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GE217 Film in the Weimar Republic and under National Socialism

Module Code: GE217
Module Name: Film in the Weimar Republic and under National Socialism
Module Coordinator: Dr Ian Roberts (with additional input by Molly Harrabin)
Date and time: Term 1, Thursday 09:00-11:00, FAB1.14
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

In the first years of the twentieth century film developed from a fringe activity, an artistic experiment largely dismissed by the establishment, to one of the most important modes of cultural expression of the so-called ‘modernist’ era. In the aftermath of Germany’s defeat in the First World War and the overthrow of the monarchy, film production (as well as film consumption) boomed in the newly-founded Republic. Weimar’s ‘expressionist’ cinema produced some of the world’s most iconic films, dream-worlds which reflect the anguish of loss, the fear of modernism, the attraction of consumerism, and the fascination with sexual liberalism. Once Hitler came to power in 1933 the role of the cinema in society changed radically. Hitler’s Minister for Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, saw films primarily as ideological vehicles, overtly or covertly transmitting a message approved by the regime for consumption by the Volk.

This module will seek to introduce students to key aesthetic and thematic developments in two critical periods of German history. It will encourage participants to see both contrasts and continuities in filmic representation across two disparate political systems. Students will be encouraged to place these aesthetic products within broader artistic, social and political frameworks and to consider a key question at the heart of our understanding of Germany in this era: to what extent does film reflect life in Germany at the time, to what extent does it influence it?

Indicative programme

Students can be expected to attend a weekly film screening, as well as a 1-hour lecture and a 1-hour seminar related to each of the topics listed below.

1. Introduction – German Cinema & Society 1918-1945: A Productive Symbiosis?

2. Expressionism and Anxiety: Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920) & Nosferatu (F. W Murnau, 1922).

3. Cityscapes and Modernity: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927) & Frau im Mond (Fritz Lang, 1929).

4. Gender and Power: Die Büchse der Pandora (G.W.Pabst, 1929) & Mädchen in Uniform (Leontine Sagan, 1931).

5. Nationalism Unleashed: Morgenrot (Gustav Ucicky, 1933) & Westfront 1918 (G. W. Pabst, 1930).

6. Reading week.

7. The Revolutionary Left vs Popcorn Culture: Kuhle Wampe (Bertolt Brecht/Slatan Dudow, 1932) & Die drei von der Tankstelle (Wilhelm Thiele, 1930).

8. Overt/covert propaganda: Hitlerjunge Quex (Hans Steinhoff, 1933) & Triumph des Willens (Leni Riefenstahl, 1934).

9. Women in the III. Reich: Die große Liebe (Rolf Hansen, 1942) & Mutterliebe (Gustav Ucicky, 1939).

10. "Durchhalten": Kolberg (Veit Harlan, 1945).

Indicative filmography

Whilst the films listed in the programme above will be screened each week, participants are encouraged to engage in wider viewing of films from the period, including (but not necessarily limited to):

F. W. Murnau, Der letzte Mann (1924).

Fritz Lang, M. Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (1931).

Joe May, Asphalt (1929).

Josef von Sternberg, Der blaue Engel (1930).

Eduard von Borsody, Wunschkonzert (1940).

Detlef Sierck, Schlussakkord (1936).

llustrierter Film-Kurier: digitised programmes for films in this moduleLink opens in a new window

Suggested preparatory reading

Students should have a basic knowledge of the history of Germany between 1918-1945. It is recommended that you read the relevant section of at least one of the standard histories of Germany, such as:

Mary Fulbrook, A History of Germany 1918-2000 (2nd ed. 2002).

Martin Kitchen, A History of Modern Germany 1800-2000 (2006).

Detailed reading for specific films will be distributed during the course, but the following serve as useful primers to aspects of film and culture in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich:

Keith Bullivant (ed.), Culture and Society in the Weimar Republic (1977).

Sabine Hake, German National Cinema (2004).

Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler (1947).

Ian Roberts, German Expressionist Cinema: The World of Light and Shadow (2008).

Richard Taylor, Film Propaganda: Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany (1998).

David Welch, Propaganda and the German Cinema 1933-1945 (2001).

Critical texts on all films in this moduleLink opens in a new window

Assessment Method:

3000-3500 word essay (90%) & short scene analysis (10%)