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German Cinema and FeminismResearch Paper

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New German cinema is a period of German cinema from the 1960's to the 1980's. From this period, a new generation of directors came into the forefront. Much of the influence within new German cinema came from the French New Wave and were led by directors such as: Herzog, Fassbinder, and most notably Alexander Kluge. Their movies sparked interest within the cinema community because of their artistic development. Within the field of new German cinema also came feminism. Feminism, as some might see it, was and still remains a major influence for women filmmakers, especially when making films with a female protagonist. Feminist films often covered the struggle of women within a patriarchal society as well as men's sexual exploitation of women in film and art.

Even though feminism permeated women filmmakers' films, it was not a part of all women's filmmaking, which people believed it to be in West Germany. Even if the subject matter and the woman director did not contain feminist contest, they were still referred to as "feminist directors" and feminist films, with the work viewed more as a genre. This meant less attention was focused on women directors for their films uniqueness and message and more for their comparisons to other films of the same genre. Some may say this prevented women directors and filmmakers from being elevated to the status of auteur, while others believed it allow them to express the plight of women and cement a place within the world of cinema.

There are several reasons behind why men viewed female cinematography as one genre. During the era of new German cinema, there was a big embrace by Germany of American culture. "Wenders has argued that the reason German embraced American culture so readily had more to do with trying to blot out the unpleasant memory of Nazism: 'The need to forget 20 years created a hole, and people tried to cover this…by assimilating American culture'." (Knight 21) American culture at the time didn't have strong female directors or filmmakers and most of the notable work in cinema was by male directors and filmmakers. Furthermore, because Nazism had become so synonymous with Germany and the defeat of the Nazis by allied powers, most of Germany sought to seek transformation and found a venue for transformation through cinema.To better understand feminism in new German cinema and the connection between why men viewed "feminism filmmaking" as a genre, it is important to understand new German cinema.

During the new German cinema era, several things were happening in Germany. Terrorist attacks that sparked conflict and chaos often created inspiration for new films as well as desire for expression. "Sporadic terrorist acts such as bombings, bank robberies and arson attacks started in 1968. A couple of years later terrorist Andreas Baader met the journalist Ulrike Meinhof, and together they set up the Baader-Meinhof terrorist group later known as the Red Army Faction" (Knight 18) These not only shaped the events of many lives within the country, but it also provided context for the films of this period and generated a sort of "mold" that Germans saw as German filmmaking. One of the most notable directors that came out new German cinema and thus Germans compared other filmmakers to, was Alexander Kluge.

Kluge had a method to filmmaking that could best be classified as "Brechtian." In fact, his films have been likened to those of Jean-Luc Godard, French new wave director. The similarities lie in how Kluge's films are designed. They are intended to prevent the audience from identifying with fictitious characters and thus creating the opposite effect of what feminism films accomplished. Feminism films sought to enable a sympathetic response in the audience more than an "outsider looking in" effect. Additionally, Kluge's style was meant to challenge the audience's typical forms of awareness, to rouse a questioning outlook towards their environments rather than delivering reassurance. A perfect example of this was Yesterday Girl in 1965-1966.

Yesterday Girl, a black and white film, was based on Anita G, a real woman who, went young, went to West Germany from East Germany or what was then called GDR in order to try to make a new life for herself. Anita began a slew of fruitless jobs, several attempts at theft, and some emotionally lackluster affairs. One of these affairs left her pregnant and in order to support herself, had to turn herself to the police.

Kluge employed several techniques like intertitles, in order to subdivide within the film and provide commentary on events. Another form of commentary, verbal commentary, with characters directly addressing the camera along with old photos, intercut, to demonstrate and invite the audience to reflect upon the storyline sequences. Also the story itself is not shown completely. Ania's theft wasn't shown, however the court proceedings were. Similarly to her affairs, the audience is only given a brief sign of Anita having an affair and much of the film was more of an exploitation of her as a weak character, a weak woman.

Films such as these often employed a small team of people which allowed for closer teamwork and collaboration. It meant filmmakers and camera crew frequently worked together in German cinema and in some ways prevented women filmmakers to truly have much influence or power within the film world as they could not get the funds nor the team as readily as men could. Along with small film crews, filmmakers frequently had to write their own scripts as well as produce the movies, ultimately making the director in charge of the creative, artistic, organizational, and editing decisions and therefore leaving much of the responsibility of making the film in their hands. Therefore the filmmakers of new German cinema were considered artists and with the title, came full creative control over the films.

The artisanal mode of production, as explained briefly in the last paragraph, promoted an approach to production that would be more likened with the arts. This means one would recognize individual creativity and authorship. Oberhausen Manifesto along with Kluge, were one of the people that clearly theorized and articulated many of the concepts enlightening the network of subsidies. Klurge brought in the concept of the director as Autor through contrast of new German film with recipe film or Zutatenfilm. The ingredients of such a recipe film were ideas, stars, directors, scriptwriters, and technicians which the producer bought in line with the requirements.

It is Anita and other characters like her that one can gather an idea of how women were perceived in cinema and how these characters were expected to live their lives within these films. "Women's sexual victimization in the war and postwar years was a topic revisited by many feminist filmmakers, and proved central both to the formulation of West German feminism in the 1970's and 1980's and to the project of the feminist Frauenfilm." (Baer 100) Much like how Anita was made to get into unfortunate love affairs and other women shown as sexual objects, women's sexual victimization was prevalent and a topic of interest for German feminism. It was in these concepts that women within Germany could express the feelings and issues caused by men's sexual objectification of women and the way they perceived women, as less than, and therefore less creative.

A notable example of what Germany perceived as "female filmmaking" is Margarethe von Trotta. Born in Berlin, Germany, February 21, 1942. She is a German film director and seen as the "leading force" within the new German cinema movement as it related to feminist film. She is the foremost recognized female filmmaker with her works compared to the likes of Ingmar Bergman. In fact, Bergman inspired many of her films for how they represented inner psychic worlds. Most of the subjects within her film sought to reinvent representations of women. Even though she is considered the leading feminist film maker, a lot of her films focused on feminine aesthetics vs. political action. This thus made some of her critics see her works as "women's film" rather than view them as technical and accomplished films.

As earlier mentioned, feminist and female filmmakers were not necessarily seen as artists more so than they were seen simply as creators of another genre film. Films made by women were ignored for their creativity and instead film critics placed their focus on how they were similar to others. From here, evolution of feminism included how the patriarchy treated and viewed women as well as how it made an impact in the lives and occupations of women. "Second-wave feminism did not simply give voice to feminist discontentment but critically intervened to disclose the mechanisms at work in producing knowledge about women under patriarchy." (McCabe 42)

Because Germany lost World War II, there were a lot of bad feelings left over from Hitler and Nazism. In a way men felt emasculated. They felt less than and some of that was taken out on women as seen through some of the subject matter of new… [END OF PREVIEW]

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