Issue 1/2006  -  ISSN 1470-9570


Introduction: German Film since the Wende.

Joanne Leal, London (pages 1-5)

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Falling Walls, Sliding Doors, Open Windows: Berlin on Film after the

Andrew J. Webber, Cambridge (pages 5-23)

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This essay takes as its focus the treatment of space in Berlin films since the Wende, asking how this city, so freighted with historical meaning and yet also, at key temporal and spatial points, vacated of its historical fabric, is figured after unification. The focus of the essay will be on key topographic structures, hinging or blocking the relationship between the inside and outside of urban experience: walls, doors, and windows. Through readings of the representation of these features as framing devices in several films of divergent styles (Klier’s Ostkreuz; Roehler’s Die Unberührbare; Haußmann’s Sonnenallee; Becker’s Das Leben ist eine Baustelle; Ataman’s Lola und Bilidikid; Tykwer’s Lola rennt), I will show the special ambivalence attached to the negotiation of both interior and exterior space in the filmic representation of Berlin. What emerges after the historical ‘turn’ is a cinema apparently divided between entrenchment or return on the one hand and a turn towards new freedom of movement on the other. Whatever their surface mood and character, however, each of these films in fact articulates an ambiguous, intermeshed relation between these two modes, and the architectural framing features provide a focus for that double-bind.

Sonnenallee – ‘Ostalgie’ as a Comical Conspiracy.

Andrea Rinke, Kingston (pages 24-45)

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This paper attempts to answer questions around the reception of Sonnenallee. Why was it the first (and to date last) film made by East Germans about the GDR that performed remarkably well at the box office and, exceptionally, appealed to both West German and East German viewers? Does this first ever Mauerkomödie represent a ‘trivialization’ of an oppressive regime as some critics claimed? Or is it merely an example of light entertainment that capitalizes on the current Ostalgiewelle amongst East Germans (who made up two thirds of the film’s audience)? This paper discusses these questions, arguing that the humour used in Sonnenallee is of such a complex and ambiguous nature that it can be read on a ‘surface level’ – resulting in belly-laughs or, conversely, offence – whilst simultaneously offering different points of entry to East German viewers with a deeper level of knowledge – resulting in a ‘comical conspiracy’.

Good Bye, Lenin!: Ostalgie und Identität im wieder vereinigten

Seán Allan, Warwick (pages 46-59)

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In Good Bye, Lenin! (2003) befasst sich Wolfgang Becker mit dem Wechselspiel zwischen Geschichte und Erinnerung im Hinblick auf die Konstruktion einer neuen gesamtdeutschen Identität. Unter Zuhilfenahme von Ironie und Komik präsentiert der Film eine Kritik des Phänomens ‘Ostalgie’, wobei jedoch zugleich deutlich wird, wie wichtig die grundsätzliche Erhaltung von Erinnerungen an die DDR gerade für diejenigen ist, die in ihr aufgewachsen sind. Indem das universelle Thema des Films – die Mutter-Sohn-Beziehung von Alex und Christine – in einen DDR-spezifischen Kontext gestellt wird, wird eine zweifache Lesart des Films ermöglicht, die den Erwartungen und Bedürfnissen des Zuschauers sowohl aus dem Westen, wie auch aus dem Osten gerecht wird. Gleichzeitig trägt eine geschickte Rollenbesetzung (wie z.B. der bekannte DEFA-Star Katrin Saß) dazu bei, die Traditionen des DDR-Kinos in den weiteren Rahmen der europäischen Kinolandschaft zu integrieren.

Taking Stock of the Wende on Screen: Michael Klier’s Ostkreuz and Hannes
Stöhr’s Berlin is in Germany.

Owen Evans, Swansea (pages 60-75)

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Wolfgang Becker’s Good Bye Lenin! (2003) has arguably been the most successful of films dealing with the ramifications of the GDR’s demise, but it is by no means the only one. The focus here is on two less well-known films which provide alternative perspectives to Becker’s more commercial film, exploring in gritty detail the difficult adjustments that many eastern Germans had to make. In Ostkreuz (1991), Michael Klier tells the episodic story of 14-year-old Elfie, who literally and metaphorically inhabits a no-man’s-land between the two Germanys during the Wende, and deploys a neorealist aesthetic to reinforce the difficulties confronting the girl, and by inference, Germany. Hannes Stöhr’s Berlin is in Germany (2001) is less bleak, but is told from the perspective of Martin Schulz, jailed in East Germany in 1989 and released eleven years later into the Federal Republic. The film follows his attempts to rebuild his life, and especially to forge a relationship with the son he has never seen. Both set in Berlin, these films complement one another in examining Germany’s progress since 1989 and offer a useful contrast to Becker’s film

Time, Transformation and Tradition in Oskar Roehler’s Die Unberührbare.

Joanne Leal, London (pages 76-89)

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Oskar Roehler’s Die Unberührbare (1999/2000) explores its protagonist’s traumatized response to the fall of the Wall. As a Marxist-Leninist with political roots in the anti-capitalist movements of the late 1960s, she has long been committed to the notion of the GDR as the ‘better Germany’ even while embracing a Western lifestyle. This paper explores the sense of loss she experiences at the demise of the GDR and shows it to be less a political than an existential trauma, one rooted in her inability to come to terms with the fact that time cannot stand still in either a personal or a political sense, and one which culminates in her self-destruction. It goes on to argue that while the film rejects the attempt to hold back time which constitutes the paradoxically self-destructive survival strategy of its central figure and apparently accepts the inevitability of historical progress, it nevertheless seems to participate in a kind of nostalgia not dissimilar to that it criticizes in the portrayal of its central figure. With its overt critique of Western capitalism it glorifies what is presented as a specifically East German sense of community. Moreover, it pays homage to a tradition of socially-critical film-making rooted in a pre-Wende context. In both these respects it risks becoming as anachronistic as its central character but, as this paper demonstrates, ultimately it avoids doing so.


Interkulturelle Kommunikation.

(2004) von Hans Jürgen Heringer. Rezensiert von Chris Hall, Joensuu (pages 90-95)

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