Movies and Film: Unification and Beyond

Unification and Beyond

Since the Reunification in 1990, German cinema has struggled to find its voice. Aside from the utter dominance of American movies (in 1993, the market share of German-made films was under 10 percent; by 1996, the figure was closer to 20 percent), the country remains torn between its divided past and its uncertain future, a cultural identity crisis that is clearly reflected in its films over the last decade. While Vadim Glowna's Rising to the Bait (Der Brocken, 1991) is the most familiar attempt to engage with the legacy of the Wall, there are many others. One of the most beautiful and moving treatments of the traumas of the Cold War is The Promise (Das Versprechen, 1994), directed by the brilliant Margarethe von Trotta. The film relates the heartbreaking story of two lovers separated by the Berlin Wall for more than 30 years, during which they meet only four times. The tearful reunion at the end resists sentimentalism and can be seen as a searching allegory of the sudden but tentative reunion of West and East during the past 10 years.

Director's Cut

"It was first after reunification that we started to feel the sense of wholeness that was necessary to start making films about regular people and regular situations. To look at ourselves and say, 'I'm okay.' Now we can make other films. Films that are more serious and have more substance."

—German director Rainer Kaufmann, 1997

Other directors have grown tired of explicit engagement with the nation's troubled history, opting instead for technical innovation and new modes of storytelling as a means of making German film competitive with foreign (especially U.S.) productions. One of the most entertaining German films made in recent years is Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt, 1998), a fast-paced thriller that combines spliced-in cartoon sequences with postmodern "flash-forwards," time-bending narrative montage, and a reckless pace (Groundhog Day meets Sliding Doors meets Natural Born Killers, perhaps?). Director Tom Tykwer's first film was Deadly Maria (Die Tdliche Maria, 1993), and his 1997 romantic thriller Winter Sleepers (Winterschlfer) was well received on the international festival circuit.

German directors today are among the best educated and most talented in the world. Don't miss an opportunity to take advantage of their work at local film festivals and art houses in your city.

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.

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