German Movie Industry


Figure 1.--I do not yet know the title of this German film. It looks like a Heimat film. All I know is that it was made in 1958. Notice that the boys here all wear lederhosen. The boy on the right looks to be wearing a lederhosen halter with knickers-length lederhosen.

HBC still has relatively little information on German films, but we have begin to obtain some basic information. . HBC knows that before the NAZIs seized power (1933) that Germany had one of Europe's most vibrant film industries. After the NAZI takeover, considerable resources were given to cinema and other media. Technically the movies continued at a high level, but the propoganda element stifiled creativity, There were some powerful films, likke Triumph of the Will, but overall the quality of the films declined. After World War II (1939-45) a new film industry has arisen in Germany, but it has had little exposure outside Germany. The industry in East Gernmany (DDR) continued to be burdened with the heavy hand of censorship, this time Communist ideology. A few films reached international status. The Tin Drum is probably the most famous. Through all the twist and turns of German history. Many of the films have wonderfully chronicled fashions and clothing, including children's clothes.

Language

Language is a powerful factor in determining distribution and the international exposure and impact of films. German films were widely distributed throughout Europe before the advent oif the talkies (about 1930). This was particularly true in the 1920s where the vuibrant film industry of the Weimar Republic made creative and thought provoking films. This was less true in America where they had more trouble competing with Hollywood and film viewers were more interested in glitzy productions than thought provoking films. After the advent of the talkies, the market for German language films was much more limited.

Chronoloy

HBC will list films here by the chronological period in whivh they are set. Some productions such as the made for TV saga Heimat was set in the Weimar/Nazi era, but made in West Germany, I think in the 1980s. Thus the listings in the political eras described below is not the same as an actual chronological listing of the era in which the fils are set.

Eras in German Film Making

German films have been strongly influenced by the political shifts in Gernmany since films forst appeared at the turn of the century. This is of course true in all countries, but especially totalitarian NAZI and Communist East Germany. While this affected the quality and creativity of the films, it did not affect the films as historical documents showcasing contemporary fashions. In fact, it may well be that films in the NAZI and Ciommunist era may have better reflected the fashions actually worn more than the more commercially oriented films of West Germany. Throrogh all the twist and turns of German history. Many of the films have wonderfully chronicled fashions and clothing, including children's clothes.

Imperial Germany (1870-1918)

Films began appearing in Germany as in the rest of Europe at the turn-of-the 20th century. HBC knows little about these films. The pre-World War I German film industry does not appear to have been paricularly important. Like much of the world, the German film industry did not come into any sort of measurable existence until cinema’s acceptance by major stage producers as a suitable outlet for artistic expression in its own right. [Kracauer, p. 16.] In Germany the signicant development of the film industry began around 1910, when Paul Davidson, a vocal proponent of early film, made contact with Max Reinhardt a highly regarded Berlin stage producer famous for his avant-garde sets, and formed the first guild for facilitating communication between screen and stage. [Kracauer, p. 17.] This more open rapport allowed the free exchange of actors and other talent between the two mediums. [Kracauer, p. 17] German film makers do not appear to have competed very sucessfully with foreign film makers. A steady influx of foreign competition and the existing conception of film as merely an offshoot of stage severely hampered the development of German film as an independent art form. [Kracauer, p. 17.] Foreign competition was a great problem because only silent films were made at the time and it was thus an easy matter to replace the text frames. The popularity of German films abroad were not aided by the fact that the Government made sure that Kaiser Wilhelm II was the country's major movie star.

World War I (1914-18)

The Germans earlier than the British realized how effectively movies could be in mobilizing domestic support for the War effort. What the Germans did not fully understand was the importance of the United States and the possible use of films to influence American public opinion. The German film industry was not as large as the British or French industries, let alone that of the United States. The German industry, however, grew explosively during the War. This ws in part because it was difficult to obtain foreign films because of the Allied naval blockade. Even films from neutral America were difficult to obtain. This created opportunities for the German film industry which began to expand, laying the ground work for the vibrant film industry of the post-war period. The German Government made no effort to distribute feature films in the United States. The Government banned most foreign film (1916). The industry at the time had been importing some foreign films from Denmark which was neurtral. As the War progressed, the German military gradually seized control of the country and evetually made economic policy. Chief of Staff of the Germany Army, General Ludendorff, believed that movies had a military potential by influencing public opinion. He used the new Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft studio (UFA) to shoot films promoting the War. His focus was, however, on domestic opinion. Not until a massive American army appeared on the Western Front did he and other German officisls fully appreciate how important America would be in the War. Te Navy has asured the Geneal Staff that the U-boats would prevent any American army from crossing the Atlantic. The Germans were not entirely inactive. The Army organized a secret film campaign in the United States. The American Correspondent Film Company was established. Photographer Albert K. Dawson was attached to the German and Austrian Armies. Dawson destinguished himself as one of the most vimportant film correspondents during the War. His work, however, had no impact on American public opinion which was firmly set early in the War by German axtgions, including the invasion of neutral Belgium, sinking the Lusitania, introduction of poison gas, and British war propaganda. The growth of the German film insutry, however, was explosive. There were 25 studios when the War began (1914), but 139 studios by the end of the War (1918).

