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Movies and Film

A Few Young Men

The most crucial moment in German film since World War II came at the Oberhausen Film Festival in 1962. There a group of two dozen-odd young screenwriters and directors demanded a revolutionary break with the studio-controlled film industry and a new way of thinking about and producing motion pictures.

The result was the Young German Cinema, a group of left-leaning, progressive, resolutely antibourgeois filmmakers who came into their own in the late 1960s and early '70s to challenge the staid conventions of postwar German film. United by a desire to use cinema as a vehicle of social critique (though always resistant to thinking of themselves as a "movement," the Young German Cinema artists made a host of films that won wide acclaim at film festivals worldwide. Several of the most prominent directors, such as Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog, remain leading figures in European film to this day, and it's impossible to understand the past 30 years of German cinema without at least some knowledge of their work.

Here are the five most important directors in the Young German Cinema (and its cousin, the New German Cinema), as well as a list of some of the better (or more notorious!) pictures they've made since the 1960s:

Filmophile's Lexicon

The Oberhausen Manifesto, a petition-like declaration signed by more than two dozen young filmmakers at the Oberhausen Film Festival in 1962, was a collective vow to create a new German cinema that would resist the commercial demands of the nation's dominating film industry.

  • Volker Schlöndorff: Young Torless (Der Junge Törless, 1966), The Rebel (Michael Kohlhaas—der Rebell, 1969), The Tin Drum (Die Blechtrommel, 1979), The Lost Honor of Katherina Blum (Die Verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum, 1975).
  • Alexander Kluge: Yesterday Girl (Abschied Von Gestern, 1966), Artists at the Top of the Big Top: Disoriented (Die Artisten in der Zirkuskuppel: Ratlos, 1968), Strongman Ferdinand (Der Starke Ferdinand, 1976), The Candidate (Der Kandidat, 1980).
  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder: The American Soldiers (Der Amerikanische Soldat, 1970), The Merchant of Four Seasons (Der Händler der vier Jahreszeiten, 1972), Lola (1981), Veronika Voss (Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss, 1982).
  • Werner Herzog: Signs of Life (Lebenszeichen, 1968), Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes, 1972), The Mystery of Kasper Hauser (Jeder für sich und Gott gegen, 1975), Fitzcarraldo (1982), Lessons in Darkness (Lektionen in Finsternis, 1992).
  • Wim Wenders: Summer in the City (1970), The Anxiety of the Goalie at the Penalty Kick (Die Angst des Tormannes beim Elfmeter, 1972), The American Friend (Der Amerikanische Freund, 1977), Paris, Texas (1984), Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin, 1987).

Take your time with the movies that have come out of Germany in the past 30 years. These films are all readily available, and given the rather heavy, often depressing themes many of them share, you'll want to swallow this stuff in small doses!

Nastassja Kinski as Jane in Wim Wenders's Paris, Texas (1984).

Nastassja Kinski as Jane in Wim Wenders's Paris, Texas (1984).

book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Movies and Film © 2001 by Mark Winokur and Bruce Holsinger. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order the e-book book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website. You can also purchase this book at Amazon.com.

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