In 1918 Germany emerged from the First World War and launched itself into a bold democratic project which history dubbed ‘The Weimar Republic’. Plagued by misfortune and hostility from the outset, this ill-fated experiment in democracy was cut short by the accession of the Nazis in 1933. During its relatively short life, Weimar society produced an astonishing array of artistic accomplishments, foremost of which was its fascinating and highly-acclaimed cinema.
To commemorate this fertile period of film history, the Weimar 100 project will present one film a year (each marking the centenary of its premiere) to illustrate the rich and stimulating legacy of Germany's film making industry in these years. The project will, naturally, present some of the classics, such as Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) or Lang's Metropolis (1927), but there will also be the opportunity to examine some less well known films and directors, both to showcase the extraordinary talent which abounded in this period, and to assess how these films help us better understand the complexities of life in the Weimar Republic.
On 5 December 2019 staff, students and members of the public attended the inaugural Weimar 100 event: a lecture and screening of Ernst Lubitsch’s Madame Dubarry. Set in the French Revolution, the film placed concepts of history, revolution and fate before an audience which in 1919 was experiencing these phenomena first hand, avoiding pockets of street fighting as they made their way to the cinema. Those who attended our 2019 screening did so in rather more amenable circumstances, with wine and snacks to accompany the screening and the discussions which followed.
Ian Roberts would like to thank the organisers of the University’s WATE teaching excellence scheme which generously provided the funding for this event, and the impetus to launch the Weimar 100 project itself. Further details of the project will be added here throughout its duration.
Ian Roberts is an associate professor in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. He was a WATE Commendee in 2019.