Weimar Republic (1918-33)

The film industry of the Weimar Republic, before the NAZIs seized power (1933), was one of Europe's most vibrant film industries. Gradually the many small studios opened during World War I were consolidated intoi larger studios, especially UFA. The film industry wonderfully chronicled the turmoil and uncertainty of post-war Germany. The defeat of Germany had shattered all the certainties and stability of German life. France and England experienced similar trends, but given the enormity of defeat, abdication of the Kaiser, and the resulting Vesailles Peace Treaty--the impact German on German society was even more severe. The era stimuklated creativity as it did political disorder. Most of the output of the German film industry during the Weimar era were silent films. I'm not sure when "talkies" were first made, but it would have been about 1930. This is significant because before sound, German and other European films could be easily viewed in different countries. It was a simple matter to translate the text pannels.

NAZI Germany (1933-45)

After the NAZI takeover, considerable resources were given to cinema and other media. Lavish resources were provided the ndustry. Making money was no longer the primary goal For the NAZIs, the primary purpose of the movies was to manipulate popular thought. Technically the movies continued at a high level, but the propoganda element stifiled creativity, There were some powerful films, like Triumph of the Will. Another important production was Hitler Youth Quex. The overall quality of the films declined during the NAZI period. They were still often high quality productions technically. The originality and creativity so imprtant in films was lacking in the NAZI films.

West Germany-GFR (1945-89)

After World War II (1939-45) a new film industry has arisen in Germany, but it has had little exposure outside Germany. A few films reached international status. The Tin Drum is probably the most famous. I have not yet been able to reserch West German films, but have information on quite a number of individual films. Our German readers have provide quite a bit of information on these films. We also notice a popular film genre during the post-War era--the Heimat film. These are sentimental films set in idelic locatiins--often the alps.


Figure 2.--The voluminous output of the East German film industry provide numerous films showing the clothes worn by ordinary German boys. HBC is not sure yet, however, how fashion varied in East and more affluent West Germany. A typical hime scene in the 1970s is shown here. Click on the image for another view from the same film.

East Germany-DDR (1945-89)

The industry in East Gernmany (DDR) continued to be burdened with the heavy hand of censorship, this time Communist ideology. HBC knows little about the East German film industry. There does not appear to have been any films that proved a commercial success in the West. The industry did participate in a variety of joint productioins with other east-bloc countries and there films were distributed in East Germany. While the industry may not have produced a lot of notable films, many of te films they did produce nicely chromicle children's fashions. Given the limited budget of many productions, HBC believes that the clothing the children wore, especially children that were not the main characters, was probably the clothing that children in East Germany normally wore.

Unified Germany (1989- )

Germany was unified un 1989. I am not sure what happened to the Easter German film industry. I do not know if the companies involved were able to compete or what became of their operations. HBC has only limited infirmation on the films made since unification. Hopefully our German readers will provide some information here. We note Die Schawben Kinder (2003), a mafe for TV film about the Schwabian children from Austria and Switzerland who worked in Germany. Acwell received film was Das Wunder von Bern (2003) about the German POWs returning from the Soviet Union and their relationship with the children they had not seen for yeats if ever.

(The) Ogre (1996)

A French simpleton named "Abel" becomes manservant of Field Marshall Goering during World War I at Goering's hunting estate, and, later, at a Hitler Youth school. "The Ogre" stars John Malkovitch and was directed by Volker Schlondorff. The Ogre is a joint British-French-German production), about a Frenchman during World War II. The German title is "Der Unhold". I believe the French title is something like "The Monster". The film open in a Paris suburb of 1925, at St. Christopher's School for Boys. The boys are shown as wearing brown smocks (over shirts and short pants), fastentened in back with three buttons. "The Ogre", which stars John Malkovich is an intense film. The last half or so of this film is set at a German Napola in World War II. The Napola, were NAZI party training schools. They were boarding establishments which were run like military schools.

Foreign Films

There are of course many foreign films about Germany which need to be mentioned. A lot of the focus of foreign films have been on the NAZI era.

Cabaret


Europa, Europa


Ogre

This movie showed historical boys' school smocks. Ogre is a joint British-French-German production), about a Frenchman during World War II. The opening scenes are set in a Paris suburb of 1925, at St. Christopher's School for Boys. The boys are shown as wearing brown smocks (over shirts and short pants), fastentened in back with three buttons. "The Ogre", which stars John Malkovich is an intense film. The last half or so of this film is set at a German Napola in World War II. The Napola, I believe were NAZI party training schools, that were run like military schools.

German Image

Probably no other country has had so many films made about it by foreign film makers as Germany. Given the importance of Hollywood, popular images of Germans are in large measure influenced by these foreign depictions. This is perhaps difficult for Americans to understans as almost all important American images come from American-made television and movie programing. Many of those film focus on the NAZI and World War II film. HBC is struck by the lack of realism in these films. Many films, especially films made before the end of the War did not begin to display the true horror of what went on in Germany or the occupied countries. Many of the depictions of Germans in these films are perhaps understandably unflatering charactures. Relatively few films have sought to show German characters as real people. HBC has wondered how Germans viewing World War II films view the scenes of American and British tanks entering German towns and villages. Most Germans would today at least intelectually say that they were liberated from the NAZI tyrany as much as the occupied countries. (The experience was different in the areas occupied by the Red Army.) We are curious, however, if the emotional reaction is perhaps not different from the intelectual reaction.








HBC






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Created: August 18, 2000
Last updated: 4:51 AM 7/22/2017