Early postwar cinema in Germany. Reflections on damaged existences?

Conference at the Goethe-University Frankfurt & the film museum Frankfurt, Juli 7 to 8, 2012

What do cinema programs and films shown in the early years of postwar Germany reveal about their society? For instance, are the wounds caused by the World War visible? This question raised by Anton Kaes in „Shell Shock Cinema“ (2009) concerning the Weimar German cinema can also be applied to the postwar cinema in the late 1940s and 1950s. This cinema epoch seems to be inhabited by many blank spaces, and therefore the question becomes even more delicate: the lack of clear statements against the National Socialist regime, the loss of reflexive and artistic impulses caused by the murders and emigrations of Jewish filmmakers, and the parasitic existence of the documentary film – all of these issues seem to support the notion that the German cinema between 1945 and 1960 was a place of repression, furthering an „imageless oblivion“ (Kreimeier 1989, p. 11; transl. by Kuhn).
Can the understanding of early postwar cinema in Germany be reduced to this apparently convincing thesis? Taking a closer look, this era did not only offer a place of warmth – also in its literal sense – and cozy consolation for its audience, but it also brought collective and personal traumas to light, which were covered up by the optimistic rhetoric figure of the so-called Wirtschaftswunder in everyday-life. Even a regressive genre like the popular Heimatfilm articulated contemporary virulent topics (cf. Beindorf 2001), but to what extent did the Heimatfilm and other contemporary genres like the Trümmerfilm and the war movie react to social-psychological issues such as the loss of homeland,

war guilt, holocaust, and life in exile?

This conference seeks to put the research into a broader spatial and temporal context. While this contextualization helps to analyze inner German continuities concerning the careers of stars and film technicians from the Third Reich and the affinity towards National Socialist film esthetics, it also provides an opportunity to explore the differences to the developments of the Eastern German, respectively the DEFA cinema, and also to the European and outer European cinema. How can we evaluate the relationship between the early postwar German cinema and the neorealistic movement, for example?
Why of all things have these works, most of which are prime examples of reflexive movies with a direct connection towards war and war experience, been excluded from the cinema programs? This investigation leads to further questions concerning release politics, movie program strategies and the film distribution network.

 This interdisciplinary conference invites (post)(doc)students of film and media, culture and social sciences. The conference will begin with a social historical introduction into early postwar Germany and into the significance of the cinemas and films shown during this era. Below are some possible topics for lectures: 

- Gaping hole? Industrial films and the lack of political documentary films in early postwar German cinema
- The films of the DEFA documentary film studio
- Deterrent images: The re-education film Todesmühlen (Hanu
š Burger, GER 1945)
- The construction of idyllic worlds in the Heimatfilm
- Heimatfilms: propaganda instruments of
German expellee organisations?
- Unbroken careers: Heinz Rühmann and the audience`s desire for „the little man“
- The Trümmer-Diva: The construction of Hildegard Knef`s image
- Papas Kino: Suppressor of the German film avantgarde?
- Germany, Year Zero (Roberto Rossellini, ITA 1948): Germany from a neorealistic view
- Omissions: The German film distribution versus Fred Zinnemann`s The Search (USA / CH 1948)
- The production and reception history of Peter Lorre`s The Lost One (GER 1951)
- Continuity of style: The esthetic heritage of the National Socialism in early postwar German cinema 

We are looking forward to receiving abstracts in English or German (not longer than 2000 characters including spaces together with a short biographical note) for half-hour long lectures. The submission deadline is April 22nd, 2012.

Kind regards,

Bastian Blachut, Imme Klages and Sebastian Kuhn

Screenings of The Search (Fred Zinnemann, USA / CH 1948), Nuit et Brouillard (Alain Resnais, FR 1955) and Le Chagrin et la Pitié (Marcel Ophüls, FR 1969) are planned in the film museum Frankfurt.





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Druckversion: 03. April 2012, 13:08