Vätern sterben
die Söhne (1977)
This course examines the emergence and development of the New German Cinema in
relationship to post-war filmmaking in the divided Germany and to concurrent New
Waves in the German Democratic Republic. We will pay equal attention to the
aesthetic strategies of individual films, to their reflections on history,
memory, subjectivity and cultural institutions, and to political, economic,
institutional, cultural and film-historical contexts for the postwar cinema.
Because we have the unusual opportunity, this quarter, to view a major body of
films made at the DEFA studios in the GDR, our course will attempt consistantly
to think about the parallel and divergent cinematic (and social) developments
East and West. At times, the juxtaposition will produce unexpected continuities
and overlaps; at others, the non-synchronicity of the two cinemas (for instance
in the timing of its various New Waves) will force us to rethink our usual ways
of periodizing and conceptualizing film history.
Although there is a considerable film historiography from (and about) each
Germany, there is to date very little that tries to contrast or synthesize both
traditions. Because of this "divided criticism" (and because virtually all the
GDR secondary literature is in German only), students are asked to participate
in an experimental approach to secondary reading this quarter. Our primary
emphasis, in discussion, will be on the films themselves. At the same time,
students are asked to familiarize themselves with part of the secondary
literature (in whatever language/s they are able to read); all final papers
should reflect some familiarity with relevant parts of the secondary literature.
At some point in the quarter, additionally, each student will be expected to
produce a one-page review/summary/position paper of one of the film monographs
(in German or in English) listed below. These papers should not exceed one page;
they should give the reader at once a sense of the content of the book, the
approach of the book, and the successes and limitations of the approach. They
should be reproduced in enough copies so that every student in the class (and
the professor) has a personal copy to keep (or alternately, emailed to all
members of the class). These papers are mandatory, but they will not be graded.
Instead, they will serve
fellow-students by giving them a critical 'read' of some of the secondary
Each undergraduate student will also be asked to write a 3-page paper on a topic
of his or her own choice (developed in consultation with me, and probably
involving a close reading of a film or part of a film), as well as an 8-10 page
paper due on the last day of class .
Each graduate student will also be asked to write a termpaper, of ca. 15 pages,
due on the last day of class.
Recommended "background" reading (avail. at Sem. Coop; Reg Reserve)
For weeks 1-5: Heide Fehrenbach, Cinema in Democratizing Germany
For weeks 5-10: Thomas Elsaesser, New German Cinema
For primary documents about NGC: Eric Rentschler, West German Filmmakers
For general background in film analysis: David Bordwell and Kristen
Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction
Thinking Back: The Postwar Period and the War's Prehistory
Wed. Jan. 8 Hungerjahre/Hunger Years (Jutta Brückner, 1979)
Sun. Jan. 11 The Murderers are Among Us/Die Mörder sind unter uns.
(Wolfgang Staudte, DEFA, 91 min. 1946)
Wed. Jan. 14 Der Untertan/The Subject (Wolfgang Staudte, DEFA,
Women's Lives: Fascism, Everyday Life, Destalinization
Sun. Jan. 18 DOC: Ehe im Schatten/Marriage in the Shadows (Kurt Maetzig,
DEFA, 1947, 104 min.)
Wed. Jan. 21 FC:
Lissy (Konrad Wolf, DEFA, 1957)
Sun. Jan. 25
Sonnensucher (Konrad Wolf, DEFA, 1958/1972)
Brückner, "Women's Films are Searches for
Traces," in Rentschler, ed. West German Filmmakers on Film (WGFOF), 85-9.
Ziewer, "Last Words for
Staudte," WGFOF, 118-120.
On Der Untertan: Marc Silberman,
"Semper fidelis," in Rentschler, ed. German Film and Literature, 146-160.
Suggested readings/reports on
Mückenberger and Jordan, Sie sehen selbst...
Christiane Mückenberger, "Zeit der Hoffnungen 1946 bis 1949," 8-49 and
Ralf Schenk, "Mitten im Kalten Krieg 1950-60," 50-157 in Schenk, ed., Das
Heimann, DEFA, Künstler, und Kulturpolitik.
Fritz Göttler, "Westdeutscher Nachkriegsfilm," in Jacobsen et al,
Geschichte des deutschen Films, 171-211.
Fehrenbach, "Die Sünderin or Who Killed the German Man?", Cinema in
New Waves. Divisions and Loopings.
Sun. Feb. 1 DOC: Divided
Heaven/Der geteilte Himmel (Konrad Wolf, DEFA,1963, 114 min.)
Feb. 4 FC: Nicht
versöhnt/Not reconciled (Jean-Marie
Huillet, ca. 50 min.)
and Brot der frühen Jahre/Bread of the Early Years (Herbert Veseley,
1962, 87 min.)
Suggested background reading:
Fehrenbach, Cinema in Democratizing Germany,
esp. Chs. 6 and 7.
