Course Description: The German art historian Erwin Panofsky once stated that if all poets, composers, sculptors and painters were forced to stop their work, only a small fraction of the general public would notice. If the same thing were to happen with the movies, the results would be catastrophic. Just like in the U.S., movies occupy an extensive part of cultural life in Germany. People identify with some films, while other films generate meaningful debate that extends beyond the movie itself. For the student of film, a closer examination of other national cinemas opens up a window into another culture and history. You will be exposed to new themes, styles, techniques, and traditions that not only allow one to get a closer insight to that particular national cinema, but also to gain an understanding of the interconnectedness of world cinema.
The primary focus of this course will be the rise of an avant-garde cinema in the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1960s–1980s that was internationally acclaimed for its critique of postwar German culture and for its artistic quality, commonly known as New German Cinema. Concurrent with screening films by such notable directors as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Margarethe von Trotta, we will consider the political and historical context, film aesthetics, and the intricacies of film financing, distribution and exhibition in the post-WWII West Germany. We will consider themes such as past and present, gender issues, race, class, and the search for a “new Germany.” In order to put this renaissance of postwar German film better into perspective, this course will also include forays that extend beyond the spatiality and temporality of the New German Cinema.