Germany after Unification: Views from Abroad

Roger Hillman


One might have expected a historical watershed like the fall of the Berlin Wall and rapid unification of the two former German states to spawn German films. But on the whole that would seem not to have been the case. There have been reappraisals like Margarete von Trotta's Das Versprechen (The Promise) (1995), with its subject matter of the Berlin Wall going up, seemingly forever for lovers divided by it, in 1961. There have been scurrilous attempts to confront the problems of Ossis and Wessis such as Christoph Schlingensief’s Das deutsche Kettensägenmassaker(The German Chainsaw Massacre) (1990),in which Ossis who have vanished are in fact being churned out by a sausage machine near the former border. There has even been a wave of highly successful German comedies, films which have drawn in huge audiences -7 million alone for Sönke Wortmann's Der bewegte Mann (1994) within two years.1 Comedies like this film and Stadtgespräch (1995) represent a genuine new departure -they are bellylaughingly funny, modish, and frothy, and they almost totally bypass any problems connected with unified Germany within the new Europe. But while the theme of Germany from 1990 onwards has not remained untouched within its own cinema, one has to look outside for truly interesting approaches.

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