Norbert Grob, "Film der sechziger Jahre," and Wolfgang Gersch, "Film in der
DDR," Jacobsen, Geschichte des deutschen Films,
211-248 and 323-365.
Rentschler, ed.WGFOF: esp. "The Oberhausen Manifesto," 2;
Kluge, "What do the Oberhauseners Want,"
Domnick, "Freeing Onesself from Old Hat,"
On Huillet and Straub:
Byg, Landscapes of Resistance.
On Vesely: Fernand Jung, "Das Kino
der frühen Jahre: Herbert Vesely und die Filmavantgarde in der Bundesrepublik," in Berger
et al., Zwischen gestern
u. morgen, 318-340.
Also: Thomas Brandlmeier, "Die Münchner Schule: Zur Vorgeschichte des
jungen deutschen Films 1962-1968," in Abschied von
Anne Paech, "Die Schule der Zuschauer: Zur Geschichte der deutschen
Filmclubbewegung," in Zwischen gestern und morgen,
Rethinking the War: Cold and Hot
Sun. Feb. 8 DOC: The
Gleiwitz Case (Gerhard Klein, 1961, 70 min.)
Wed. Feb. 11 FC
Lebenszeichen/Signs of Life (Werner Herzog, 1968, video)
Peuker, "The invalidation of Arnim: Herzog's
Signs of Life (1968)", in Rentschler, ed. German Film and Literature, 217-230.
--On Herzog, see
ed. The Films of
Herzog: Between Mirage and History.
1965: Breakthrough, Clampdown
Sun. Feb. 15 Berlin
around the Corner/Berlin um die Ecke (Gerhard Klein, 1966/1988, 87 min.)
Wed. Feb. 18 Yesterday
Girl/Abschied von Gestern (Alexander Kluge, 1965)
On 1965 in the GDR:
Agde, ed. Kahlschlag.
On GDR cinema around/after 1965, see Erika Richter, "Zwischen Mauerbau und
Kahlschlag 1961 bis 1965" and Klaus Wischnewski, "Träumer und Gewöhnliche
Leute 1966 bis 1979", in Schenk, ed. Das
zweite Leben, 157-264,
and Sigrun O. Leonhard, "Testing the Borders," in Daniel Goulding, ed. Post New
Wave Cinema in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. 51-101.
On Abschied von Gestern:
Hansen, "Space of history, language of time:
Kluge's Yesterday Girl (1966)," in Rentschler, ed. German Film and Literature,
October 46 (Fall 1988)
Special issue on
Anti-Heroes and Anti-Theater
Sun. Feb. 22 Spur der Steine (Frank Beyer, 1965/1990, 139 m)
Wed. Feb. 25 Katzelmacher (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1969)
Suggested reading: Klaus Kreimeier, "Rückblick auf ein Biedermeier mit
Raketen" and Georg Seeßlen, "Nichts Fremdes in
keinem Eigenen" in Abschied
von Gestern, 10-49.
Wenders, "Emotion Pictures," WGFOF, 42-5.
Women's Pictures: Legends, Backprojections
Sun. March 1. The Legend
of Paul and
von Paul und
(Heiner Carow, 1975, 106 m.)
Winter Adé/Adieu Winter,
Misselwitz, 1988, 115 min.
Wed. March 4 Deutschland,
bleiche Mutter (Helma Sanders-Brahms, 1979)
On Deutschland, Bleiche Mutter:
Hitler to Heimat, Ch. 5, "Our Childhoods, Ourselves: Helma
Sanders-Brahms' "Germany Pale Mother," 139-159.
Bammer, "Through a Daughter's Eyes: Helma
Sanders-Brahms' Germany, Pale Mother," New German Critique 36 (1985), 91-109.
McCormick, "Women's Discourse and the German
Past: Germany, Pale Mother in Politics of the Self, 186-207.
On women's cinema:
Knight, Women and the New German Cinema;
Feldvoß, "Kundschafterinnen im
der Zeit," in Abschied von gestern, 116-137;
"From Hitler to
Hepburn: A Discussion on Women's Films, Production and
Reception," New German Critique 24-25 (Fall/Winter 1981-2): 172-185.
In Rentschler, WGFOF: "Manifesto of Women Film Workers," 5-6, Helke Sander, "Men
are Responsible," 25-30 and "Feminism and Film," 75-81; several essays by
We end with singing and dancing...
Sun. March 8 Strictly Propaganda/Kinder, Kader and East Side
Story: 2 documentaries about GDR "didactic films" and about the musical in
the GDR and elsewhere in Eastern Europe
Important books for background reading/class reports
Heimann, Thomas (1994) DEFA, Künstler und SED-Kulturpolitik: zum
Verhältnis von Kulturpolitik und Filmproduktion in der SBZ/DDR 1945 bis 1959.
Berlin: Vistas Verlag.
Leonhard, Sigrun D. (1989) "Testing the Borders:
East German Film between Individualism and Social Commitment," in
Goulding. Post New Wave Cinema in the Soviet
Union and Eastern Europe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 55-101.
