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MEMORY, MELODRAMA AND HISTORY: THE RETURN OF THE PAST IN CONTEMPORARY POPULAR FILM IN GERMANY

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Chapter Summary

The explosion of cinematic memory work in Germany since the turn of the twenty-first century has been significant, seemingly inspired by the efforts of Gerhard Schröder’s Red-Green coalition after 1998 to encourage a more ‘normal’ engagement with the German past. Consequently, an array of films have emerged tackling the National Socialist past, which have received a mixed reception at home but interest and acclaim internationally. Of course, films have also been produced that explore the legacy of East Germany, as well as the impact of terrorism in West Germany in the 1960s and 1970s. What is particularly striking about this recent surge of historical films, in contrast to earlier productions by the New German Cinema, is their adoption of a more popular aesthetic for transmitting cultural memory. The present chapter will explore two films produced by the late Bernd Eichinger, the mogul of commercial cinema in Germany, namely Der Untergang (Downfall, Hirschbiegel, 2004) and The Baader Meinhof Complex (Edel, 2008). Amongst the most expensive films ever produced in Germany, these popular history films are evaluated as meaningful contributions to discussions about the country’s difficult past. This chapter explores their generic structures, professed commitment to authenticity and the ways in which their representation of cultural memory might be seen as ‘therapeutic historiographies’, mindful of the historical significance of the stories they tell.

10.1163/9789401208895_011
/content/books/b9789401208895s011
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