Liehm, Mira and Antonin, The Most Important
Art. Overview of cinema in post-war Eastern
Europe, including several chapters on the GDR. The only work in English to think
about DEFA in relationship to other Eastern European cinemas.
Mückenberger, Christiane and
Günther Jordan (1994) "Sie sehen selbst, Sie hören selbst: Die DEFA von ihren Anfängen bis
1949. Marburg: Hitzeroth.
Schenk, Ralf, ed. (1994) Das zweite Leben der Filmstadt Babelsberg.
DEFA-Spielfilme 1946-1992. Berlin: Henschel
Berger, Jürgen et al, eds. (1989) Zwischen gestern und morgen:
Westdeutscher Nachkriegsfilm 1946-1962. Frankfurt:
Collins, Richard and Vincent Porter (1981) WDR and the Arbeiterfilm:
Fassbinder, Ziewer and others. London: British
Timothy (1983) New German Cinema: The Displaced
Austin: University of Texas Press.
Julia (1992) Women and the New German Cinema.
Rentschler, Eric (1984). West German Film in the Course of Time.
Reflections on the Twenty Years since Oberhausen. Bedford Hills: Redgrave
Other books of interest - English
Barton. (1996) Landscapes of Resistance. The German Films of
Berkeley: University of California.
Timothy, ed. (1986) The Films of
Herzog. Between Mirage and History. New York
and London: Methuen.
Magnus (1974) The Consciousness Industry: On
Literature, Politics and the Media. New York:
Frieden, Sandra, Richard W. McCormick, Vibeke R. Peterson, and Laurie Melissa
Vogelsang, eds. (1993) Gender and German Cinema. Feminist Interventions. Volume
I: Gender and Representation in New German Cinema and Volume II: German Film
History/German History on Film. Providence: Berg.
Anton (1989) From
Hitler to Heimat. The Return of History as Film. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press.
Annette. Indelible Shadows.
Overview of European films about the Holocaust.
Marc. (1995) German Cinema:
Texts in Context. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
Richard W. (1991) Politics of the Self: Feminism
and the Postmodern in West German Literature and Film. Princeton: Princeton
Kaplan, E. Ann. 1983. Women
and Film: Both Sides of the Camera. New York: Methuen.
New German Critique: special issues on NGC, on Heimat, etc.
Philips, Klaus, ed. (1984)
New German Filmmakers: From Oberhausen Through the 1970s. New York:
Rayns, Tony, ed. (1980)
Fassbinder. Rev. ed. London: British Film
Rentschler, Eric, ed.
(1986). German Film and Literature: Adaptations and Transformations. New York:
Rentschler, Eric, ed.
(1988) West German Filmmakers on Film. Visions and Voices. New York and London:
Holmes and Meier.
John (1980) The New German Cinema. New
Jane (1995) Television, Tabloids and Tears:
Fassbinder and Popular Culture. Minneapolis: University of
Marc. (1996). German Films in
Context. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
Wenders, Wim. (1989) Emotion Pictures. Reflections on the Cinema. London: Faber
Other books of interest - German
Agde, Günther (ed.) (1991)
Kahlschlag: Das 11. Plenum des ZK der SED 1965, Berlin: Aufbau.
Staritz, Dietrich (1985) Geschichte der DDR 1949-1985, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.
Jansen, Peter W. and Wolfram Schütte, eds. (1977) Film in der DDR. Munich:
Hanser. not in Regenstein.
Orbanz, Eva (1977). Wolfgang Staudte. Berlin: Verlag Volker Spiess, 1977.
Pleyer, Peter. (1965) Deutscher Nachkriegsfilm 1946-1948. Münster: Verlag
Zilinski, Lissi et al, eds. (1970) Spielfilme der DEFA im
der Kritik. Ausgewählte Rezensionen. Berlin:
Bliersbach, Gerhard (1985) So grün
war die Heide. Der deutsche Nachkriegsfilm in neuer Sicht. Weinheim und Basel:
Grob, Norbert (1991). Wenders. Berlin: Edition Filme/ Wissenschaftsverlag
Volker Spiess GMBH.
Jary (1993). Traumfabriken made in Germany: Die Geschichte
des deutschen Nachkriegsfilms 1945-1960. Berlin:
Kluge, Alexander, ed. (1983) Bestandsaufnahme: Utopie Film. Zwanzig Jahre
neuer deutscher Film. Frankfurt: Zweitausendeins.
Möhrmann, Renate (1980) Die Frau mit der Kamera. Filmemacherinnen in der
Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Situationen,
Perspektiven. Zehn exemplarische Lebensläufe. Munich:
(1988) Kino-Fronten: 20 Jahre '68 und das Kino. München:
Riess, Curt. (1958) Das gibt's
nur einmal: Das Buch des deutschen Films nach 1945. Hamburg: Henri Nannen Verlag.
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